Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A truly mobile ERP suite - will we see that in 2011?

We had discussed previously about the imminent penetration of mobile devices in enterprise applications (refer here and here). The increased popularity of mobile devices, the level of engagement of the user with the mobile device, changing demographics of the workforce and the sheer usability and quality of mobile applications are strong drivers for enterprise applications moving to social and mobile devices. But it made me sit back and take note of the true potential of this trend as I read through the various tech predictions for 2011 and the next decade. I have to state here that invariably every single article on tech trends that I've read over the last week has talked about IT consumerization (Gartner identified this trend as early as 2005) and it's impact on enterprise applications. Sample some of the links below for details:

1. Predictions from Gartner
2. Predictions from techrepublic
3. 2011 trends in Enterprise Irregulars
4. Thoughts by Vinnie Mirchandani
5. Predictions in CIO.com

Exciting times indeed! So what does this mean for PeopleSoft customers? Interestingly PeopleSoft had launched a Mobile Agent way back in 2001 which allowed users to use the PeopleSoft application on mobile devices. PeopleSoft also offered Time and Labor on mobile agent with simple mobile specific screens to report and approve time. Unfortunately the support for mobile agent has been discontinued lately. We have not seen any announcement from Oracle on providing a mobile app for PeopleSoft HCM, but it is interesting that an iPhone app was released by Oracle for iReceipts! Most of the focus I have seen over the last few releases as well as the future direction has been on talent management and usability improvements like what we have seen with 8.50 tools - but we have not seen any guidance on a focus on mobile/social application from the PeopleSoft development team. (The Fusion HCM applications offer a module called Network At Work which I reckon is about collaboration within the enterprise and does not extend to mobile devices and the popular social networking sites). This is not enticing news for PeopleSoft customers and consultants. Is there any alternative that we can look up to as PeopleSoft customers? I reckon the answer lies in Developer Generated Content. I had briefly touched upon this topic in this post where I had talked about the viability of an app store for PeopleSoft. The core idea is for developers and more importantly for IT consulting and service providers/companies to come up with innovative mobile and smart phone applications for PeopleSoft and make it available for customers as downloadable apps. For example, here is a post from Succeed Consultancy who have created an absence management app for iPhone and other smart phone platforms - I am envisaging a new business model where developers and service providers would generate PeopleSoft related content which will be delivered over the web. Customers would further be able to 'shop' for these products online and purchase the products they are interested in. This signals a sea change in traditional enterprise software delivery models and opens up a completely new revenue stream for consulting/IT service companies. I foresee the following benefits for this business model:

1. Better and innovative products/extensions available for customers which will incrementally increase the value of their PeopleSoft investments.
2. Harnessing the creativity and innovation of developers which will lead to a large number of products coming to the market which will in turn be beneficial for all stake holders.
3. New delivery model for enterprise applications which is best suited for a market where enterprise IT is consumerized.
4. New revenue stream for consulting/IT service companies.
5. Subscription/Usage based pricing model that will be attractive for customers.
6. Democratization of enterprise products that will bring out innovation and better products for customers. With such a concept, any developer with good skills and ideas will be able to generate content and upload their product(s) to the app store.
7. Ready made products available for customers which will cut down development time and costs to minimum.
8. Leveraging web2.0 features like rating applications, 'liking' applications, tracking the most downloaded apps etc., the best applications will easily come out on top and the inefficient ones will be weeded out by the community. Moreover, customers could post a wish-list of applications (similar to the concept in Oracle Mix), which can further lead to tailoring apps required by customers.

The first questions that will be raised will be about control over the quality of the applications, impact on upgrades, compatibility with tools and application versions etc. But, these are all concerns which can be effectively addressed. If Wikipedia could do a Britannica Encyclopedia by harnessing the power of the community, why not PeopleSoft? Why can we not deliver better value for our customers and tap into the creativity of the developer community by leveraging on developer generated content? I hope that this post will act as a catalyst for this change.

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