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Mobile financial apps becoming more common

More users are demanding anywhere, anytime access to financial applications. Software providers are responding with mobile financial apps to meet users' needs.

As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile and global, more employees at all levels are taking advantage of mobile financial apps.

With innovations like the cloud and in-memory technology, modern financial applications are being designed for today's mobile generation, delivering an intuitive experience similar to their favorite consumer websites, Betsy Bland, vice president, financial management products, Workday Inc., in Pleasanton, Calif., said.

As part of this trend, she said, employees and managers are using mobile devices to perform finance-related functions, such as submitting and approving expense reports, timesheets and purchase requisitions, that historically were reserved for desktops.

"Empowering end users on mobile devices helps improve the timeliness and accuracy of these transactions, and also frees finance up to focus on other critical activities," Bland said.

Executives and operational leaders also are using mobile devices to access real-time financial and operational data during meetings and while traveling, giving them insights that can help them in the moment. For example, business leaders can access financial dashboards quickly via mobile phones or tablets for current views of their businesses (e.g., profit and loss reports, audit dashboards, or projects dashboards) and take action as required, Bland said. "This is incredibly valuable as the pressure to understand and respond quickly to business change continues to rise in today's fast-paced environment."

Vendors respond to need for mobile financial apps

"What you will see happening is many vendors are redoing their user experience to be compatible with mobile devices via HTML5 and responsive design so that the entire application can be accessed on a mobile device -- more likely a tablet than a smartphone," Paul Hamerman, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said.   

That's exactly what Microsoft plans to do with its upcoming version of Microsoft Dynamics AX, which offers expenses, approvals and timesheets as apps. With Dynamics AX, Microsoft wants to give people access to essential business information on the go, Umran Hasan, senior marketing manager, Microsoft Dynamics, said.

"With the new release of Microsoft Dynamics AX, expected in Q1 of 2016, we will introduce a new HTML5-based client that is completely touch-enabled, giving people even deeper access to their business information and [the] ability to get analytics and insights on nearly any device, anywhere," he said.

Kevin Roberts, director of platform technology at FinancialForce.com in San Francisco, looked at this subject a little differently. FinancialForce ERP is built on the Salesforce1 platform.

And the demand really is 'Make it easy for me to go to Starbucks, open up my iPad and get a quick look into my numbers and into the deep, dark secrets of my company.'
Daniel Williamsowner, Relational Technology

"Rather than thinking in terms of what apps are moving to mobile, what we're seeing is how traditional finance apps are using mobile to make finance departments more effective," he said.

Mobile financial apps provide up-to-the-minute information

One of the things finance can do is provide a full picture of the customer, and with mobile financial apps, companies can provide that information to their sales people who are out in the field meeting with customers, according to Roberts.

"They need up-to-the-minute information about what the customer ordered, has it been received, have they paid their bills, is there a problem," he said. "And financial applications are able to provide that information to people who need it on the go. That helps businesses serve their customers better."

Additionally, users expect to have their financial metrics with them, in their pockets, whenever they need the information, Roberts said. So other great functionality in mobile financial apps would be dashboards, key reports and key performance indicators, previously only available via desktops or laptops.

"People now expect to have the information to do their jobs on whatever devices they're using," Roberts said. To that end, FinancialForce's mobile apps enable users to access all their back office data when they're visiting their customers, giving presentations in conference rooms or hooked up to in-flight Wi-Fi at 30,000 feet.

Users drive demand for mobile financial apps

Despite these trends in mobile financial apps, Daniel Williams, owner of Relational Technology LLC, an ERP consultancy in Westlake Village, Calif., said, "When you look at the question, 'What's new and exciting in the financial ERP world for mobility?' the answer is 'not much.' But that's not a bad thing because financials are the scorekeepers of every enterprise. So, being the scorekeeper, what you want to be able to deliver to the customers ... [are] the mobile apps to access business data."

"Maybe they're going into a meeting and they need to know, for example, the bookings for their sales orders, or their total sales backlog," Williams said. And that means they have to able to configure any of their mobile devices on the fly to reflect that specific data that they're looking to query, whether it's daily, weekly or monthly data.

"Also, if you're the CFO, you have to know 'What are my payables, how much and when?' and then offsetting that, 'What are my receivables, how much and when?'" Williams said. "And you have to be able to access the data with a few clicks, real quickly and [say] 'Give me a cash flow over the next 60, 90, 120 days and beyond.' That's the mobility part."

The demand for mobile financial apps is being driven mainly by customers, and the software providers are satisfying that demand. "And the demand really is 'Make it easy for me to go to Starbucks, open up my iPad and get a quick look into my numbers and into the deep, dark secrets of my company,'" Williams said.

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