Modern ERP systems provide businesses with significant opportunities to become more nimble. How? By providing the ability to close gaps at all levels of business — with their customers, with their suppliers and among their various departments. Many of the most notable — and recent — innovations in ERP are materializing in the area of enterprise mobility.
Mobility – Enterprise Access Any Time, Any Place
With many legacy ERP systems, users can typically only access a centralized system two ways: through a computer that’s connected to the internal network and through a virtual private network (VPN). The problem, of course, is that these options are overly restrictive relative to today’s needs. Travelling salespeople, for example, can no longer wait until the end of a business trip to enter sales orders. In today’s hyper-competitive, just-in-time world, these types of delays — whether measured in terms of days or weeks — might mean the difference between won and lost business.
The mobility features in many modern ERP systems can help minimize those delays by making the enterprise accessible from almost anywhere. In many cases, all a user needs is a smartphone and an Internet connection.
Let’s go back to our earlier example and assume that our travelling salesperson has access to ERP features that allows him to place an order via his smartphone. Once the prospect has executed the contract, the salesperson can enter the order via a mobile app on his smartphone. This can trigger automated processes that ripple through the entire organization, including the cutting of work orders and purchase orders. In other words, it offers the company an opportunity to reduce the amount of time it takes to process an order.
With the amount of work that’s now being done remotely — whether as a result of travel or home-based workforce scenarios — many companies are finding it imperative that they give their users anytime, anyplace access. The realities of the business world are causing many companies to push mobility-related features from the “wish list” category to the “must have” category.
Businesses shouldn’t only look at mobility to enable functions that take place beyond their physical walls. They should also assess whether there might be benefits to deploying mobile solutions on-premise. In general, businesses should look for uses that:
- Don’t require full system functionality, and
- Relate to users who might not always be in front of a computer terminal.
In many cases, companies will find that deploying mobile devices (including certain types of bar code scanners) is more cost effective than deploying fixed computer terminals, even within their four walls. For example, on-premise functions that a manufacturing company might want to consider as mobility candidates include the following:
- Inspection and quality control
- Warehouse management
- Shipping and receiving
- WIP tracking
- Product traceability during the manufacturing process
- Labor recording
Building the Business Case for Mobility
When building a business case, the first place to start is with an analysis of the workflows relating to the areas that are candidates for mobility. Mapping the business processes will show existing process inefficiencies.
The next step is to place a value on the incremental benefits that are expected to be realized from mobility. Valuation might include metrics relating to improved employee productivity, which can be translated to lower labor-costs per unit. It might include improved quality, which can be translated to reduced scrap costs or lower warranty provisions. Once the potential benefits are valued, they should be measured against the various costs of the systems to determinw whether the project is worthwhile.
We’d like to hear about your approach to mobility
- How is your company approaching mobility in the enterprise?
- How are you building a business case for mobility?
- How would your organization benefit most from mobility?