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Book Review: Global Mobile
The rise of mobile technology requires that procurement solution providers and practitioners be innovative about potential opportunities for improvement and problem solving. Through virtual team models and global supply chains, the applications and requirements of mobile technology are coming, whether procurement drives the implementation or not. In a July 2013 article on ThomasNet’s imt Procurement Journal, Pat Toensmeier referenced a study about the expected adoption rates for mobile technologies in procurement. “A study by AnyPresence Inc., a Reston, Va., company that specializes in mobile business processes, products, and services, finds that 31.5 percent of respondents have deployed or will deploy mobile apps for procurement, among other functions, in the next 12 months. An equal proportion will do the same with apps for supply chain partners and shipping and distribution.” As we approach the end of that 12-month period, no developments have surfaced that look likely to reverse the trend.
Mobile applications that compliment in place procurement solutions are growing in both availability and adoption. But the effort and expense to implement them – and the implicit cost for providers to design and support them – requires a solid understanding of mobile technology. Far from being a slam-dunk, the application of mobile technology in procurement should be considered carefully, and should not be attempted just because it is ‘the next big thing’.
Global Mobile, edited by Peter A. Bruck, Madanmohan Rao, is a collection of articles by mobile technology thought leaders and practitioners. Their various perspectives capture the idea that while mobile technology has experienced growth in general, there are personal and cultural hurdles that must be overcome for the medium to succeed in a corporate context such as procurement. Some of these hurdles are generational, such as the expectations of newer members of the workforce. “Gen Y has core assumptions about ‘normal’ as the ability to access and distribute information and reach social connections on demand around the clock” (p. 59). Although this natural affinity for mobile technology would seem a promising indicator for adoption rates among entry-level workers, their expectations are based on consumer rather than enterprise applications. Dissatisfaction about response speeds or intuitive design may actually decrease usage.
In a 2003 paper on The Efficacy of Mobile e-Procurement, researchers from the University of Illinois found that there was more evidence to support an improvement in communication than in efficiency from mobile technology in procurement. The authors also found that precise metrics were required to capture the “benefits and impacts of improved organizational flexibility and robustness due to the use of mobile applications (e.g., opportunity cost from not being notified about urgent requests).” While mobile applications may see increasing use as compliments to traditional system access channels, they are unlikely to replace them.
The modular nature of the book allows the reader to focus on the content with the greatest relevance to their current situation rather than needing to digest the entire book to benefit. Of particular interest are the chapters on The Psychology of Mobile Technologies (Pamela B. Rutledge), Mobile Workforce: The Rise of the Mobilocracy (iPass, Inc., Kate Blatt, and John Galagher), and Mobile Value-Added Services (Sanjay Uppal).