It goes without saying that an ERP implementation for any Enterprise is a herculean task. It is not just the IT department that has to slog through during the entire phase of implementation, there needs to be ample amount of support from the respective Business group and a strong backing from the senior management too. As for the IT team, they have to sail through numerous technical challenges, coupled with immense planning and proper communication/feedback between the business teams & IT for the success of the ERP project.
The need for building a Mobile application for the ERP and integrating it with the mobile device platforms and the enterprise backend has added one more level of complexity. Though the challenges are different, the approach one has to follow for building and deploying an Enterprise Mobile App is similar to ERP implementation.
Enterprises have begun to realize that enabling mobile applications can bring in great degree of benefits to the ERP and can drive greater productivity among the Enterprise users. However, the disruptive nature of mobile could leave Enterprises with unanticipated results from their Enterprise Mobility strategy, leading to a catch-22 situation. With these aspects coming into play, Enterprises today would need more clarity on their Mobile roadmap. They have to be sure on how mobile solutions should best support their key business objectives, meet target user needs that vary a great deal, while addressing technical, cost and security challenges. An effective Enterprise mobile app should factor-in all the realities associated with the business, existing work flows/processes, including mobility functions, technology aspects, user feedback & so on.
From the cost perspective, building a Mobile solution and maintaining it would take a fraction of the overall investment as part of the large ERP implementation project. At the same time, Enterprises could get carried away by their own Mobile story and pump-in more money/resources in developing Mobile Apps. However, there is a good chance that all the effort and money might go down the drain if some crucial aspects are not considered while executing your Mobile strategy. This kind of deviations can to an extent derail the overall Enterprise Mobility strategy and the IT goals of the Organization.
Following are some of the crucial aspects you need to consider while developing Enterprise Mobile Applications for your ERP:
1. Proper Analysis of the Requirements and Gathering In-Depth Business Insights
The Mobile project requirements may be readily stated in most cases. It still needs to be dissected first, followed by understanding complete details. While building a Mobile solution, one cannot overlook how certain functions are executed currently within a department, where exactly lies the bottleneck, how mobile can bridge the gap and how does the mobile application help users to get their jobs done in a more efficient manner. Any negligence here, might lead to certain essential functionalities being left out. Eventually, this might even affect the operations in the long run leading to reduction in productivity and effectiveness of the mobile project.
2. Assessment of the Business Process & Development
Mobile team should initially sketch out the Web applications, how the workflows and processes are defined currently, and ascertain the key components. Based on these inputs, one can come up with a wireframe design of the Mobile application along with its detailed layout that allows the team to visualize how the Application would look like. Feedback-Refinement cycle can be carried out at multiple stages to ensure the Application is built by putting the user at the centre of the design process. With all these wireframes, sketches and storyboards, the actual process of development could be initiated and the developers can now think about the architecture of the mobile solution, API, queries to be loaded etc.
3. Choosing the Right Dosage of Testing
Polishing the app to make it work smoothly, ironing out the bugs & fixing them in different browser versions, devices or operational systems are a huge task. Obviously, one cannot check the app for every possible scenario, but at the same time performance is critical. Therefore, choosing the right dose and tools for testing is a crucial aspect before the App is set for its first release.
4. Phased-Wise Approach
The least risky path and simplest way to build a mobile solution is to do it in stages. Especially the SMB and Medium Enterprises, where department heads would like to have a tighter control over resource allocations and budgets. Trying to implement everything in one-go might lead to a lot of disruption and delays. At the same time, a staged approach also means a smart way to manage the expectations of business teams.
5. Appropriate Network Connectivity for the Mobile Solution
Network connectivity is one of the major concerns influencing the success or failure of an Enterprise Mobile strategy. Enterprises need to consider various metrics such as network connectivity options, connection speeds, reliability, throughput and quality of service, while implementing their Mobile strategy. The Mobile app hence built, should accommodate everybody from the boardroom to the shipping dock who’d want to access ERP data on any device, any time, from anywhere be it in office, factory or on the road.
6. Securing the Mobile Apps, ERP Data and Devices
With Mobility shaping-up, the boundaries of the workplace have slowly disappeared, and there needs a mechanism to manage people, devices and data. As there is a steady increase in the cluster of Apps that users typically rely for both their business and personal use, it’s essential that the IT departments must enable the use of devices rather than blocking them. There is a strong need to put control in place, including policy, data regulations and technology protections. Among all these parameters, an enterprise must set up secure user authentication mechanisms that are picked up from the ERP and deploy endpoint security systems. It is also recommended to choose an appropriate MDM tool that can track devices and permit administrators to register/unregister users on the network. While it is also critical to lock devices or remote wipe the data sitting on the devices that are lost, stolen or compromised.
These are a few fundamental but critical parameters facing a mobile project. Depending on the industry sector in which the Enterprise operates in, the level of complexity would vary. An Enterprise may choose to tackle these challenges themselves and solve them one at a time. But some of the challenges when overlooked may result in mistakes the Enterprise cannot afford as well. Therefore, it is important that a team of mobile consultants are engaged to ensure a smooth implementation process for the Mobile strategy.
Manager – Global Alliances & Partnerships, RapidValue Solutions