The arc of innovation for enterprise productivity software has moved from mainframe-based ERP products to distributed server-based products to SaaS/cloud-based solutions with little evolution in the way the software was accessed and utilized. Whether desktop or laptop PC, the basic use model never really changed. Even more egregious, the ERP solution and its myriad antecedents only minimally addressed the opportunity to actually alter the very processes they were automating. The “big boys” really took the structure of the firm, which had been in place for much of the 20th century, and coded it up so that it all connected to one database. At $100 million, $200 million and sometimes more, enterprises jumped on the bandwagon because, well, that’s what bandwagons are for.
The mobile epoch we are entering provides yet another opportunity to impact the world of the enterprise beyond the accepted notion of “untethering” workers from the PC that makes anytime/anywhere the new model of commerce. While consumer-focused mobile apps have dominated the headlines and headspace of the world during the recent past, mobile enterprise apps that begin to supplant the traditional ERP footprint are one of the great emerging markets and opportunities of the next five years. Not only will these mobile enterprise productivity (MEP) apps deliver material improvements in operational process efficiencies, they will leverage the anytime/anywhere capability to fundamentally alter the way enterprises conduct much of their business.
Our work with customers here at EZ FORMS has provided incredibly valuable insight into the many ways that mobile enterprise productivity apps will drive innovative new methods for executing traditional business processes. Some of the key processes and functions we see as ripe for reinvention, or even disintermediation, include the following.
Field service has always been about mobility - on site, with the customer, handling the challenges of delivering great service and products. There was just no way to effectively access and share information in real time. There is tremendous value in having a field service workforce that is constantly accessible and productive. Access customer, diagnostic, and product information via mobile device creates extraordinary efficiencies and establishes a platform for real process innovation
Examples we have seen with our EZ FORMS Checklist and Audit Compliance app include field workers that can fill out forms more quickly and accurately, work orders that are pre-populated and sent as a dispatch to technicians in the field, sales people that submit their expenses while still on the road, and contractors that are able provide potential customers with real-time estimates as they finish a walkthrough of the client’s commercial or residential building. Mobile enterprise productivity apps possess enormous potential to make operational processes both faster and easier.
Business Model Reinvention
Beyond the productivity improvements that mobile enterprise apps deliver lies the opportunity to actually materially alter traditional business processes and reinvent the way the company does business. Information access is both amplified and refined with mobile enterprise apps leading to breakthrough ways in which administrative and operational activities are executed. On the horizon are myriad new value chains being created to replace the ones we have operated with for so long.
Take, for example, data entry. For much of history, field information has been recorded manually and then input to the data base upon return to the office. Errors of transcription and omission occur with regularity. With mobile apps in the field, information is submitted once, at the source, and instantly sent to field, regional, and corporate offices to be integrated with information from all over the country or globe. Many companies are already saving thousands of hours per year using mobile enterprise apps.
We are, effectively, talking about a revolution here. There are over 1 million apps in the Apple App Store but only a small fraction of them have been built to improve the enterprise. The first iPhone was released in 2007, lighting the fire that has become the mobile platform inferno. The next huge opportunity is to help mobile take over and reimagine the enterprise.