Photo by Blake Patterson, CC license.

See those app icons on your iPhone? Don’t you think it makes sense to put corporate apps on an iPhone too? Yes, as long as the interface is easy and you don’t have to type a lot on your tiny glass screen. Enterprise apps are going there, and that means the desktop/laptop is moving into the palm of your hand.

This is a good thing, and it’s not just about convenience. There are sales to be made. Employees in customer- and partner-facing roles want the superior capabilities of Apple or Android products to enhance their selling stories or engage on a different and more dynamic level with customers, partners, banks, and the general public. Seeing is believing, and only mobile computing brings that to the field in an effective way.

To capitalize on mobile, you need software on the device and a way for the device to reach your enterprise systems. The apps that check you in for your flight are programs made to run on an iOS or Android device, which then connect over the digital network to an interface mechanism that is the connection to the airline’s main reservation system.  It is not difficult for your enterprise to do the same; there are many firms that can build apps and also provide the integration to your ERP systems.

But most of the mobile-platform software needed will be custom.  Enterprise software vendors are starting to offer mobile versions for small parts of their entire system solution. SAP says its Retail Execution mobile app works with its enterprise customer relationship management software to provide “anywhere, anytime access to data from mobile devices….”

Oracle offers Business Approval for Managers, a Smartphone app to approve expenses, purchase orders and other pending transactions.

Mobile also offers the promise of a totally new interaction with your ERP system. Out of the box, basic transactions – like determining quantities of raw materials required and placing a purchase order for those quantities – is a multiple-screen, multiple data entry affair for the leading ERP systems.

As your business grows or becomes more complex, you need good ERP system jockeys, and more of them. But a mobile app is the perfect consolidator of unnecessary steps. A PO creation in your ERP system that is three screens and eight fields of data entry could be simplified to four taps on two screens.

I believe that many enterprises have or will eventually realize that a large part of their work force is devoted to feeding systems like Oracle and ERP the data those systems need to create transactions, reports, and messages needed to keep the business running.  And many times that data has to be created in Excel or other systems, in order to give the classic ERP system the pristine data it needs. This is a gross misuse of talent, and can only go on so long.

I have seen smart young SAP users figure out how to automate the in-feeds needed for everyday transactions.  They are resourcing what they know to make their life simpler, and much of what they do is exactly what mobile apps do — consolidate steps in a transaction.

The mobile app is the model — simplicity and intuition — that big ERP vendors need to invest in.