This article first appeared in IMPO's November/December 2012 issue.
I recently took a trip to Gothenburg, Sweden at the behest of IFS, a solutions provider that develops, supplies, and implements IFS Applications™, a component-based extended ERP suite built on SOA technology.
Sweden was quite dark during the days I spent in Gothenburg, however the IFS conference sessions were plenty well lit with glowing smart phone and tablet screens as various speakers took turns walking though the latest industry trends and new technical functionality.
Mobility was in full effect here as employees from IFS, their partner companies, analysts, and press tuned into the live presentations and demos, typing on tablets or recording on their smart phones. For many, the pens and pads of paper on the banquet tables went untouched.
One of the more interesting presentations I attended was conducted by Jason Andersson of the IT market intelligence firm, IDC. IDC, in collaboration with IFS, developed a research report based on survey results centering around the attitude businesses have towards using mobility solutions in today’s workplace or, more specifically, mobile ERP solutions. Before we get too far, the largest vertical reached in this survey was – you guessed it – industrial and process manufacturers.
Some of the findings were quite interesting, but one point stuck with me the most. According to the report, the main barrier to adopting mobile ERP solutions is security concerns. With this said, however, “only 7 percent are looking to invest in mobile device management (MDM).” What this basically means is, many manufacturers have security fears, but would rather continue to allow this to be a barrier to implementation, versus investing in the solution (MDM) which would improve security and policy management.
Ultimately, IDC recommends that companies take a strategic look at the opportunities that mobility can offer in terms of increasing competitive advantage by reducing cost, increasing employee efficiency, or improving business processes. Some of the key opportunities include mobile access to business enabling apps – customer relationship management (CRM) applications, for example – or just the basic ability for employee collaboration across the globe.
And as the globe shrinks, and developing countries become more sophisticated with their businesses, it will be in the best interest of U.S. manufacturers to truly understand the value of mobility as a globally relevant competitive advantage.
I say this because, according to another recent survey by SAP, when it comes to technology, becoming more efficient and using IT more effectively over the next year is among the top three priorities of those surveyed (more than 1,000 SMEs), with 46 percent saying using technology more effectively was a top business priority. The survey indicated this was especially important in emerging countries, including India, Brazil, Russia, China, and Mexico.
I think this additional point should resonate most with the American manufacturers who are hesitating to pull the trigger on mobility solutions, since it appears that potential competition from across the globe is placing an emphasis on this area of business development as well. Knowing this means U.S.-based companies would be wise to realize that there is not as much time as there once was to play catch up, and perhaps investments in things like MDM can’t be viewed as long term future or “rainy day” initiatives. And unless you're prepared to let BRIC nations beat you to the punch, you should probably take this seriously.
For many of us, mobility is not some massive undertaking, full of risk and implementation time, rather an opportunity to fire off a few time-sensitive emails from the airport or view the inventory levels in our warehouse when a customer asks us about delivery timelines. It's about visibility, efficiency, and actionable business transactions — and it's time we shine our light on the benefits rather than just the expenses.