Reaping the Benefits of Enterprise Mobility

Spend Matters welcomes a guest post from Shannon Lowe, Marketing Communications Manager, and Ganesh Sundaresan, Senior Product Manager at Verian.

What if submitting expense reports was as easy as taking pictures of your receipts and uploading them to a cloud-based T&E system via web browser, submitting them to your manager while waiting to catch your flight home?

Sound far-fetched? Not really. Emerging enterprise mobility is impacting the procure-to-pay landscape in a number of helpful and productive ways, including reducing the cycle time for employee expense reporting. As we all know, mobile technology amps up out-of-office productivity by providing remote access to content and applications in ways never before possible.

Mobility also reduces approval workflow bottlenecks for procurement managers who are always on the move. Instead of paper approvals getting lost in the shuffle or languishing on desks, web-based purchasing systems can route approvals via email, integrating with smart phones for notifications and alerts, allowing executives to approve or reject requisitions on-the-go.

Mobile devices are also helping companies improve data accuracy by streamlining movement and reducing human errors. Bar code apps are enabling mobile receiving and inventory, and mobile field ticketing processes are giving organizations more control, flexibility, and power over their field data. But adopting mobile technology does present a few challenges. In their report Mobility disruption: A CIO perspective, McKinsey & Company suggests that the main challenges presented by enterprise mobility are security, cost, and governance:

Security
The report points out that many companies are addressing security by "limiting which applications can be locally installed on mobile devices," and goes on to say that, "At some companies, for example, ERP system data can be accessed but not locally saved, which ensures that data does not leave the premises." This type of web-based approach (where the user experience is similar to a mobile application without actually downloading an app) can be a successful strategy to help deal with security issues.

Cost
On the topic of cost, McKinsey's report suggests, "Developing new mobile applications generally provides the best user experience but is expensive. An alternative for web-enabled applications is access through a mobile browser, potentially with an interface optimized for mobile."

Here again, deploying an "anywhere access" system through mobile devices rather than investing in a custom mobile app can defer significant cost.

Governance
McKinsey & Company states, "Mobility poses unique management challenges. It doesn't fit within any traditional IT silo, as it affects application development, business processes, infrastructure, and operational processes."

In reference to procure-to-pay policies in particular, mobile technology can be especially volatile. If not managed closely, enhanced mobility can result in unmanaged maverick spending. This is an area of unmanaged spend that wasn't even possible a few years ago, but the imminent nature of business mobility certainly makes it an issue now.

Mobile management strategy differs across organizations. McKinsey points to an example where a leading company established a "core team" of four members representing business operations, IT applications, infrastructure, and policy. The team was responsible for advancing mobility within the IT organization, and reported to the enterprise CIO each month.

The point with governance is to be proactive and flexible to get ahead of emerging management challenges so you can adapt to an ever-changing mobile landscape.

Enterprise mobility is here and it is advancing. It is affecting every area of business, including procure-to-pay processes. It can improve communication, productivity, performance, and efficiency. Companies that align their resources to address and overcome any security, cost and organizational challenges that arise will be better prepared to fully reap the benefits mobility has to offer.

- Shannon Lowe, Marketing Communications Manager, and Ganesh Sundaresan, Senior Product Manager, at Verian

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