ERP Access From Any Device - Issues & Challenges (Part 1/4)
Is enterprise resource planning (ERP), software all about making business processes more efficient and seamless? Is the same also true of enterprise mobility?
Welcome to Part 1 in a 4-part series on providing ubiquitous, browser-based access to ERP systems, from any device, anywhere. Subsequent parts will address ways to optimize access to ERPs, a description of a market-leading browser-based ERP access solution, and the details involving a success study from Higher Education.
With an increasing number of staff travelling or working off-premises, providing remote access to ERP systems is becoming increasingly important to maintain or increase productivity and worker efficiency. For example, healthcare professionals may need to access an ERP system for data collection from a patient’s bedside, while field service reps may need to receive updated work orders and enter their billable hours while on the go.
Compounding these challenges, the growing trends of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and Consumerization of IT are changing how and where people work. These initiatives require organizations to rethink how they deliver and manage IT resources, including their ERP infrastructure. As advances in connectivity technology eliminate physical boundaries and mobile devices become more powerful, mobility is creating new opportunities as well as new challenges for today’s enterprises. Empowering users with remote access to ERP via tablets and smartphones can help organizations get more out of their IT investment in enterprise systems.
In light of these trends, organizations need to find ways to extend the reach of ERP systems to users "anywhere, anytime, and across any device", by allowing them to access business-critical applications through industry standard Web browsers without compromising security and IT control. One of the enablers to realizing the benefits and opportunities of mobile, remote access while meeting the challenges head on is by utilizing HTML5 technology.
Remote Access & BYOD Challenges
When choosing ERP delivery solutions that accommodate BYOD and other access paradigms, organizations need to strike a balance between meeting the needs of end-users and avoiding overtaxing their IT department and budget. The multitude of requirements can often be in conflict with each other. For instance, providing employees with remote access over the Internet can offer flexibility and productivity gains, but may also introduce security concerns that do not apply to users operating exclusively within the organization’s firewall.
Enabling employees to work with a wide variety of endpoint devices, both in and outside of the workplace, presents a number of challenges for IT departments:
- Security – Personal devices that are connected to networks create vulnerabilities and are more difficult to secure than devices that operate exclusively within the firewall. Moreover, IT staff must be able to ensure the security and integrity of business-critical data, even if the endpoint device is lost or stolen.
- Compliance – For organizations that must meet federal or other regulations or standards, such as HIPAA for healthcare organizations, compliance can be a challenge in the face of a variety of device types operating inside and outside of the firewall.
- Management – Managing a variety of personal devices and native clients, instead of a standard-issue device that comes preloaded with the necessary software can quickly turn into an IT and Helpdesk nightmare. Such devices must be provisioned with the relevant software, while IT must support and administer organization-wide software updates across all endpoint devices.
- No Native Clients Allowed! – To reduce costs, some organizations have embraced budget-friendly, stripped-down versions of laptops such as Google Chromebooks and thin or zero-client laptops. The challenge of these devices is that connecting to resources such as remote or virtual desktops or applications requires native clients, which Chromebooks, for example, cannot support.
- BYOD Overhead – Time is money. The time IT personnel spend provisioning, supporting, updating, ensuring compliance, managing and securing numerous and diverse personal devices represents a significant cost to an organization.
Check out Part 2 of this Series where I discuss different ways to optimize access to ERP systems, including the increasingly popular approach of hosting them in the Cloud.