Friday Rant: For Procurement and Supply Chain Apps, Will Mobile Matter?

Earlier this week, I tackled the subject of D&B's latest mobile-dedicated browser interface (not a true "app") that delivers a variety of supply risk alerts, details and search capabilities to a variety of smartphone platforms (See posts here and here). I personally think the portable tool is a useful first effort that a small -- but growing -- sub-set of the total D&B user base will find absolutely invaluable. Yet I'm not convinced mobile-centric applications and capabilities will take off in the broader procurement and supply chain sector as quickly as some believe. Still, over the years on Spend Matters, I've been as taken by anyone at the ability to log on to vendor solutions and marketplaces like Emptoris and MFG.com on my iPhone. But perhaps I'm just a geek at heart.

Still, vendors continue to innovate in the area. SAP, for example, came out earlier this year with a mobile-friendly interface for its Sourcing (formerly e-sourcing) applications. And Coupa, Ariba and others are tossing their own solutions into the mobile ring as well. But will all the dollars invested in mobile-friendly procurement and supply chain applications really change the way the majority of users interact with data and tools, or will they simply enable early adopters and geeks such as myself to tinker and experiment?

I'm not convinced that for most source-to-pay strategy, process and transaction automation steps that mobile matters today -- or will matter for most users on both the buying and supply side of the spend equation. In off-the-record conversations I've had with numerous vendors offering mobile capabilities in the enterprise applications area, current penetration is often 10% or less, despite the fact the majority of corporate users in procurement and supply chain roles have smartphones. And most users try the application or streamlined browser capability once or twice before going back to their old ways.

I hope I'm wrong about this. I have personally seen the power of mobile to transform the speed and currency with which we access information. I also think that certain areas, especially alerting related to suppliers, transactions, price index changes, demand, etc., are made for mobile. Next week, I plan to tackle some advanced use cases for mobile applications when it comes to supply risk and supplier management. But in the meantime, I'm curious to collect some opinions about whether mobile will matter -- or not.

Jason Busch

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