Many years we been using mobile for simple communication, mobility has been critical requirement for domestic use but it had never treated as valuable element on corporate environment.Recent years both mobile eco system and enterprise application architecture changed in many ways, new innovations changed the way we utilize at both services to improve productivity.
According to researching enabling corporate network access and resources anywhere anytime can deliver series of benefits. Also he highlights potential for errors in transferring information will be reduced with proper mobilized solutions than using multiple access methods.
Both mobile and ERP systems are growing and many research firms are individuals are recognized time has arrived for them to allocate investment for enabling mobile solutions to their ERP systems. Incorporating mobilityfor ERP system is a huge challenge.
Enterprise Resource Planning
ERP system is business software solution that utilize single database with interconnected module based software that optimized and customized according to business process, all the modules and transactions works real-time and use SOA like business process and central process engine. ERP is system is typically a large system and it requiremany resources to run the system. Traditional ERP systems used to be client server based huge desktop UI applications but recently most of the large ERP venders develop their systems to run as multiple platforms, main venders as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and IFS own desktop app and web interface to perform same task.
Mobile Eco System
From simple data call to broadband mobile industry has changed rapidly. It was written on research that â€œ internet od devicesâ€ is growing much faster than desktop internet , mobility is not only mobile phones it contain number of devices and number of device platforms such as , Smartphones, Tablets, Smart TVâ€™s etc. Smartphones are known as mobile phones with advanced processing power to perform computer like operations. With new 3G and 4G data capabilities smartphones and tablets made a huge impact to mobile communication and enable mobility using range of small devices. With Apples innovation on iOS mobile operating systems are become a trend, competition between venders competition between app markets manage to develop easy to use highly adaptable smartphone work environment for both business and personal users.
According to Forbes Apple iOS is the most common platform used to connect to corporate networks and 89% mobile devices like smartphones will connect to corporate networks. By looking at the below chat we can easily identify the trend towards Smartphoneâ€™s, also Hirevue (hirevue.com/mobile) research shows that 1billions workers mainly work with mobile device and 3 of 5 workers can be allocated as mobile workers, both mobile and enterprise app venders are working towards to achieve same goal, recently SAP Acquired SYCLO to strengthen mobile ERP platform is a good example to prove the fact large venders like SAP is very concern on mobility. (More info:Â http://www.sap.com/corporate-en/press.epx?PressID=18623)
Furthermore on mobile app development has reached towards building up its own framework, best example is SYBASE, they were very popular among the competition and recently SAP acquired them. Microsoft recently introduced Windows Mobile 8 native codes that mean you will be able to deploy your .net based application natively on mobile platform to avoid the code conversion or multiple coding for desktop and mobile for enterprise ERP apps.
Below table describe major mobile OS contribution.
As we see the trend towards Android and iOS and smartphones are increasing rapidly, even there was a small sales drop on mobile phones, smartphones were able to capture and grow the large section from the entire market. Some platforms like RIM (BlackBerry) is losing their position due to limitations of implementing large enterprise apps trough the RIM Mobile OS,Â number highlight the real equipment is not only communication business need flexible platforms such as iOS and Android to deploy mobile enterprise application.
Large ERP venders with stable mobile platforms
At the movement SAP and dynamics ERP support the highest numbers of mobile platforms and mobile apps, oracle still use external vender support on mobile apps but I could not locate any common apps on iTunes or Android Play, SAP has its own mobile apps plus many vender specific apps on both app markets, Dynamics also support multiple markets but native ERP apps and add-on support windows mobile platform.
According to my analysis on internet SYBASE is the largest mobile platform application compatible with multiple mobile eco systems, list of featureson framework explain us the complexity and size of the industry, mobile office is not only mobile app development mobile ERP is not only the release of mobile based ERP app, having its own framework with such services as above showcase us SAPâ€™s commitment to invest SYBASE platform as its mobile solution.Â MEAP feature direct complied apps for customers and APIâ€™s Services and developer tools for external developers. ERP vertical solutions are dedicated to its own filed of expertise, industry such as POS (point of sales) experts are much capable of developing its own mobile apps for POS than core ERP Company, in such situations having its own framework can deliver best results for customer and business opportunities for partners.
