Users of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software are now increasingly demanding device-centric mobile technology. This was the finding of a recent global study of over 1,500 business professionals by Redshift; 97% of its respondents said that ERP would be improved in the future if it was more accessible out of the office.
Originally the focus of ERP software was to centralise key processes such as manufacturing, supply chain, customer service, HR and finance. While ERP has been generally successful in this aim it has also been criticised for its complexity and sluggish implementations. ERP was something used by specialist ‘owners’ of processes and key departments, rather than a transactional tool that touched the work of everyone in the business.
Today, rather than adhering to procedures dictated by enterprise systems, workers are increasingly defining how those processes should be implemented and accessed. This is based on their choice of smart device and the information they need to access to do their jobs more effectively. Moreover, the demand for greater agility and leanness, as well as opportunities for competitive advantage, has turned the focus of ERP from being a repository and core processor into being a rich source of information for everyone. Ipso facto – if people have elements of that information packaged and presented in the right way, available at their fingertips, they will be able to make more informed decisions and complete tasks with greater speed and accuracy.
As per the Redshift research business professionals in organisations using ERP, confirmed that the software was already becoming less and less chained to the office desk with more desire to use it at home, whilst travelling and via smartphones or tablets.
The fastest rising method of accessing ERP data are smartphones and according to the research currently 25% are able to do so, with a further 43% wanting to. Similarly, ERP on tablets is possible for 21% but desired by another 38%.
While ERP users are clearly demanding greater mobility, organisations are also seeing great value in the software heading this way as revealed in the August 2014 report by Aberdeen Group – Mobile ERP: Taking ERP ROI into your own hands. Based on responses from 200 organisations the report showed that those with mobile ERP in place are twice as likely to have real time visibility into the status of all processes in the organisation. More specifically, they’re 138% more likely to have a fully integrated view of customer information and also saw a 17% improvement in the cycle time of key business processes in the last 12 months. ERP mobility is reducing process-lag and therefore accelerating an organisation’s ability to respond, which can only be to its advantage.
The Aberdeen study’s overall conclusion is compelling – making ERP mobile has a direct impact on its return on investment (ROI). This ROI is based on a number of factors, including reduced inventory and operational costs, maximising on-time in full deliveries and ensuring internal schedule compliance.
However there also appears to be an imbalance between who has access to mobile ERP – this could indicate that its full potential is yet to be realised. Presently 60 percent of organisations allow management to access ERP on mobile, but only 20 percent allow access for maintenance workers. This suggests a high level of use for management information and insight to support decisions, but less so in terms of collecting data on the shop floor and influencing the efficacy of day to day processes. So, there is still some work to be done before mobile ERP reaches its full potential.
Mobility in ERP
One critical finding from Aberdeen’s report is that mobile ERP success cannot be achieved by simply dumping an ERP system into a mobile format. The mobile element is not about replicating the entire software but building function and role-specific ‘extensions’ that pull the right information, processes, alerts and workflows out of the core system for the people that need them.
It’s important to first review and highlight the functions and roles that could benefit from mobile ERP. Where are the weak points in the business processes? Who has limited access to ERP through a traditional desktop but work predominantly remotely – such as field engineers or sales people? Where is data being lost because it is not being captured fast enough? These are just some of the questions and considerations that help a business pinpoint where mobile ERP access is most needed.
Another key consideration is the presentation of data or the way in which ERP works on mobile, smart and wearable devices. Applications must consider what can feasibly be displayed and how functions should work, the conditions in which they will be used, as well as taking device capabilities into account when building or choosing mobile interfaces.
ERP has been helping business to improve their core processes for over 25 years but it’s clearly time that the software ‘left the building’ and became more mobile, readily available on personal devices of the users’ choice.
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