Your ERP system is a beast. A snarling, sometimes messy collection of data held together by software applications and databases, its job is to house, catalog and categorize—then only later shout, whisper and echo back everything that happens in your business. This powerful creature needs to handle processing demands, be a reliable repository, have the organizational prowess to classify information, and communicate about this data.
Impressive, right? Yes, except for the minor fact that your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system doesn’t quite tell you everything. Even the finest implemented ERP systems come up short because they simply don’t possess all of the knowledge you need.
We can liken it to a Major League Baseball game box score. It sort of tells the fan what happened during the game, and does so honestly. It just leaves out key details. While a traditional box score will accurately present the total number of hits a player had throughout the game, it reveals very little about the situation–the other forces at work while on the field. Too much of the context of the game is missing.
To analyze the player’s performance, we need to know what happened, and when. What were the conditions?
Sure the box score can tell me that my leadoff hitter had 2 hits in 4 at-bats, but it doesn’t say that he collected both hits after the game was out of reach.
Seriously—how can we smartly boast about our favorite player’s talent without an arsenal of factors that made their plays impressive? And to talk convincing smack, we need to present proper evidence that our buddy’s guy “ain’t all that.” Otherwise, it becomes an empty, witless battle.
The same goes for your ERP system. It possesses much of the data we need for strategic planning. We just want more of it. We like the reports, dashboards and lookups, but the ERP could tell us so much more.
Think of all the missing context that could be captured with your ERP. The play-by-play detail of our business story will help us properly identify factors contributing to our success as well as alert us to the adjustments we should consider.
My hometown baseball broadcaster with the Chicago White Sox, Ken “Hawk” Harrelson likes to say, “Don’t tell me what you hit. Tell me when you hit it.” Exactly.
Next at bat—mobile technology.
My 12-year-old son, Owen, follows White Sox games from his iPhone. His experience is a world apart from mine at his age. For starters, he can look at a live box score as the game is being played. As a kid, I had to wait to read stats in the next morning’s newspaper.
Now, a tap of a finger gives Owen complete play-by-play details, including data not formerly available, like how far the home run ball traveled, how fast a strikeout pitch was thrown, and defensive positioning. The smart phone-enabled box score (game cast) now includes features such as social media links to communicate with other fans, access to photos and replay videos. In every respect, the game cast completely trumps the old school box score in newsprint.
Mobile technology is real-time, interactive, and can tell a more complete story than ever before.
Look at last week’s sales report, yesterday’s receiving numbers, or last month’s financials. When you think of all the missing info, it now kind of looks like an old box score, right?
The opportunity to add new context—and value—to your ERP system is mind blowing.
Despite the phenomenal technology that we all carry in our pockets, the movement to adapt ERP systems to mobile devices has been somewhat slow. One reason is the new technology is not yet understood enough. In other cases, businesses are simply not sure where to start.
We can learn from the early 1990s, when Business Process Re-engineering was all the rage.
Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) was hugely popular in the 1990s. It was an important and valuable form of business consulting primarily because of the rapid and pervasive spread of PC-based accounting and ERP software systems.
Companies who invested in BPR benefited the most from their new systems. It required companies to document every step of their job tasks. Using the context of new business tools available, it mapped out expected new behaviors, processes and benefits available, thanks to the the latest technology.
Business people who understand ERP, are comfortable using mobile devices, and who have an eye for creating new value are potentially qualified to at least begin re-defining business processes to capitalize on this transformative technology. This needs to be done first—from sales, to warehouse, manufacturing, purchasing, accounting, customer service and all areas throughout the organization.
The question becomes, how do we identify which processes, and it which ways, we can add new value to our business by incorporating the very unique qualities of our mobile devices; qualities such as camera and video, push notifications and alerts, geo-awareness, calendar, email, phone and other direct app integrations.
Mobile ERP presents the opportunity to bring all new context to your legacy systems. Once the market discovers the value of mobilizing ERP systems, and how to tap into it, we will see a new era marked by better informed, more responsive, more confident, better-connected, working people.
Business Process Re-engineering can provide the creative energy and the structured framework to define a new reality.
That is the opportunity with mobile ERP