A New Era for ERP: The Mobility Phenomenon

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The success of today’s enterprise relates largely to how well-connected its executives are—not in the political or financial sense but rather in the way that they employ technology. Traditionally, the benefits of ERP have been defined by its ability to connect all the operational and administrative functions of an organization, automating processes and reporting and eliminating the duplication of data entry. Now, however, technology providers are redefining the workplace so that the best-connected executives can access ERP data and reports remotely, anywhere at any time.

More than ever, executives expect to be connected to their organization and have the ability to access critical work functions, even when working from afar. According to a recent Gartner report, approximately 40 percent of the workforce will be mobile by 2016, when people will buy more than 1.6 billion smart mobile devices globally. Gartner Global Head of Research Peter Sondergaard explains, “Mobile is about computing at the right time, in the moment. It is the point of entry for all applications, delivering personalized, contextual experiences.”

In business terms, that means executives on the go want to be able to use mobile devices to carry out the same information retrieval, analysis and actions that they would on their desktops if they were in the office. Evidence of this trend comes in Gartner’s prediction that, in less than two years, iPads will be more common in business than Blackberries, with some CIOs reported to be ordering tens of thousands of iPads at a time.

Moreover, Sondergaard predicts that, by 2015, the primary mobile platform for 20 percent of sales organizations will be tablets; and, by 2018, as many as 70 percent of mobile workers will use a tablet or a hybrid tablet-like device.

This “mobility volatility” is not restricted to corporate leadership or middle management. Gartner forecasts that by the end of the decade, half of all devices in business will be purchased by employees. Already, the “bring your own device” to work phenomenon is causing IT departments either to set up new restrictions on network access through potentially non-compliant smartphones and tablets or, conversely, to embrace the trend as a cost-saving and employee-pleasing opportunity to use a single, familiar device inside the office and on the road to access information.

Technology developers have been quick to provide solutions that will offer remote accessibility to help workers at all levels of the enterprise become as connected as they want to be. For example, Microsoft recently made it possible for salespeople to collaborate and review data by using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online with their iPads, accessing the solution through the Safari browser.

In a similar way, mobile solutions for other ERP capabilities are rapidly evolving. A new study by the Mint Jutras research and consulting firm found that 27 percent of 300 businesses surveyed considered access to ERP data on mobile devices to be a “must-have” service, and 38 percent believe it is “important.” Both of these figures represent a substantial increase from the previous year, in which the respective figures were 19 and 28 percent.

Microsoft Dynamics users can take advantage of mobile ERP access today by connecting with MetaViewer through a browser, via either their smartphone or their iPad browser. Because MetaViewer is web-based, users can access information on most smartphones—including globally popular iPhone, Android and new Windows 8 devices that automatically back up and access documents through Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud solution. Using MetaViewer in mobile fashion is ideal for people like an executive who is on vacation and receives an automated email on his smart phone requesting his approval of an invoice. He or she can simply click a link to view the invoice, thereby opening a browser, and then approve the document without ever leaving the hotel room or even a favorite spot on the beach.

With this type of access available across the enterprise, businesses can expand globally much more easily than ever before. Mobility-enabled ERP cuts across time zones and marketplaces to allow executives to take advantage of any opportunity at any time. Complete customer data and accounting information reside at the executive’s fingertips, and action can be taken in just minutes or seconds.

Businesses should look for solutions that make life easier and are responsive to the new mobile environment. Microsoft Dynamics can help users start down that path easily with MetaViewer in mobile mode on handheld Internet browsers.

Nick Sprau, VP of Marketing
Metafile Information Systems, Inc.


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