Keep it snappy
More company decision-makers want answers from ERP systems, wherever and whenever they are. Enabling ERP information to be accessed using any mobile device requires more or less implementation effort, depending on the ERP solution.
“A few ERP vendors have created reporting applications on a single mobile device, but we prefer the approach of creating fully-functional clients that connect over mobile networks and run on everything from bar coding pocket PCs to iPads,” says Swati Desai, country manager of tier-two solution provider Hansaworld SA.
For the mobile ERP user working offline for a while, perhaps because there is no 3G signal, Hansaworld offers a live synch option, adds Immo B"ohm, MD of Hansaworld implementer Afresh Consult.
“Once back in range of an Internet connection, the mobile client will synch automatically with the ERP database back home,” says B"ohm. “Our solution offers an out-of-the-box Web-shop that gives access to all the information of the ERP system.”
However, at present, few Afresh clients use its mobile functionality.
Meanwhile there is a move among tier-one players to push ERP information in real-time to a variety of mobile devices using any front-end, not just proprietary graphic user interfaces, says Derek Wood, MD of LS Computing, a service-oriented architecture (SOA) solution provider to tier-one ERP systems.
BI without the wait
Decision-makers dependent on ERP information increasingly want to pull answers from systems themselves, and then zoom into what they find. How long one waits for an answer to a complex BI query matters more than ever.
“It's no longer possible to supply this on paper,” says Marc Gower, director at Accpac ERP implementer Acctech. “The guy wants to slice and dice his own information.”
Customers can use slate computers and mobile phones from different vendors for queries, and a variety of BI or office software to analyse the information.
Managers want to know when new people get on board and get granted access.Len de Goede, T-Systems
For big clients running tier-one solution SAP, the processing power and resource pooling required to run the ERP system, hosted or not, needs to be in place first, says Len de Goede, head of systems integrations from T-Systems SA. To greatly improve processing speed and broadcasting of queries to customers, a BI accelerator can be added to the system.
Complex ERP queries across huge amounts of information will be completed significantly faster in future, thanks to in-memory databases, says Wood. Huge amounts of flash memory will store entire ERP databases. However, only one local T-Systems ERP client has expressed interest in in-memory so far, says De Goede, since most perceive it as too risky.
A few ramp-up SAP customers worldwide have migrated their production systems to this technology. T-Systems is testing in-memory at overseas universities and labs, but De Goede concedes that it's early days yet.
Don't call me
Managers facing increasing workloads prefer to manage exceptional business circumstances as they arise. ERP systems need to alert managers on their mobile phones about matters needing their attention.
Since the beginning of 2010, ERP workflows sending mobile alerts to managers to approve purchase orders has really taken off, says Gower, particularly in mining, where managers are out in the field most of the time.
More real-time information about corporate governance, access and security is what ERP clients want, says De Goede. “Managers want to know when new people get on board and they get granted access, or people get new authorisations to perform specific transactions, or when people are performing transactions above a certain value. Because of all the legislation and compliance issues now and in the future, managers have a proactive, risk-averse approach.”
We prefer creating fully-functional clients that connect over mobile networks and run on everything from bar coding pocket PCs to iPadsSwati Desai, country manager, Hansaworld
The next step in managing by exception can be alerts that a business process is taking longer than it should, and that someone should do something: service level agreements on the managers who must approve sick leave or purchase orders, complete with escalation times.
Up to 2009, says Gower, clients were simply automating their processes with workflow. Now they want to know how long critical workflow processes take to complete, and then set reduced time targets.
Being informed about something out of the ordinary on a mobile device is one thing, but acting on an alert may require a device with a bigger screen. ERP users prefer larger screens for real work, says B"ohm, and will use the phone for things like calendar reminders, authorisations, reports and alerts.
ERP clients and their customers really want to move back to more personal interaction, says De Goede, despite the ability to push ERP information in real-time to smart devices. Enabling CEOs and field agents alike, he says, is really about information available in real-time, while face-to-face with a customer.