Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 28 seconds

Supply Chain Data on the Move – An App for That Could Be Coming to a Smart Phone Near You Soon

mobile-appsSeems like today, given the fact just about everyone has a mobile phone (including the four-year-old my daughter played with today; granted it was a hand-me down from the parents, but it still worked!), that supply chain executives would want to access pertinent data away from their desks, while out and about and on the move.


Well, in a recent study conducted by the ARC Advisory Group, the majority of respondents said they use their smart phones – BlackBerrys, iPhones, and the like – in their daily activities. What’s even more interesting, at least to me, is the kind of activities these execs are doing with their smart phones. The study found that 22 percent are scanning barcodes and the same amount are taking and transmitting photos of delivered goods. So, clearly, there’s more going on than emailing, texting and of course, talking. In fact, survey respondents are also using smart phones for a number of more traditional logistics-related tasks. These include transmitting proofs of delivery (13 percent), signature capture (11 percent), accessing performance dashboards and reports (10 percent), tracking/tracing orders and shipments (8 percent), accessing and executing transactions in TMS/WMS (6 percent), tendering shipments to carriers (4 percent), and rate shopping for transportation services (2 percent).

The idea is that the smart phones can improve customer service, enhance visibility into the status of orders and shipments, and increase productivity for workers such as drivers and warehouse employees.

But it’ll take more to turn these smart phones into indispensible tools on the supply chain floor. First off, supply chain management vendors and makers of business intelligence and analytics tools will need to amp up their portfolios to include rich, insightful, easy-to-use applications designed specifically for the smart phones. The data will need to be pulled from back end systems, transmitted securely, and presented in quick and readable formats that enable faster, streamlined decision-making.

Gartner expects this to happen, as do I. In fact, Neil Chandler, research director at Gartner, says that BI will be different in 2014 — and the transformation is already underway. Chandler says that the way we use information to make decisions is changing as BI and analytics become less an IT report-based capability and more of an information decision tool for end users. One aspect of that will be adding mobility to BI and analytics so the information can reach many more users and be leveraged by more specialized applications.

Gartner expects that in 2014, about a third of BI functionality will be consumed by users with mobile devices. They also predict that mobile applications will evolve from being ports of existing applications to true mobile applications that allow users to perform specific analyses and accomplish specialized tasks. Moreover, Gartner recommends that BI functions be combined with the marketing and supply chain functions to develop mobile applications that will help end users as they work with customers and suppliers.

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