How to Pick the Best Supply Chain Mobile App

By: on December 10, 2019

Your team moves quickly but they also need to keep their system info up-to-date—and they won’t be sitting down at a desktop computer every hour to input updates. They need a mobile app.

But when choosing the right software, an often overlooked but critical aspect is your location. In fact, it can dictate the type of software mobile app you need. Why location? Because this is a key factor in the type of internet available.

In this article we’ll cover the different types of mobile apps and which one is best for you, based on team location and internet availability. While we will be focused on supply chain management software, this same advice applies if you’re looking for inventory management, warehouse management, or transportation management software.

How a mobile supply chain app impacts your team

Do you have spotty Wi-Fi connectivity in your building? Do you employ drivers or have employees who are out in the field? When looking for supply chain management (SCM) software, your business mobility should be a driving factor in your selection.

Don’t slow your team down by choosing a solution that doesn’t meet the needs of their day-to-day jobs.

We’re not talking mobile devices: In this piece, we’ll discuss whether your team downloads your SCM app from an app store or opens an internet browser to go to the website to enter data. A mobile app isn’t a mobile barcode scanner or an internet of things (IoT) enabled device.

The best mobile app for weak Wi-Fi connections

If your business is located in a rural area, the Wi-Fi may be spotty. This is where on-premise (on-prem) software is often deployed in order to compensate. But a downside of on-prem is that the vendors often don’t offer a native mobile app.

No Internet notification mobile supply chain

An error message (Source)

If your team is heavily reliant on smartphones or tablets, consider amping up your internet and Wi-Fi connection and going with cloud-based software with a strong mobile component—which we’ll cover below. The cost will still be less than the upfront cost for an on-premise deployment.

The best mobile app for on-the-go workers

When Wi-Fi isn’t reliable and your team has time-sensitive tasks to perform in your SCM software, a native app is the way to go.

A native app has been coded/created for a specific operating system on a phone, such as iOS for iPhones, and the app is installed locally on the phone (i.e., you don’t have to open a web browser to access it). The user can open and use the native app whether or not they have Wi-Fi at the time of use. They can submit forms, take photos, etc., and when the device is connected to Wi-Fi, the native app will sync to the main system.

apple windows android logos mobile supply chain

Apple, Android, and Windows logos (Source)

Since native apps are device-specific, make sure all users have the same device or ensure the vendor you choose offers an app that’s compatible with all the devices your team uses.

The best mobile app when Wi-Fi is readily available

If Wi-Fi is readily available where your workers are located and your team uses a mix of device types, then SCM software with a mobile-friendly site or hybrid app option can be the most cost-efficient as you avoid paying for multiple native apps. A mobile-friendly site means the software’s web pages are optimized for smaller screens.

WiFi connected image mobile supply chain

Screenshot of an iPhone’s Wi-Fi status screen (Source)

This option will work on any internet-enabled device, so no need to ensure your team has the same smartphone or tablet. This is especially helpful if your team uses their own devices for work.

Some employers allow employees to “BYOD” (bring your own device), which reduces hardware costs for the business and eliminates training on the device. The incentive offered to employees is that they’ll typically have the business cover all or most of the monthly phone bill. Check out GetApp’s piece on BYOD for more details on this subject.

Pro tip: When evaluating products, ask for a demo of the product on a mobile device and pay particular attention to how forms look and work. Optimizing forms on such a small screen can be a weakness in a product that hasn’t focused on a mobile option: For example, dropdown options can be awkward to scroll through, or blank fields can run past the screen and require you to try to minimize the size, rendering the text minuscule.

Read more on how to get the most out of software demos in my other article, “How to Cut Through the Sales Pitch in Software Demos.

The strengths and weaknesses of each mobile app type

We covered quite a bit of info on why a particular mobile app type suits your team based on location. But there could be other considerations outside of internet availability that you might be interested in. Here’s a quick chart with the main differences between the mobile app types.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Different Mobile App Types

App Characteristics Web App Hybrid App Native App
Offline operation
– –
Large files on device
– –
High level of transcations
– –
Access to device APIs
Informational presentation
Data security
Back-end integration
– –
App performance
– –

Source: Gartner (full article available to clients only)
Strongest (++) to Weakest (- -) capability

What the future holds for mobile apps

While LTE and 4G networks have vastly improved our ability to work on the internet, the impact of 5G will revolutionize the internet’s power. 5G is expected to be 1,000 times more powerful than today’s 4G.

This means latency will be minimal, regardless of using a native or mobile-friendly app. Businesses will be able to run hundreds, if not thousands, of mobile apps and IoT sensors at a time to send data back and forth to other users, the SCM, and other core systems your business uses.

But 5G won’t be ready for businesses for a few more years, so we don’t recommend waiting to implement SCM software until it is here. Take the information we covered here, decide on your business’ mobile needs, and then fill out this form or give our software advisors a call to help narrow down the search: (844) 680-2046.

Our expert advice is free to you, regardless of your location.

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Why a Supply Chain Process Flowchart Protects Your SCM Purchase

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