“Mobile” ERP has been around for a long time – for many years, users have been able to accesses ERP functionality via mobile devices designed for hard-working field services, warehouse or logistics environments. Fast-forward to today, and mobile ERP means access to the full suite of enterprise capabilities on personal mobile devices like tablets and smart phones.

More enterprises are examining whether mobile ERP on today’s consumer devices is merely “nice to have”, or is becoming a strategic imperative. Taking ERP mobile on today’s devices – which were designed for consumer use, not business use – challenges companies to realistically examine and assess available capabilities, ROI expectations and actual costs before making the plunge.

Businesses, ERP vendors and device manufacturers are still struggling to understand how to effectively bring ERP onto today’s mobile devices. The ability to connect directly to existing functions and data turns a tablet into a true alternative to a laptop or desktop. But, without appropriate apps, tablets are useless as enterprise portals.

CIOs and other business decision makers also need to fully understand the impact of consumerization on enterprise mobility. Consumer technologies change often and require frequent upgrades. In addition, the mobile software itself needs to provide a look and feel that consumers are used to, while not confusing users. Because companies and ERP vendors want to simplify access to these systems on mobile devices, the end result may not resemble ERP access on desktops.

Unfortunately, many companies are investing in iPads without fully considering the upfront costs and ROI expectations. Others are pursuing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, opening the door to putting sensitive business information on employees’ personal mobile devices.

Enterprises considering a mobile ERP strategy should ask these questions:

  • Are you focusing on devices and apps, while neglecting to create a true mobility strategy?
  • What are the costs and ROI expectations of investing in company-owned devices vs. a BYOD strategy?
  • Can your devices and apps adequately support a seamless experience from desktop to mobile device?
  • Will the smartphone or tablet be an additional user interface, or a replacement for accessing the core system on a laptop or desktop?
  • Have you considered how mobile ERP will integrate with your business, employees and customers?
  • Are you prepared to create and manage a ‘mobile culture’?

As the mobile ERP trend develops, device vendors are challenged to step up their ability to deliver tools that are genuinely business capable. On the other hand, ERP vendors need to look at how they can simplify systems so they can jump from desktops to tablets and smart phones more easily. Business decision makers should carefully examine the costs and benefits of adopting a mobile ERP strategy.