Microsoft Dynamics contain number of ERP/CRM products by Microsoft to serve enterprise resource planning for any sized organization, it contain Dynamics AX, NAV, GP, SL and CRM solution. Dynamics systems use.net business connector, SharePoint and xml web services to work with mobiles.Withlatest Metro UI Microsoft has taken a step further to implement mobile solutions with its own cloud (Azure) based hosted solutions, even today customers able to use Azure based Dynamics ERP system with
integrated SkyDrive and windows mobile enabled apps.
Screenshot from Android market
SAP ERP application is a large desktop application with multiple data connections, transformation is only a code conversion, mobile developers need to re-engineer workflows and design enterprise bus architecture to use new mobile platformsutilize webservers and data connectors on the framework , according to mobile framework white papers , data access they have simplified using drag and drop functions on the developer mode , but according to my understanding after reading technical documentation in common they use web services to read data and HTML5 on UI, they been using JSON and java in past but they are slowly moving towards HTML5.
Dynamics use its own web services and XML format with .net connector to sync data, windows mobile use direct data synchronization with AIX interface but applications on iOS and Android use SharePoint based enterprise portal access to sync date.
According to researcher Basole one challengers and inhibitors are there with mobile office systems one key concern is that misunderstand that mobile computing is fundamentally different from traditional enterprise computing models, not all the modules are compatible and suitable for mobile transformation. Few modules and services are critical and some are ideal and secure not to enable mobile or remote access. Refer to below module descriptions and identify what will be ideal to enable mobility.
Researcher Basole compare mobile platforms characteristics such as bandwidth utilization, limited storage with desktop hardware, also data synchronization is a challenge, but recent solutions managed to prove that they have overcome the challengers using mobile optimized frameworks and advanced mobile OS features. He recognized things have changed but still more challengersexists and common practices are slowly been established, researcher point out the throughput is the major concern with large solutions like ERP , according to my findings in industry system developers have come up with smart solutions to minimize data blocks with mobile operation. As an example in my current office we own large ERP system and mobile apps to place orders from customer site, mobile system only capture critical information from the mobile, when the data is pushed to our system it pick up the additional information such as billing/shipping address, credit limits, contact information as such, using such practice throughput can be reduced.
I do not agree with researcher security concern on widespread adoption, at the moment almost all the top level encryption options available in popular mobile operating systems and when you lost the device remotely device can be locked, tracked and erased.
Advantages functional business tasks
Field Service/support Management
Service center is widely used module in any ERP system, customer service plan scheduling allocation, performance monitoring and few more tasks can be perform using service module, mobile service is ideal and necessary requirement for field service. Updated and information can be pushed to filed engineering or support team while they were out of the office , also I have personally experience in Singapore ERP connected mobile application capture any breakdown of any utility service in the city using the smartphone camera and record GPS location and upload and create service call while inspector on the field. It will alert the maintained team to complete the task in given time and inspector will get an alert when case file is closed and completed.
Mobile devices such as tablets are very popular among inventory controllers, mobile counting systems can utilize mobile device camera as barcode scanner and sync data to centralERP database while they are working inside stores. Optimized assetsmanagement system with mobiles can reduce lot of man hours on stock counts and reduce few steps in data entry.
Mobility in logistics is very popular and it can be used in many ways, Mobile GPS radio can be utilize to track vehicles and good and it can be easily intergraded to ERP system, I have experienced the ERP connected GPS system in â€œPrima Sri lankaâ€ to track lorryâ€™s carrying good, also in service industry most of the taxi companies are using GPS tracking but very few own integrated solution with in-house ERP system. Technical limitations are very less but most of them are not aware with the advantages they can obtain when they intergrade both together.
Mobile solution can be used to push updated to main workflow such as order management process can get update from delivery and update the ERP system with the status of delivered to the customer and it will update the ERP system real-time when the delivery agent push the update from his mobile.
