Industry surveys suggest that a large percentage of organizations are deploying or will deploy mobile apps on smartphones this year. In response ERP providers are adding mobile extensions to their applications. Prototypes are being developed that target a future in which mobile devices, business applications, supply chains, warehouses, e-commerce sites, and business intelligence systems coalesce in one ecosystem.
On the surface this technology would seem to be valuable and required to stay competitive. None-the-less organizations should think about how a mobile strategy that will deliver value? There are not any solid guidelines about how to evaluate the value of mobile computing. Some ERP consultants suggest that you can begin by addressing some key mobile computing challenges.
Understand the business need:
The first question to answer is what do you want to accomplish with mobile technology, and then decide how. The productivity payoff will be more tangible for people whose jobs keep them on the move. Things like managing shop floors and warehouses or visiting customer sites. The proper mobile solution will keep users connected to enterprise databases and applications, and allow them to update records in real time. On the other hand, desk workers or those at a set location may be better served by less-expensive PCs or virtual desktops.
Developing a business case will force you to think through this process and define success metrics.
Understand and minimize hidden costs:
Smartphones and tablets themselves do not necessarily increase productivity. They must be paired with mobile ready business applications. Developing or buying good mobile applications can be costly. Deloitte estimates that companies spend a minimum of $5,000, and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, to develop custom tablet applications, depending on their complexity.
Look at existing mobile extension to core systems to reduce development expenses. This option might not be cost free but will get you started down the road. Many organizations customize their applications to better map to their business processes. These customizations will require additional development time and cost. Always keep in mind that the value and return of mobile computing will decrease or become negative if the application doesn’t accommodate the small screens and input barriers of mobile computing devices. Organizations should solicit user feedback early and often throughout the software development process.
Factor in recurring expenses:
Like any new IT investment, mobile solutions require more than the initial acquisition costs. New demands will be placed on IT departments for supporting, maintaining and securing mobile devices. Rapid advances in mobile technology also will translate into frequent refreshes for hardware and software to take advantage of the latest innovations. End-user training costs will be required even though tablets are perceived as easy to use. Familiarity with personal devices means people know how to navigate menus and interact with touch-screens, but companies must budget for basic training that show users how to do things like update customer records or track materials that are on their way to a distribution center.
Prepare for disaster:
Because mobile devices are much more likely to be dropped, lost, or stolen they are mini disasters waiting to happen. “Ruggedized” tablets might be your first thought, but they typically may lag their consumer counterparts by several months, and ruggedization is expensive. Reinforced versions can be three to five times more costly as standard devices.
Some organizations have decided to go with consumer models because early availability provides productivity benefits more quickly. In this case an organization can burn through perhaps 4 or 5 replacements before matching the cost of one ruggedized version.
If device breakage will have a very negative impact worker productivity then ruggedized devices should be seriously considered.
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