Whenever I think of mobile business applications needing to be connected to ERP systems, my mind goes back to the TV ad from about ten years ago where someone was standing on top of a fence trying to get better cell reception. That was a fair statement for the time. Cellular coverage 10 years ago was spotty at best once you moved away from the major population centers or transit corridors. Coverage in the heart of the city could be flaky if you went into a metal building, inside an elevator, or underground. It was non-existent if you went into the countryside. Those situations led to the requirement for mobile applications needing to be able to run in an offline or disconnected mode, and whether the systems would sync when they were within cellular range.
How things change!
Cellular technology has greatly improved to the point where elevators aren’t a challenge anymore. Work rigs, including service trucks, often have cellular hot-spots and GPS capability. Is there a hotel anywhere that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi? Out in the middle of nowhere with the need to communicate real-time data, there are always satellite phones. Bottom line, there are many opportunities for a team leader to access the internet to retrieve service tickets at any time as they move between job sites. You might wonder why this is such an important question, but online versus offline mode is not the same as choosing from among a Dodge, Chev, or Ford pickup. The cost, complexity, and support requirements for offline solutions are magnitudes higher than for an online system. Online systems, while having the disadvantage of needing to be connected to work, either work or they don’t. The user knows immediately.
Traditionally, online systems have suffered because they were essentially internet browser screens, which were not optimized for either data entry or enforcing business processes. The older cellular systems often meant performance was not satisfactory. They often did not have access to technology such as mobile printers or signature capture. Offline systems, on the other hand, required localized databases on the mobile device that needed to be synchronized with a central database.
Simplified interfaces for any device
Not only has the technology improved for the cellular devices themselves but the mobile clients have moved to scalable mobile interfaces, such as the one for Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, that scale to fit the device. If that interface is too much like an accounting system, Microsoft Power Apps provides an excellent solution. A simplified interface, access to mobile printing, the ability to capture pictures and signatures, and applications that can be designed without a programmer offer unlimited flexibility to organizations whether they are trying to capture information for service tickets, document a safety check, or capture key operational information. Model-driven apps provide a minimal code requirement and can be generated by power users. More capable canvas-driven apps offer up the ultimate flexibility with more control over the environment and business processes.
Presently, 90% of ERP customers can effectively utilize online business apps to link up to their ERP systems, which greatly reduces cost, effort, and complexity. Both the mobile client from Dynamics 365 Business Central and the two choices for Power Apps offer effective choices.
Did you miss our blog about how Dynamics NAV recently evolved into Dynamics Business Central? Find out how Business Central is building onto the NAV legacy.