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Enterprise Mobility: What are the Risks / Rewards for the Small Business?

“The time for enterprise mobility is now. According to IDC, by 2013, more than 1.19 billion workers worldwide will be using mobile technology, accounting for 34.9% of the workforce.”

More and more of our SAP Business One customers are asking about Mobility. Do they just want to get access to their database out of the office to view reports, figures and stock levels or do they actually want a fully functional live integrated system?

There are a number of ways this can be done, most of us are used to the Virtual Private Network or VPN but this relies on us either having a 3G card or being connected to WiFi. Turning up at a client site with the intention of processing a sales order to find neither, you may as well not have bothered taking your Lap Top.

We are now seeing a real uptake in SAP Business One users with mobile devices like iPads, iPhones, Android Tablets and phones etc but are these really much better? SAP have a Mobile App for SAP B1 but early adopters claimed limited functionality and sometimes slow upload time, this has now been completely remedied. The App is really good if you want to view reports and dashboards etc and if you own an iPhone.

I asked a contact of mine, John Appleby, Business Analytics & Technology Capability Lead at Bluefin Solutions, to ask Nick Brown, Senior Vice President Mobility Market Development at SAP, if SAP had plans to develop Business One Apps on other OS’s. He said not at present but it is planned for the future. Basically, if you’re not a fan of Apple and want mobility with SAP Business One, you’re not going to be happy in the short term!

As some of our customers are demanding real time order processing and information from an App we started to look elsewhere. SAP Business One is extremely flexible in the amount of additional products developed by third parties that can be fully integrated. Currently we are pushing out a system by a third party company for Sales & Service staff that are not office based. There is also a nice Management package where directors can view figures in dashboard format from anywhere on an iPad. This product is available on Blackberry, iOS, Windows Mobile and Android. The beauty of this product is that you don’t have to be connected to access data or process sales orders. It simply syncs and updates packets of data as soon as it gets connected. (Email me for more information on this)

So how do enterprises address security with all these mobile devices floating around with company data on them? According to Joe Owen, VP of Engineering at Sybase, 43% of IT executives are worried about the security implications of supporting mobile devices. Strong passwords that need to be changed regularly are a necessity, it is also important to make sure that if a device is lost it can be remotely locked and or wiped from head office. If an employee uses a personal device then management tools can be used to separate personal data from enterprise data so that it can be easily wiped if he / she leaves the company.  You could also consider Mobility from The Cloud, I’m not sure if that is an option in SAP Business One yet but it’s certainly a great way to limit access.

In short, Mobility is here to stay and is only going to grow and develop. With the new SAP App Store and the constant demand for data on the move we can expect to see a lot more companies adopting a mobile strategy especially if an early ROI can be shown and the security can be proven. I think the big issue for small to mid sized business will be the total cost of ownership versus the perceived benefits and ROI to the business. A question to be asked is “Do you really need a Mobile Solution or are you happy with system access via VPN?” Some of our customers are very happy with the “Business Partner Snapshot” functionality in SAP Business One. It lets you take a snap shot of the customer you are going to visit that day for review on site. It contains information on accounts, last purchases, debts, open orders etc. If you simply need some analytics and reports on the move the SAP Business One iPhone App is great but if you want full integration on the move then have a look at one of the third party apps.

Some quotes in this blog were taken from “Enterprise Mobility Guide 2011 by Sybase, an SAP Company”

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