Sales (Account receivable)
In practice entire sales operation is not yet transformed as mobile service but supporting services like POS checkout. At the moment in Sri Lanka one of the largest appeal store (ODEL) utilizeiOS based POS checkout with Microsoft Dynamics Navation ERP system. Also theysend sales summary in text and email format to the relevant managerâ€™s mobile devices.
Business Impact/Advantages Mobile Office
Reliable data access
When you have multiple login mechanisms and remote access using internal or external methods access control and vulnerabilities can be higher, with proper mobile solution you will be able to define access control proper federation methods or use limited read access web services only for the mobile apps. By using such methods admin will be able to monitor the mobile traffic and simplify the administration.
System accessibility is a critical factor to concern in mobility, with latest BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) concept business users expect system to be compatible and accessible using any network to any device. From network to network communication methods and protocols change and with multiple hardware device resolution performance can generate many compatibility issues. Using a proper framework and use core features on the mobile OS platform to optimize for hardware changers will be ideal to find solution for common accessibility challengers.
Latest smartphones are built with new hardware features where ERP systems can take advantage to improve business, mobile device camera can be used as image capturing device and at the same time it can be used as barcode or optical scanner. Build in GPS antenna can be used to serve location based deals or find and locate customers. GPS is widely use on ERP system to track logistics , mobile data will be pushed back to ERP system that can sync real time to locate and visualize transport map inside ERP software for better Birdseye view.
Two isolated solutions can generate multiple data entry points and gaps between data , native real-timeintegration between mobile and ERP systems can deliver extremely productive ROI to the investment , few examples in Sri lanka , Uniliver use mobile software for sales managers where they can visit the customer and analyze the stock and the business and push the update from mobile device( Windows Mobile) using 3g network to central ERP (SAP) to plan daily production forecast , other way sales manager can check the stock availability while he is at customer place and advise him to order on time.
Flexible work environment
With mobility company can assign selected tasks to perform on field and it will provide task or target based work model that would be more suitable for selected business organizations. By having real time synchronization information will be real-time and workers will be more confident when handling customers. When workers are not necessary to visit office to obtain latest information when they can sync them through mobile and they could allocate time for more work.
ERP Mobile and Could
Could computing has changed the way we obtain software services and cloud concept manage to gain enough attention in short period of time to prove that in future cloud solution is an irresistible service to consider, for mobile office could is a key technology , one of the main objective in cloud computing is to take advantage of mobility, could is everywhere access through mobiles and both cloud and mobile technologies work closely , latest ERP versions such as Dynamics AX 2012 Nav13 released with native cloud version where customers able to buy cloud or hybrid solution with both onsite and could solutions , questions here is either we have to deploy ERP to the cloud or use could as a service to obtain mobility using could base services , cloud cater enterprise service bus architecture where you can use ESB to send data as messages and develop UI to mobile. Sri Lankan company WSO2 has successfully tested few solutions and their carbon cloud and ESB is available for testing at free of charge URL: www.wso2.com
Mobility is not only a must for many companies itâ€™s the key to the success, it has not limits but when we utilize we have to identify the business need and capability and feasibility of handling such operation in mobile. Some business processors maybe ideal for business but some will generated less ROI and security concern, solutions frameworks platforms are widely open and trend is moving fast and positive . Researcher has marked that finding mobile solutions on ERP is more practical than theoretical, ERP systems are highly customizable recent days mobile frameworks contain enough tools to optimize systems to make compatible to deliver faster ROI value to business.With rapid growth in mobile industry data access and device capabilities welcome enterprises to enable mobility, enterprise culture demand BYOD and business owners seeking new methods to increase productivity. With recent innovations in both industries challengers are becoming lower and demand is growing. Enabling mobile office with ERP system is valuable investment for enterprise business.
By Saptha Wanniarahchi
ArticleÂ Â© Saptha Wanniarachchi
The Emergence of the Mobile Enterprise: A Value-Driven Perspective, Rahul C. Basole, PhD Tennenbaum Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology
Mobile Computing: Looking to the Future ,Bill N. Schilit ,IEEE Computer, vol. 44 (2011) http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/37634.pdf
Mobile trend statistics