Mobile ERP misses the mark: Gartner

Mobile ERP misses the mark: Gartner

Summary: Accessing ERP systems through tablets is complicated, but Windows 8 may be able to change that, according to Gartner.


Companies, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system vendors and tablet manufacturers have failed to understand how to effectively bring ERP onto mobile devices , according to Gartner enterprise software research director, Nigel Montgomery.

Spurred by the popularity of tablets such as the Apple iPad, mobility has become a noted trend in the business space. But that has brought a swathe of new headaches for businesses, one of which is the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy.

ERP, which involves collating the information of a company from a number of sources to assist decision making and transparency, is an area saturated with overly complex systems piled on top of each other, according to Montgomery.

Because companies and ERP vendors want to simplify access to these systems on mobile devices such as tablets, the end result does not resemble ERP access on desktops. This can cause confusion for users.

"A company I spoke with last week bought 14,000 iPads for its management team, and 40 per cent of them had sent the devices back because they don't have a clue what to do with them," Montgomery told ZDNet Australia."The company never considered what the value was and what was going to be delivered [through the iPads].

"Understanding the impact of consumerisation on mobility should be considered by CIOs."

He also blames tablet vendors for failing to create devices that can adequately support a seamless experience from desktop to mobile device, which is what's lacking in the ERP space now.

"People are not looking at the iPad as a replacement for their ERP user interface — they want it as an additional user interface, and still have the core system on their desktop," Montgomery said.

With Microsoft coming out with the Surface tablets running Windows 8, it will give users the same experience from desktop to tablet, Montgomery said. He sees Windows 8 as a disruptive force in the ERP space, and will not only propel Microsoft into a top position in that area, but also fast track tablet adoption for businesses.

"I think it will also force the likes of Asus and a lot of the tablet vendors to step up in being able to deliver something that is business capable in the first place, because that's not what they've been doing," Montgomery said. "The convergence of Windows 8 capabilities, its ability to sit on the tablet and other vendors' ability to deliver the goods for the platform, I think, will change the game."

ERP vendors will need to raise their game as well. According to Montgomery, big ERP players have become too big through acquisition, taking in more capabilities than they can manage, and creating complexities in ERP systems.

Vendors need to stop piling new features on, and instead look at how they can simplify systems so they can jump from desktops to tablets more easily.

Topics: Tablets, Enterprise Software, Mobility

Spandas Lui

About Spandas Lui

Spandas forayed into tech journalism in 2009 as a fresh university graduate spurring her passion for all things tech. Based in Australia, Spandas covers enterprise and business IT.

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  • ipads /android tabs are just toys....

    "A company I spoke with last week bought 14,000 iPads for its management team, and 40 per cent of them had sent the devices back because they don't have a clue what to do with them," Montgomery told ZDNet Australia."

    - iPads/android tabs will be flung out of enterprise windows once Win 8 tablets arrive. Anybody spending more than $200 for an iPad/android tablets are wasting their money
    • This is a gem

      How many cents you get paid for comments like these?
      Van Der
    • Only 40% were handed back??

      From the other 60%
      - 50% were given to their children to watch cartoons and play games
      - 5% were given to their partners to use as eReaders
      - 5% are used to browse the web at cafes because they look "cool" using an iPad
  • Surface

    According to Gartner, once Surface comes out, poverty, disease and terrorism will all be eradicated from this world.
    Van Der
  • Still people paying attention to Gartner?

    Wow, this is incredible how it can be that a serious company can bring 14,000 iPads to the users without an appropriate strategic plan. they should have a lot of money to do such thing.
    In the other hand already and since years the ERP systems and solutions have mobile devices which are appropriated to the hard work environment of an ERP. All they are very good devices adapted for such of work for scanning and being on the hands of a forklift driver...
    It is clear to me that these people have never been in a warehouse where thousands of deliveries are made daily, it is clear that they don't have idea about it.

    Again a tablet is not a PC...
  • It's not the tablets, it's the access

    Gartner has a particular perspective. It's guided by the arenas in which its big company clients and qualified IT vendors (those who meet Gartner's criteria for size, revenue, etc.) currently operate. That excludes, to every end user's detriment, emerging technologies that offer viable but often disruptive alternatives.

    Though mobile access to the enterprise is, by now, a "must do" item on companies' agendas -- no longer a "nice to have" option -- the cost and time required to develop custom mobile apps for ERP systems remains extremely high. As a result, employees have tablets that, without appropriate apps, are basically useless as enterprise portals.

    What Gartner is not examining (and what its clients are not learning about) is the new generation of enterprise-to-mobile tools that connects directly to existing enterprise applications and data. It avoids the creation of discrete mobile apps, enables non-IT staff to configure the connections, and delivers bi-directional interactivity in minutes to hours, rather than weeks to months.

    Companies like Catavolt and Webalo provide this kind of direct connectivity. Catavolt, however, deploys to fewer platforms, while Webalo uses a single configuration to provide mobile access on Android, Apple, BlackBerry, and Windows tablets (and smartphones).

    Rather than replicating ERP functionality in a mobile app, these companies connect directly to existing functions and data. That turns a tablet into a true alternative to a laptop or desktop, providing virtually the same experience but on a mobile device. With Webalo, for instance, a configuration can provide individualized interactivity, delivering only the tasks and workflows that are relevant for that employee -- information about specific products or regions or operations -- and control access using established permission-based security protocols.

    If an inventory manager needs to check the supply chain to determine arrival dates that can be shared with the scheduling department, it's easy to create a menu-driven, tablet-based, mobile workflow that goes straight to the ERP application's related functions (without having to navigate through anything else) and, as part of the workflow, forward the relevant information to a colleague. A similar system (in a healthcare environment) that involved alerts, multiple lookups in three different databases, posting of new information to one of those DBs, and a second alert was configured in 90 minutes. (The time spent on determining the requirements was a single two-hour meeting.)

    Using the existing UIs of the devices' OS, these bi-directional, interactive mobile workflows look like a normal mobile app. But because they're configured for an individual or group, the users get to the tasks and information they need much faster and can work more productively.

    That kind of speed and simplicity (as well as savings in both labor and time) can put any aspect of an ERP system on a tablet, and that makes the tablet an extremely valuable tool.
  • yes iPads are limited

    there is nothing like a laptop (ultrabook) companies have to realize tablets are more like a reader/ viewer of data. is a buy-back company and is seeing more and more companies are cashing in tablets