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Managing IT consumerisation in manufacturing, distribution

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Wikipedia describes Consumerisation as “the growing tendency for new information technology to emerge first in the consumer market and then spread into business and government organisations. The emergence of consumer markets as the primary driver of information technology innovation is seen as a major IT industry shift…

Louise Thompson, product marketing director at SYSPRO. (Image source: SYSPRO)

Louise Thompson, product marketing director at SYSPRO, comments that, much the same way the Internet has changed the way we operate, but happened without us fully realising its profound impact at the time, consumerisation is having a similar, considerable effect on business. Thompson looks at the issue of consumerisation specifically within the context of ERP in the manufacturing and distribution environments.

What are the top three innovations that you see driving the consumerisation of technology in the workplace, resulting in significantly blurred lines between business and consumer needs?

User-interface: The change of the User Interface (UI) to being more touch-oriented is occurring across a wide range of devices, and because touch requires larger icons, the graphics and image aspect of the UI is also changing.

Mobility: The growth in use of mobile platforms continues at an incredible rate, with the need to access information and communicate (via email and other platforms) whilst on-the-go.

Geolocation: The capability to identify the precise geographic location of an object using GPS, will have a major effect. Using a GPS-enabled device in a warehouse will make locating specific inventory items easier to find or pick; this will have an impact on activities like stock taking.

People bringing their own devices to work and its impact on the workplace is clear, with a significant focus by companies on dealing with the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) wave. We see many corporates now administering definite policies in this space, but can you elaborate on how consumerisation has expanded into the ‘software market’ too?

Gartner reaffirms what we know in this space, it predicts that “by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes.” BYOD simply cannot be ignored; it is happening and is here to stay. When people choose their own devices they are more likely to be comfortable using mobile applications. Companies therefore need to do two things.

  • Make sure that they have policies in place to manage the replacement of devices and licensing of mobile apps in the context of their specific IT and operating environments.
  • With the multiplicity of models, devices and form factors, businesses need to ensure that the mobile apps they license and deploy are device and platform independent.

What specific effect of the consumerisation of IT are you seeing in relation to the traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market?

I believe that there are three key areas that are particularly relevant to the ERP market:

  1. The increasing value of an enterprise ‘App store’ – an online site, like iTunes, where all the applications for a business can be located and downloaded to any authorised device.
  2. The demand for personalisation – so that people can personalise the UI of a standard application to meet their specific requirements.
  3. Collaboration tools, e.g. ‘Go-to-meeting,’ are enabling increased connectivity and communication across borders, truly enabling the idea of the ‘global village.’

Can you highlight some examples of this impact on the manufacturing and distribution environments?

One impact will be in the area of Business Intelligence (BI) applications. Previously, the use of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) was for executive or management purposes only, now mobile apps will enable KPIs to become more broadly applied to all users and operators. In the area of sales and distribution one of our customers is already changing – using their trucks as mobile warehouses because a significant percentage of their sales are coming from ad hoc sales on the road. Then there is remote visibility, where a production manager may have a full view of the state of manufacturing operation even when they are offsite. Customers might also be able to use quick response (QR) codes to scan and track how objects have passed through the supply chain.

What are your top tips for companies when it comes to managing this IT consumerisation trend – how can they cut through the noise and ensure they are geared to manage innovation in their organisations? 

  1. Evaluate the possible scenarios and develop a policy for BYOD to encourage staff to make use of enterprise apps on their own devices, and to avoid any unwanted surprises or situations for your organisation.
  2. Make sure your mobile apps will also manage data integrity and security.
  3. For your license mobile apps, license the user rather than the device. This allows employees to swop and migrate to new devices, but also allows companies to automatically switch off a licence when an employee leaves the company.

What are your predications for the future of the consumerisation of IT and innovation in the ERP market.

If you have seen the Tom Cruise film ‘Minority Report’, the technology used is where we are headed!

There will still be a place for desktop PCs, for operations like accounting, but in other the situation will change. In the past, the manufacturing environment was a no-go zone for PCs because of the conditions in many factories. However, I believe that we will see increased usage of mobile devices leveraging Bluetooth and wireless capabilities on the factory floor, and throughout the distribution process.

I also think that technology will be used more widely in the security and goods control processes. Part of this is the proliferation of identification standards, whether it is through personal identification via biometrics, e.g. finger-prints and retinal or iris recognition, or through identification of the actual products via Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies.

Staff Writer

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