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IT Challenge: Buying mobile ERP for SMBs

In this IT Challenge, learn whether mobile ERP and other mobile apps are worth the investment for small to midsize manufacturers.

The IT Challenge of the Month for February 2012:

My company is considering mobile ERP, but we’re not sure if it would be a good investment for a manufacturing organization of our size. Are mobile apps worth the investment for a midsize, or even a small, manufacturer? Or is mobile best left to large corporations?

Do you have a solution to this challenge? Have you encountered a similar issue at your business? If so, please contact the editors and share your suggestions or experiences. 

IT Challenge respondents will receive a free copy of a new book from SAP Press.

And be sure to check back here all this month -- we'll be posting solutions from experts and readers as we receive them.

From industry analyst and CEO of Constellation Research Ray Wang:

Mobile apps may be a good bet for SMBs for a number of reasons:

1. Improved design.  New ruggedized devices are much easier to use.

2. Critical operational metrics. Tablets are leading the way on the shop floor and can provide a cost effective way for accessing critical operational metrics and communicating data more quickly back to core analytics.

3. Future of work.  The next generation of workers are expecting their work environments to mirror their personal lives.

The question isn't whether to buy mobile apps and devices, but when and how many. A good rule of thumb is to figure out what areas in the business process a person must access to make a decision or provide input that cannot be automated. If you identify a process step that fits the bill, you'll want a mobile device available there as another channel so that speed, flexibility, or risk can be improved.

From industry expert Steve Phillips:

Mobile applications can be beneficial to any size manufacturing company. However, whether or not the expenditures can be justified depends on your unique situation and business requirements. This question is well suited for the classic return on investment analysis.

What are the productivity and cost saving benefits compared to the implementation and ongoing support costs associated with the solution of this approach versus others? Is there an overriding strategic driver that makes the use of mobile ERP the obvious choice? These are the types of questions to ask.

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