Rubenstein Justman Management Consultants

ERP on-the-go

In a previous post, the advantages and challenges of ERP hosting on the Cloud were discussed. This post will swing to the other end of the ERP food chain, namely, users’ devices. Most of us own a smart phone or a tablet. This begs the question: How soon before a smart phone or tablet becomes our primary tool for accessing and manipulating ERP information?

This revolution is already taking place with the consumption of Financial and Sales information via Business Intelligence apps. This is not unexpected. PC applications serving these areas of business had already taken the leap, supported by technologies like associative data models and AJAX. Dashboards, drilldowns, and email integration have been the hallmark of these applications. Adding touch centric technology has made the complete migration to mobile devices organic and relatively painless.

SYSPRO, for example, has adapted its ERP software for the iPhone and iPad. The free application allows users to manage key functions like monitoring sales, looking up suppliers, and generating reports. A smaller company like Exxova is offering a SAP Mobility solution that runs the entire SAP BI stack on mobile devices.

Operational and manufacturing users have been slower to adopt mobile applications for several reasons. These are more sensitive functions of an ERP system, which means every system implementation exhibits its own peculiarities and quirks. This makes it more challenging for mobile developers – who thrive in a shareware environment – to crowd source mobile apps with broad appeal. At the same time, given that operations users interact more directly with transactional ERP data, caution does contribute to the wait and watch adoption pattern. There is no doubt that, as software gets more robust and security more reliable users will eventually begin to see the potential increase in productivity. Imagine downloading an app that allows you to record cycle counts, run a variance report , and drill down to WIP orders to analyze a discrepancy. All from the comfort of your warehouse forklift. There is no clearer indicator of ERP’s drive to mobility than the recent push by SAP to popularize its “Unwired Enterprise” mantra.


Increasing use of mobile apps are expected to be seen in process intensive industries, specifically those dealing in perishable goods. Pictures will now become part of transactions and the state of produce will be not only traceable but viewable at every stage in its life cycle. The way quality and manufacturing will operate will become much more efficient. HarvestMark already offers a iPhone app that supermarket shoppers can use to trace the source of the produce they buy. Such visual apps will become more ubiquitous throughout the supply chain. What will eventually follow are analytical tools that process non-numerical and non-textual data to support analysis.

As of writing this post, the US Congress has just announced stricter fuel standards for trucks where none existed before. Until now, the big brother syndrome was a sticking point when transportation networks attempted to deploy even basic GPs tracking devices. With the inevitable upward trend in fuel prices, as truckers buy into the fact that GPS tracking leads to improved route optimization, their familiarity and trust of wireless will allow them to interact with ERP systems over a phone or tablet.

The most dramatic surge in mobile adoption will be observed in emerging markets. Growing economies usually leap-frog older technology because there is less to “undo”. Think of the cell phone banking application that millions of Africans avail of. In India, Luna Ergonomics is offering the Panini Clever Multilingual Keypad. In a country that enjoys such a diversity of language, private enterprise sees this as a panacea to the existing barriers to conducting business.


The ongoing discussion related to the development of mobile apps is whether developers should produce native apps i.e. those written for Android OS or iOS or apps that are OS agnostic?

Because enterprise device are loaded with many more apps and require additional security there will soon be a distinct separation from consumer devices. Will the enterprise demand convince device makers to invest in separate manufacturing and sales channels?

An important consideration is the freshness of data on mobile devices. This can pose an added stress to the ERP infrastructure. As demand for “hot” information increases what will be the effect on data warehouses and networks?

At RJMC, we are proud of our ability to guide customers through the evolution of ERP applications. We have been engaged in helping companies assess their ERP needs for over twenty five years. With our proven methodologies we have guided clients through assessment, analysis, selection, and implementation of software systems that have served them well and will continue to do so well into the future.

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