Empowering professionals with mobile solutions is about more than providing these employees with a mobile device to access online tools. Solutions for the workplace — like accounts payable or invoice management — need to be scaled for particular devices, according to PayStream Advisors, whose analysts recently published a whitepaper on the role of responsive Web design (RWD) in enabling mobile eProcurement.
RWD means online platforms are built with the mobile device in mind. Based in the cloud, these portals can naturally be accessed through a desktop. But, come time to visit the site via smartphone or tablet, usability of its pages or features is not hampered, regardless of the screen through which the solution is accessed.
PayStream Advisors discussed the rise of RWD for procure-to-pay solutions and found that, while far from perfect, their capabilities can help procurement executives meet the challenging demands of a global, real-time market.
According to Mobile Ecosystems Managing Director Mark Lowenstein, eProcurement solutions providers are beginning to develop their tools with a “mobile-first” mentality, the report said.
That may not necessarily be a good thing, analysts noted.
“Many times, this focus comes at the expense of a software tool’s desktop version functionality,” the report stated.
According to Lowenstein, the heightened popularity of the mobile device is nothing to ignore, but it hasn’t led to a decline in the need for tablets and PCs within the workplace. With that in mind, the industry may need to shift its strategy to an RWD, multiscreen focus when creating solutions, especially when it comes to eProcurement, said PayStream.
“The responsive Web design, multiscreen experience is especially useful for today’s business environment,” analysts stated. “Many corporations have multiple entities and offices in different geographic locations, making it normal for employees to regularly travel between offices, customers and conferences.”
That fluidity of professionals calls for similar flexibility in the way they connect back with their managers, and that’s often accomplished through a smartphone while on the go and back to tablets and desktops upon returning to the office.
Any enterprise RWD application must have certain characteristics to be successful, analysts said.
The solution must support real-time access into whatever process it services — including up-to-date business data — in order for users to make accurate decisions. It must also provide full visibility into recent changes in that data and recent decisions that other users of the application have made.
These characteristics are both key in eProcurement, PayStream said. Procurement officials must have the most up-to-date information on the status of a purchase order or an invoice; at the same time, they must also have insight into whether other members of their team have made changes to these orders or documents.
For RWD solutions to be effective, analysts added, they must also live in the cloud and within secure systems. They should require minimal employee training and should be low-maintenance — that means an end to constant update requirements.
According to PayStream, any cloud-based enterprise app needs to have these features. But when it comes to the procure-to-pay space, RWD has to go a few steps further.
Top-tier eProcurement solutions built to support mobile access should offer a streamlined requisition creation and order submission process. This means real-time access to supplier websites and ordering portals and connectivity with managers to facilitate easy purchase order approvals.
Leading eProcurement solutions can also provide a consistent user experience across devices, allowing users to move easily through the procure-to-pay process, even if it begins on a desktop and ends on a mobile device.
These solutions need to provide heightened communication and collaboration between procurement professionals, analysts added, which ultimately provide cost savings to corporations. A stronger process for collaboration means more efficient and sophisticated vendor selection and management, price negotiation and the like — all critical to securing the best deal.
And finally, employees need to be satisfied with these solutions, PayStream said. Employees need simplicity and speed in their mobile experience, the firm wrote, and unless an employee is satisfied with a multiscreen eProcurement process, a company will not realize the largest possible ROI.
Following the release of the report, one cloud-based, procure-to-pay solution provider, Ariett, stood behind PayStream’s findings. In a statement, the firm’s president, Glenn Brodie, pointed to employees as one of the biggest factors that has fueled the need for not just mobile solutions in the workplace but multi-device solutions.
“The nature of how employees work has changed dramatically,” the executive said. “People expect to have the ability to move between their devices during the workday and have their applications work seamlessly.”