Monday, June 10, 2013

ERP and Mobile Applications

A recent article posting asked the question about which Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) business areas are well suited for mobile applications.   I was happy to see that this article question focused on the premise of “Business Areas” addressed.  A lot of focus today seems to be on the features and associated benefits of a particular function.  This is both good and bad.  It is good in the fact that, hey, here is a technology that can be utilized to fulfill a business need. 

Bad, in the sense, that there is an assumption that the technology will solve all of your problems simply, because it exists.

 A lot of ERP solution providers have added/integrated mobile technology in their operations.  The additions help businesses not, because they exist, but because of their effectiveness in addressing a business challenge.  We in general have this impression that everyone should be using the latest technology for everything under the sun.  This is a false premise.  Just because it exists, does not mean there is a reasonable Return on Investment (ROI) or even if it is practical. 

Just because a given technology exists, does not mean it is practical.

Some companies consider themselves leading edge and try to set the bar high for their competition.  The thought seems to be that we are using the latest whatever and our competition does not, so you should purchase from us.  What most customers care about that I have talked with is high customer service, responsiveness, timeliness and accuracy of deliveries.  They would all like faster, but accuracy is the most important component of an order. 

Most people would like a phone number prominently and easily found on the web page and a real person to answer the phone, take responsibility and direct the call directly to someone who can help.

This is not a technology solution.  This is recognition and responsiveness to the people and business that are trying to do business with you.  They want to work with you.  Are you using your technology to help your staff help them?  Or, is technology a barrier to doing more business?

Social media is a good example.  Social media is not a technology.  It is a conversation and communications forum for the people that are in your world.  Social media uses technology as a delivery mechanism, but it is not in itself technology.

An order may take x-amount-of-time, and unless it is an emergency fulfillment.  Purchasers build that time delay into their ordering system.  What they expect is that if you promise a delivery date, that date is met barring unforeseen acts of God.  If the order is delayed, then down line customers are delayed and disappointed.   This opens the door for the competition to compete. 

It is not the technology that solves the challenge.  It is people. 

I had a meeting recently with a prospect.  What impressed me the most, is that the owner made the customer a first priority.  It is part of their company culture.  When we left his office to take a look at their operations, he placed his name badge on his shirt.  When we walked through the store, he stopped our conversation to help customers (more than once).  That is customer service. 

That is how I would like to be treated when I am in a store. 

At the end of our meeting I asked his advice on a purchase, and made that purchase.  I did not have to do that, but I thought that, one, it is something I do need regardless, and two, I wanted to see how I was treated at checkout.  No discount, no special mention, just treat me like anyone else in the store.  How well did their staff utilize the existing technology and how much of it was their staff and mentoring.  If I am going to propose a new solution to his business, it had better enable them to increase, not merely match, the current level of customer service.    

So specifically, what mobile technologies exist to help the business operations?

·         Inventory management and warehouse management systems are early and relatively easier adopters of mobile technology.  Inventory counting, order picking and verification, sales analysis evaluation. 

o   I must point out that there is a significant difference between consumer grade equipment that tends to have lower upfront costs and industrial rated equipment that can take, for example, repeated drops on the floor. 

·         Distribution of actionable information directly to the hands of those who can utilize it to make more intelligent decisions.   For example, a mobile sales force that is front of their customers or prospects and can check inventory or take orders on-the-spot. 

·         Notification of priority events.  For example, notification that a customer has gone over their credit limit.  A key purchase order has been received.  Report and information distribution.  The sooner you can get the information in the hands of decision makers, the better.

Really, unless it is a computing intensive solution, mobile technology can be an asset to an organization that needs their people to handle multiple functions at the same time. 

As economic concerns grow, businesses need to empower their staff with the right tools to compete.  It is important to recognize that technology alone will not help.  Integrated solutions that utilize technology as the delivery mechanism may be worth the investment.

Contact us today to see how we can help you implement a solution that delivers high customer satisfaction.  Dolvin Consulting works with industry leaders to deliver the right-fit solution for your challenges.  Start the conversation today.  We are here to help. 


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