Mobile ERP: What’s New in 2013?

What is mobile ERP? In simple terms, it means reading and updating your ERP system remotely. 2013 has seen news releases on the subject from SAP, Unit 4, and others. But what has really changed in the past 5-10 years which makes this feature such a buzzword for modern ERP vendors.

Almost all ERP systems connect through the internet today. We might not see it when we log on from our desktop PC because we use an interface behind the company firewall that is designed to appear simple. Can you log on to your ERP from home? Probably yes, so you already have mobile ERP and have had it for years. Your IT people gave you some kind of access to your company server across the firewall that connects to ERP and allows you to do anything from home you can do at your desk.

Today, most people have a smartphone or tablet tucked away in their pocket, or purse, or bluetooth enabled keyboard case - you get the picture! These will connect to our favorite browser. We can use the access codes we got from our IT people to connect to ERP with any device that connects to the internet.

Look around in your warehouse. The workers there have used portable scanners to record transactions and check inventory for many years now. That is remote ERP connectivity and certainly is no longer new.

A Whole New Beast

So, what is new in mobile ERP? “There is an app for that!” A screen with a dozen or so fields to see or enter data into is fine on your desktop PC. The screen on your smartphone is only a couple of inches wide, native technology is now a consumer demand. New mobile ERP apps simplify the appearance and might divide one PC screen into many smartphone processes so you enter data one field at a time. Depending on your needs, this could be a big deal. With an app designed specifically for iOS or android you could read a report or enter a transaction from wherever you travel and at any time you choose.

Many ERP vendors are now developing their own native ERP apps including SAP’s recently released Fiori suite. So how does this effect your ERP system and your business? If you have decided mobile ERP is integral to your system performance, 2013 will have thrown up a number of difficult decisions. One consideration is the range of devices which will require access to your ERP system. Apps for iphone will not work on android devices. Apps for one generation of android might not work on another android. Apps for a phone need to be smaller in screen size than apps for a tablet. Unless you restrict your field staff to a single device, you will need multiple interface apps. 2013 has seen mobile ERP evolve into a whole new beast, it can be tamed but may just bite your hand if you don’t give it your full attention.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller