Bill Gates of Microsoft made a prediction yesterday that tablet PCs will replace iPads and Android devices as people look for better productivity. Now you’re probably thinking he would say that wouldn’t he as it’s in his interest to see current trends reversed. We keep hearing that tablets are replacing PCs but while sales of mobile devices are indeed soaring, sales of PCs and laptops are actually only down by 8% and my suspicion is that while many individuals are shunning laptops for tablets for personal use, there are few business users who would willingly exchange their laptop for a smaller mobile device. From what I’ve witnessed with colleagues, it’s more a case of having a spectrum of mobile devices from smartphone, through tablet to laptop and using each according to the location and the particular task at hand with the larger devices that have a full sized keypad being the automatic choice when there is a lot of work to be done and personal productivity is paramount.
Leaving aside laptops which have long been able to provide secure access to enterprise applications, to date, most of the mobile apps that have been launched for finance provide functionality around one or more of the 4 ‘A’s:
- Alerts – letting the mobile worker know something needs to be attended to.
- Analysis – initially providing limited read-only querying on smaller datasets, but rapidly growing to offer real-time BI.
- Amend – changing a few figures such as in a re-forecast
- Approval – allowing or disallowing things such as access to systems, reimbursements for travel, the payment of invoices or the raising of customer’s credit limits.
SAP has already launched a range of mobile apps spanning all aspects of finance that allow mobile workers to be considerably more productive, that accelerate core financial processes by alerting individuals when their involvement is needed at a particular point– and that give remote staff timely access to data that helps them make better decision – see image below. For instance, SAP Travel Expense Approval means managers can authorize staff reimbursements during previously unproductive time such as when waiting for a cab; the SAP Disclosure Management App lets executives and board members validate numbers, filings and narrative thus shortening the time between the close and publication – and SAP Real Spend gives mobile workers timely access to data on expenses so they have a longer window to take corrective action to bring their responsibility center back on course. The development teams that come brought these apps to market have done some great analysis making what I feel is an excellent and appropriate use of mobile at particular points in key financial processes to bring considerable benefits to users.
And from what was previewed at Financials2013 a few weeks ago, the SAP EPM Unwired App is also set to bring the power of the 4 ‘A’s of mobile to planning and budgeting. This will allow front line workers such as sales people to receive real time data on the progress they are making towards their period quota and responsibility center managers to review and amend reforecasts with a limited number of keystrokes. Take a look at the second part of this short video clip:
So after watching this, that shows that budgets can quickly and easily be re-forecast over an iPad, I’m not quite so sure Bill Gates is entirely right with his prediction. What do you think?