Adopting some of the new social network apps – Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader – has exposed me to the mobile solutions that those apps provide (for use on my cell phone). I am now quite used to spending some time viewing my RSS feeds on Google Reader mobile, updating Twitter on Twitter mobile, and checking things out on Facebook mobile – while I am waiting, usually in the car for a family member.
The way these mobile versions have been skillfully adapted, made user-friendly, and provide information in a concise manner, makes me wonder whether the next wave of ERP apps should focus rather on mobile solutions rather than Software as a Service (SaaS). The young generation, like my kids, are very familiar with using a cellphone as an Internet platform and for social networking (in SA they use Mxit), and it is getting common to see business people checking emails on their phones.
SaaS and Web 2.0 may be a sexy new wave for the IT people in the developed countries, but in developing countries the lack of good telcoms infrastructure makes it a luxury. However, many developing countries have good mobile communications, so applications that could be used on a cell phone might have a lot more traction.
So why have ERP vendors not started adapting their user interfaces for mobile use? There are obviously some ERP functions for which a small screen on a phone won’t work, but activities like approving a purchase order or leave/vacation application, or completing a timesheet, could be provided as a mobile application, and I am sure there are many others.
The technology is obviously available, as my mobile usage can attest, but it is the foresight, and creative insight and ability to re-design information layouts on a cellphone screen that seem to be lacking at the moment in enterprise vendors. An example of this creativity is the Opera Mini browser on my phone which allows me to view normal websites (I see they are adding more functionality as well).