True or False: Does employee use of mobile devices personally increase end-user adoption of corporate buying solutions?

Posted on January 25, 2012


“Capitalizing on employee acceptance of mobile devices in their personal lives, removes the traditional obstacles to adoption of corporate buying solutions on the part of the end user.”

52% of all kids under the age of 8 use mobile devices

The above is an interesting statement with which to introduce this, the first post in our series on the advent of mobile supply chain solutions.

Before getting into the specifics of mobile applications for the supply chain world, and in particular technological highlights, vendor specific applications and implementation strategies, I thought we would along the lines of an article thesis consider what I would call a definitive impact statement.

In short, mobile solutions perhaps for the first time affords purchasing professionals an opportunity to actually get ahead of the implementation curve in that unlike the solutions of yesteryear, where we were always the “12th man on the deal team” we have an influential role before the strategy die is cast.

What do I mean by the above statement?  Simply put, the purchasing department was rarely if ever consulted or for that matter involved in any meaningful way with their organization’s review and ultimate selection of a traditional ERP-centric purchasing application.  This was due to the fact that generally speaking this part of the business was almost exclusively under the control of either the finance or IT departments.

Only after the application and implementation die was cast were those from the purchasing realms engaged, and then only to be given our marching orders as to what we were expected to achieve with a system that while purportedly in place to make our lives easier rarely reflected how we did business in the real world.  Hence the reason why, more than 85% of all e-procurement initiatives failed to achieve the expected savings results!

Of course, and taking into account the inherent shortfalls or disconnect in terms of the corporate collaboration hierarchy of years past, very few purchasing people actually had any meaningful experience or expertise in the technologies being purveyed by vendors in days gone by.

Fast forward today, and these roles have changed dramatically as it relates to the emergence of the mobile workforce.

Coupled with the dissolution of the traditional silos that confined the finance, IT and the purchasing departments to specific functional imperatives, the fact that on a personal level we are likely more familiar with the operational elements of mobile devices such as iPads, iPods and cell phones than with the traditional connectivity platforms of the past, gives us a decided edge in terms of influencing our company’s supply chain strategy.

Think about it for just moment . . . in the past, the barrier to application adoption on the front lines was as previously mentioned, due in large part to the fact that very few of these purported solutions mirrored the way in which purchasing personnel procured goods and or services in the real world.  This significant disconnect in operational reality reduced supply chain automation to one of enforced compliance as opposed to being a seamless integration with and extension of actual processes.

The fact that vendors (and in particular ERP vendors) have attempted to address this disconnect through the creation of functional bridges such as the Mendocino Project (later named DUET), which sought to leverage end-user familiarity with ubiquitous Microsoft applications such as Word and Excel in an effort to increase user adoption of back-end ERP functionality, speaks volumes.

Today, the advent of mobile devices driving solution development represents a significant paradigm shift as the question of end-user familiarity or comfort is no longer an issue.  This should therefore pave the way to a ready adoption of supply chain applications built around the technology . . . provided that the apps (as we will call them going forward) actually make our jobs as buyers easier.

Unlike years past when users were forced to adapt to the manner in which equation-based software programs worked, the agent-based mobile apps in the here and now must instead adapt to the way users work in the real world.

Or to put it another way, the tail has now become the dog . . . and a pretty big dog at that!