Do you dream about running your business from the country club or the beach? Do you want your sales force to have all the contact information from your CRM system available and take orders on the go? Do you need your service techs or consultants to enter time on job as they do them? Well, you are most likely wanting a mobile solution that brings the necessary parts of your ERP system to a mobile device like an iPhone, BlackBerry, or other SmartPhone.
But there are so many solutions out there. Which one should you choose? Are there any key features you need to look for? I think there are. In order to make a good decision you need to make sure that the mobile solution handles some very important parts.
If an employee loses his or her phone, you want to be sure that no one can access your proprietary information. You want to be sure the device can be wiped clean remotely. The system must physically delete the data from the device in case the phone is stolen.
You also want the data sent over the wireless network to be encrypted so that no one can trap and read the information from the moment it leaves your ERP system until it reaches the mobile device.
Since data is sent over the wireless network you want to select a solution that is able to filter the data so that the person receiving the information only gets what he or she needs and nothing else. For instance your sales people should only receive data on their customers or prospects and not everyone else’s.
You typically never want any application logic to run on the mobile device but only in your ERP system. Let me explain. When a user for instance enters an item on an order, you want the data validation to happen on the ERP system and not the device. So the ERP system will check that the item is available etc. and send the result back to the mobile device. The major benefit to this is that it should allow the application logic to change in the ERP system. All devices are automatically utilizing the new logic without any update of the mobile device.
You also want to make sure that changes to your applications can be submitted through the wireless network so your employees don’t have to come in every time there is an update to the application.
Since most data is comprised of text, numbers and sometimes pictures, you are dealing with a lot of data that take up a lot of space. Once this data is sent over the wireless network you may encounter long wait times. By compressing the data before it goes into the wireless network, and decompressing it when it comes out again, you can save valuable time updating the data on the devices. Compressing can often speed things up 2-3 times even though some additional time is used to compress and decompress the data.
Last but not least you may want to make sure that the solution is available on the most popular mobile devices. If your company already has a policy to use only one device companywide, then you only need that device to be supported. However, many times you have employees with all kinds of different phones and a broad support of smart phones would be preferred then.
If you are looking for a mobile solution, look forward to it, but do the due diligence and make sure you are at least aware of the important features I mentioned above.