The intersection of business intelligence (BI) with mobile devices and fast wireless connections will likely revolutionize the supply chain management (SCM) landscape in a couple of key ways. It will bring back-end apps to smartphones and tablets, and improve the precision and flexibility of SCM for both mobile and non-mobile workers.
Neil Chandler, research director at Gartner, says that by 2014, "the metamorphosis of BI from IT-owned and report-centric will be virtually complete for a large number of organizations. These organizations will change what types of BI and analytics they use. They will change how they procure them and where they procure them from, and they will modify how information feeds decision-making."
What's more, Gartner expects that 33 percent of BI functionality will be consumed via mobile devices by 2013.
At first, mobile BI will largely consist of existing reports and dashboards ported to the mobile device, but by next year, Gartner predicts that organizations and vendors will develop mobile analytic applications for specific tasks or domains.
In a recent report, research firm Markets and Markets noted that the "lack of meaningful business applications and specialized mobile applications for specific industries has restricted the growth of mobile application development."
But the advent of 4G and superior content delivery technologies presents an opportunity for the mobile applications market, noted the report.
Supply chain to benefit from mobile BI
Supply chain management is a logical place to benefit from next-generation mobile applications and business intelligence.
As manufacturers are constantly worried about making processes run faster or stocking as little inventory as possible in their warehouses, mobile applications and business intelligence hold promise for making supply chain operations even leaner while also promising to resolve problems faster.
A lot of what causes delays in supply chains is exceptions, such as parts shortages or production problems. Customer-facing mobile devices can help address these unplanned events by getting people the information they need to quickly solve problems.
While many companies have built strong electronic data interchange (EDI) alliances, with some using cloud-based solutions, the market has not seen many smart applications filter down to intelligent mobile devices, said Matthew Slinn, CEO and founder of SCM and EDI vendor Perceptant.
"The computing power and internet access speed that's now in the palm of our hand means we can deliver pioneering supply chain software solutions — via mobile computing — that are both cost-effective and feature-rich," he said.
Perceptant offers a suite of electronic invoicing and supply chain applications for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Mobile 7 devices.
Designed to drive new efficiencies and increased collaboration between field operatives, supply chain professionals and customers, the solutions include mobile electronic invoicing, transport ordering, delivery tracking, proof of delivery (POD) issuing, inventory reporting, stock-out validation and point of sale (POS) visibility via Android, Windows Mobile 7 and Apple iPhone and iPad devices.
"Mobile supply chain and e-invoicing solutions can have a dramatic and positive effect by improving working practices and business processes," says Mark Taplow, Perceptant's director of supply chain consulting. "They also generate a substantial ROI by improving profit margins and sustainability across the industry."