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Mobile Workers Focus: Fast-moving trends in mobile ERP, CRM technology

26 Sep, 2013

According to Joel Schneider, co-founder of Liberty Technology Advisors, Inc. and guest columnst for FierceCIO on ERP/CRM technology, Joel comments (excerpt) on the following regarding mobility access:

It is not surprising that corporate employees expect to have the same kind of instant access to relevant company information when they are working in the field, whether on sales calls, off-site assignments or anywhere away from the office.

According to Schneider: ERP and CRM software developers are finally catching up to this expectation, creating dynamic new models of mobile connectivity that will allow for on-the-spot responsiveness at all levels. Any company involved in an ERP evaluation and selection process needs to consider the role of mobile apps in its overall business solution.

The kitchen sink approach to app implementation is both wasteful and detrimental.

Of course, mobile solutions have been part of enterprise planning ever since Blackberry gave us emails in our pockets. The vital change now is the recognition of mobile devices as a primary source of work production and the resulting need to create tailored, integrated apps to support those functions. Mobile devices are not just handheld desktops; to be useful, mobile apps need to provide easy access to relevant information and avoid extraneous functions that don't apply to the task at hand. Mobile devices also raise unique issues of data security, especially when employees are using their own personal devices.

For CIOs exploring the expansion of ERP and CRM to mobile devices, a number of baseline questions need to be addressed:

What ERP functions really need to be mobile-ready?

The kitchen sink approach to app implementation is both wasteful and detrimental. Back office employees who manage large data from a single location, such as accounting or HR departments, have limited need for mobile apps to get their jobs done. The cry for mobile access is coming from the field and production, where sales reps and production managers could pull together business proposals on the fly if they had streamlined access to updated pricing, inventory availability and other customer and sales information. A mobile strategy needs to evaluate all units of the enterprise and customize apps to serve their specific functions.

How do ERP software choices affect mobile options?

ERP software vendors are scrambling to deliver products that promise mobile access. For example, last spring major software vendors announced new mobile CRM apps to supplement their ERP applications. Mobile apps from SaaS solution providers are linking CRM and ERP functions to their cloud-based programs. The products now available run the gamut from highly specific to broadly generalized; an ERP software evaluation needs to carefully examine whether the mobile apps match up to company's individualized needs, and how much customization is available to improve the fit.

BYOD or company-owned?

Brand loyalty runs deep in the area of personal electronics. Whether they are Android or iOS devotees, few people really want to take the time to learn how to use a new device, and no one enjoys carrying around multiple units. Understandably, BYOD--bring your own device--programs are very popular among employees, but they do raise challenges for the company's mobile strategy. It is vital that employees recognize the confidentiality of company information, through a well-considered data ownership policy that is included in effective employee training. In some industries, government regulations may also apply to mobile access to information on personal devices. Security protocols must also be an integral part of any BYOD policy. Even simple rules like not saving passwords on the device can prevent devastating security breaches.

Mobile device use for CRM and ERP functions is an inevitable extension of our increasingly connected wireless society, and offers a wealth of advantages as employees meet customers on their own turf. App development is fast and furious at the moment, but CIOs need to take a proactive, thorough look at how mobile apps apply to their businesses and choose programs that will meet their current and future needs. Employee involvement is crucial to both the program evaluation and execution--take the time to investigate what features will be used effectively, and to ensure that employees are fully trained on the opportunities and responsibilities connected to the new programs.

Joel Schneider is the co-founder of Liberty Technology Advisors, Inc., based in Northbrook, Illinois. Joel has over 25 years of experience as a management consultant, specializing in information systems, business process optimization and operations management. Joel has worked with clients in a wide range of industries, focusing on manufacturing, distribution, process, food and beverage, and consumer products. In addition, you can read more on trending technology at FierceCIO http://www.fiercecio.com/story/fast-moving-trends-mobile-erp-crm-technology/2013-09-11#ixzz2g1mhUGiV

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