Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (July 28, 2011; page B5) had an article by Joe Mullich entitled “5 questions SMBs should ask when going mobile.” The article identifies 5 questions:
It ends with a thought-provoking statement that “mobility is about reenvisioning — a reimagining of workers roles, technology needs, and the basic manner in which business is conducted.”
Since the article was sponsored by Dell, the questions (and the associated answers) are device-focused. I am therefore going to take the liberty to extend this great set of questions to explore the business dimension that Joe flags.
Mobile apps, clearly, need to enhance employee productivity, decision making, and customer relationship management across key industries including manufacturing, professional services, consumer products, retail, and high tech. For example, sales representatives can access customer information, product availability, and promotions in real time while managers can respond to business processes such as workflows, alerts, and purchases with all of the context required to respond also in the palm of their hands! For this to be a reality, the mobile system you choose needs to have the ability to connect with the sources of the core data. Otherwise, its like carrying around a gleaming iPad2 that doesnt connect to the web… you can use what’s already there — but you cant use it interactively while on the go.
When hackers starting attacking PC’s first, the raging question was “Do you protect the PC or the apps in backend or both?” Seems to me, you need to do both…but with a tool that can do this programatically, rather than on a one-off basis. Your admin should be able to set “rules,” so the (back-end) apps accessible to your mobile device, the data on your mobile device, and the mobile device’s functioning can be remotely controlled. With large savings to boot!
The perennial “build vs buy?” debate persists. The decision, more often than not, is based on your IT dept’s beliefs and on what is available out there… SaaS models clearly show that using remotely managed apps with generally acceptable functionality is the way to go. So, unless you really believe that you need special apps, you are better off using pre-built/pre-configured solutions that fit 90% of your needs. And, when that isn’t feasible, look for a good tool with the required IDE capabilities so you quickly code once and use (natively) multiple times!
I am hoping that your IT folks will like you (and, me!) for asking the right questions before making the buying decision… All the best!
Update: Aug 3rd, 2011: Mobility seems to be on my team’s mind… Here are Kosin Huang’s thoughts on “Why Mobility in ERP matters to SMBs”
I’ll also add a pointer to the webinar that Steve Drake of IDC and I did recently on this topic.