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How to Plan a MERP Network


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This white paper is a follow up to our Handheld Application Guidebook and shows how to plan a MERP Network with includes Consulting, System Integration and Training everything that is needs to build a Mobile Network.

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How to Plan a MERP Network

  1. 1. How to plan a MERP [ Mobile Enterprise Resource Planning ] Network It’s been eight years since I first came up with a way for companies to plan how mobile technology could help them improve the way they do business and how mobile technology could make them more productive. Back then I’d thought that it was a no-brainer that companies would plan out their mobile system just like they would any other system that is crucial to how their businesses work. For example, there are countless books on LAN/WAN, Database, CRM and back office planning. No CIO worth his salt would simply buy a network without coming together with his team and management. Yet after seven years of talking with companies about the importance of mobility planning, I still find that mostcompanies still look at mobility planning as an afterthought if at all.Even though they see that the problem keeps getting bigger and bigger, unregistered growth ofmobile devices are still being used by management and staff who send, receive and storesensitive company data with no control or security set up by IT or management.I’d ask myself ‘Why is this?’ Why do companies wait until a mobile device gets lost or stolen withvaluable company data that they get somewhat serious about mobility planning? I’d thoughtmaybe they just don’t know what mobility planning is or that mobility planning means a change intheir corporate culture that they are not ready for. Either way, mobility is here and it’s not goingaway. Planning for its growth is the duty of any company if it wants to take advantage of howmobility can add productive to its staff by the proper use of mobile devices, training, applications,and networks.What is MERP [Mobile Enterprise Resource Planning]?MERP Consulting: MERP consists of three main parts: Consulting, System Integration, and Training. All three are vital to creating a successful mobile system that will grow as you add more devices, users, and applications to support those uses. Let’s look at the first part, which is consulting. Now most CEOs, CIOs, and CFOs will balk at paying a consultant’s fee to tell them whether they should use a Blackberry over an iPhone, or an Android. You know what? I wouldn’t pay a consultant either if that’s all he can come up with. A true mobile consultant would not care what type of mobile device you use. His job is to find how mobility solutions will benefit your company by becoming mobile. He would show you the pros and cons of mobility and the impact on your company. He’d also look atsecurity issues associated with mobility and show you how applications would work with yourexisting systems and what type of training that your IT and end user staffs will need to properlyuse your mobile system. 1
  2. 2. He would develop a multi-year plan on how you can update your mobile system that wouldeliminate the need to purchase new mobile devices every time mobile device makers tell you thatyou need the ‘latest and greatest’ mobile devices to stay ahead of your competition. In mostcases, you can keep a mobile device for at least three years before changing it. And dependingon the type of application upgrades, you can extend that life to four years with your fixed PCs andlaptops systems, believe it or not. The final thing a consultant will show you is both the ROI andTCO of mobility. Now sometimes it will seem like there is no monetary ROI, but in time increasedproductivity that comes from a completely planned and successfully implemented mobile networkwill save your company money as opposed to a ‘piece meal’ pay-as-you-go network. It’ll be wellworth the expense.MERP System Integration: The next step in creating a mobile network is system integration. This is the most important but sometimes overlooked part of a mobile network. It’s probably because many mobile devices can access email and the Internet on their own that IT staffs in most companies feel that’s all that is needed for a mobile worker. Nothing can be further from the truth. Like any other device in your system, mobile devices must be able to ‘talk’ to that system if you want your mobile staff to get the true benefits of having a mobile device. Being able to access not only your company’s mail server isessential to giving a mobile work force all they need to be successful. That means making suretheir devices can access customer records, invoices, CRM applications, VPNs, and remoteaccess from anywhere just like PCs and laptops. Let’s not forget about the most importantintegration: the company’s security protocols.This above all else should be number one on the list. Yet most companies seem to have a blindspot when it comes to security system integration of mobile devices. Mobile security must be thefirst thing integrated into your system. Mobile devices carry a lot of sensitive company data inthem and, in some cases, they can store up to 64GB of data when it is linked to your