In an increasingly connected world, companies are embracing mobile as an effective platform to communicate, manage employees and reach customers or suppliers. This is seeing traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions evolving to be more cognisant of an active user base that requires real-time information irrespective of their physical location.
In this environment, decision-makers must continuously evaluate how adaptable they are to utilising mobile to pull relevant data from a multitude of sources. In turn, this [data] is used to develop customised products and services catering for end-users that are expecting a bespoke approach. While there will always be a need for off-the-shelf solutions, the growth in accessibility to information means people want their solutions providers to use the information they have about them to produce more tailored offerings. This will help African entrepreneurs leapfrog traditional economies, as more innovative technology can be used from the start.
It, therefore, makes sense that mobile ERP has been identified as a business imperative in the digital world. Being able to use ERP that is untethered to an office environment, provides the user with the ability to take advantage of more enhanced business capabilities than was previously available.
And while this leads to improved productivity, it also empowers employees to build deeper relationships with customers and their business environment. With mobile ERP, they have access to all the latest data and can resolve just about any customer query while meeting with them personally.
This also empowers the field worker to respond faster to everything from competitive quotes to changing market dynamics such as, changes in exchange rates or fuel price increases and the associated impact it will have on transport costs as an example.
Despite the advantages to be gained from mobile ERP, this segment of the business is traditionally slow-moving and resistant to change. While some of it might have to do with perceptions around virtualised and hosted solutions, a lot of the hesitation to adopt more mobile solutions can be ascribed to the level of integration required in the business.
ERP, like so many mission-critical systems, is not something that can be easily ripped and replaced. It might be possible for small to medium enterprises to innovate fast and change their approaches to ERP quickly, larger organisations need to take a more considered approach.
Whilst this puts CIOs responsible for looking after large organisations under immense pressure. To try and balance the need to be innovative with the business requirement of ‘keeping the lights on’. It provides greater opportunity for start-ups to embrace modern technology. The same can be said with those organisations who rushed into Cloud Computing without due consideration for the process change required, learnt these lessons the hard way.
Keeping it simple
For many of them, an incremental path to implement mobile ERP seems the one that makes the most business sense. Of course, this does not mean innovation cannot happen or that it will take too long to effect change. Instead, those areas in which mobile ERP are piloted and tested provide the business with the opportunity to experiment in a ‘safer’ environment than would have been possible if it was implemented on an enterprise-level.
Companies should also avoid the temptation of trying to be ‘too flashy’ with their mobile ERP installations. By starting off slowly and gradually bringing in more features, users can get used to the benefits of mobile ERP without being distracted from the business objectives.
It also provides the business with the opportunity to get valuable feedback from users and refine and enhance the mobile ERP offering based on growth requirements.
Irrespective of how it is implemented, mobile ERP is here to stay.
By Stuart Scanlon, managing director of epic ERP