network.Many times unsecured data is lost or stolen. When those company records are gone, that breachof security could become a big legal problem for the company. You must always remember thatsecurity, security, and more security is job number one for your IT staff if any mobile device wantsto access your network. The final part of system integration is mobile management.Now that you have a mobile network in place, it must run smoothly 24/7 like any other IT system.That means mobile devices must be managed meaning access to company data, upgrade ofapplications, and replacement of mobile devices if they are lost or stolen. That also means settingup the same type of help desk for mobile devices that you would give to PCs and laptops. Makingsure that mobile devices are fully integrated into your system is going to lower your TCO and helpyou realize a better ROI, but most importantly it will make mobility a profit center for yourcompany. 2
  3. 3. MERP Training: Last, but certainly not least training. To create a successful mobile system you and your staff will need training on how mobile devices work. Now before you laugh and say ‘I don’t need someone to show me how to use my mobile device’, I want you to look around and see how many mobile devices do you have right now. If you have more than two devices in less than a year and all you can do is email and an address book, then you need training. In the ten years I have been around businesses I have seen desks full of mobile devices that have been under-used simply because most end users don’t know how to properly use them. So they takethe devices to the IT staff to get help. The IT staff doesn’t want to know that you even have adevice. They don’t want to support them because nothing is in place anyway. Plus, most IT staffsare not trained on how to support mobile devices. So now you have a ‘belt’ full of mobile devices that looks like Batman’s utility belt. The onlydifference is Batman knows how to use his devices and you don’t. Ok, you can laugh now! Butconsider this; not knowing how your mobile device works raises your TCO and time and moneyare unnecessarily wasted on device after device. If you believe “Maybe the new device will beeasier than the old one”, you are wrong. Mobile devices are getting more and more complicatedas more features and memory are being added on each new version that comes out.Look at it this way. If your teenagers came to you wanting to drive the family car, would you give itto them if they did not have any lesson on how to drive? No you would not. That’s what you aredoing if you have an untrained person using a mobile device on your network. If you haveinvested time and money into a mobile network, your investment is wasted if your staff can’t usethe mobile device to properly access your mobile network. Mobile training is just as important to the success of your mobile project as the applications andthe mobile device you will use on that network. In fact, if you’re planning a mobile network, areport by Gartner Groups says that at least 12% shows budgets for training. Basic training shouldinclude an overview of mobile devices.There are differences, for example, the way Palm and Blackberry handle email. Palm is a ‘pulltechnology’, meaning you have to get your mail from Palm’s server while Blackberry is ‘pushtechnology’, meaning that when you turn it on it pushes all your email on the screen all the time.Mobile Windows like all Microsoft products works better with Outlook or Exchange email thaneither Palm or Blackberry.The on-board applications are all different in their look and feel on the device and the desktop. Allof them have different ways they link to their desktops and servers. Now if your company is likemost companies, your end users have not look at the users’ manual. In some cases the manual isstill in the box.Meaning your end users are hoping that someone in your office will become the go-to guy aboutmobile devices. If there is someone in your office like that, then you just made him your unofficialmobile trainer. If he is on your sales staff, then you will lose productivity every time whensomeone comes to him, not the IT staff, asking questions about how to use their mobile device.But you can turn that around by training all of your mobile users on how to use their devices.Remember that if all of them are trained on how to use their mobile devices then they all can beproductive. That productivity is where your profit begins and ends. According to another study byGartner Group, trained workers can bring in more than $2000 to more businesses as opposed to 3
  4. 4. untrained workers. Putting it in prospective, having a trained mobile staff is the best way toachieve an ROI from your mobile network.Now that we have gone over how to create a successful MERP network, your mandate is toresearch all you can about how mobility can help your company become more profitable. If youcan’t do the research hire a Mobile IT firm that can take you from A-Z on how to create a MERPnetwork for your company.By: Howard LeeCIOWirehead TechnologyEmail: wireheadtec@gmail.comWeb: www.wireheadtec.comThis article was originally published in three parts by Enterprise Management Quarterlyin 2008:How to Plan a MERP Network Part 1How to Plan a MERP Network Part 2How to Plan a MERP Network Part 3Follow Us On: 4