Nowadays, not only field sales employees need to have the right data at their fingertips. Managers are also well advised to have easy access to detailed information – for instance, when concluding important agreements. And it makes an even better impression if you don’t have to dig out your notebook or make a call to colleagues at headquarters – see also SAP.info for iPhones and BlackBerrys.
The number of doubters and skeptics debating whether smartphones in general are capable of performing universal and everyday business tasks is dwindling – see IT Business Trends 2010. Hence, there are now many CIOs who take the topic of server access and data sharing seriously and are enabling database access for smartphones. For data communication between a smartphone and the database or company network, a software app is required, which – in the case of the iPhone from Apple – is available exclusively from the iTunes Store.
And the iPhone has now definitely found its place in the business world. Not only its embedded applications – such as contacts, calendar, e-mail, and Internet browser – have made it a multipurpose gadget, but also a whole host of other useful software. Nevertheless, it isn’t easy to identify the most suitable tools among the thousands of applications. Lists of most-wanted apps frequently comprise gimmicks that are of little practical use. Here, we’d like to show you applications that have all been tried and tested for business use on a day-to-day basis. This may lead to notebooks being increasingly left at their docking station – but that’s a completely different matter.
The prices of the software apps shown range from free-of-charge through $449.99. On the following pages, we present to you the six apps we believe to be the most important:
- App 1. Quickoffice Mobile Suite 3.0
- App 2. MyAccountsToGo for SAP Business One
- App 3. BusinessObjects Explorer 1.0
- App 4. iAnalytics for SAP Business One
- App 5. ebf.Connector 2.0.1
- App 6. Drivers 2.1.1
Quickoffice Mobile Suite 3.0
Among all the available office applications for the iPhone, the editorial team agreed that the Quickoffice Mobile Suite 3.0 was the most valuable. After installing the app (13.5 MB), you can access any documents you wish from your iPhone. All you need is a WLAN connection, so that the files can be uploaded using the browser. Version 3.0 of the Quickoffice Suite has only just been launched and supports the Microsoft Office 2007 file formats .XLSX and .DOCX, making it particularly attractive to companies. After all, a great many enterprises across the world have already switched from older versions of Microsoft Office to Office 2007.
Access to the iPhone in a wireless network is achieved by entering the IP address in any browser. In our case, it’s 192.168.1.154:4242, with 4242 specifying the port. The Quickoffice functions are hardly any different from the most frequently used standard features in the big desktop solution: Opening, creating, and editing Microsoft Word and Excel files is as straightforward as ever. You can select colors and fonts, and styles are supported, too. Within Quickword, for example, texts can be formatted, words counted, paragraphs aligned, and autocorrect functions activated. Quicksheet is an editor for Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, which enables ranges of cells and formulas to be updated dynamically.
Another interesting feature is that it’s possible to use the iPhone as a mobile hard disk or share certain folders with employees and colleagues. To do this, the smartphone simply needs WLAN access. Using the iDisk from MobileMe (a subscription-based cloud service) is slighter more convenient: With it, you can make all the selected desktop data available on your smartphone.
The Quickoffice Mobile Suite costs just $7.99.
MyAccountsToGo for SAP Business One
Many midsize companies now use the SAP Business One application, which is especially geared toward small businesses. The SAP Business One MyAccountsToGo package can access account and financial data stored on the company server. The app is generally aimed at sales people who need to have customer data and financial key figures at their fingertips. With it, they can access, edit, and change data from certain activities.
Once hooked up with MyAccountsToGo, users can track movements in sales orders, quota arrangements, sales invoices, backorders, and returns virtually in real time. The functions can be combined with e-mail and Google Maps. Data is reconciled by means of an SQL database and a secure FTP, HTTP, or HTTPS connection. All that is required is SAP Business One version 2005A and Microsoft Server SQL Server 2005. At a price of $449.99, MyAccountsToGo is one of the most expensive iPhone apps on the market.
SAP BusinessObjects Explorer 1.0
As outlined in our article iPhone with SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, this app is one of those analysis tools that access an in-memory database, where all active records are kept in main memory rather than on disk. Because we already examined the functions of the mobile SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, we won’t go into detail here, so please refer to the article linked to above. SAP BusinessObjects Explorer is offered as a free iPhone app and can be downloaded here.
iAnalytics for SAP Business One
For the many users of SAP Business One, an iPhone app is now available that displays selected CRM data as graphics on smartphones. As well as the actual software , all users need to install on the server is the iBolt for SAP Business One add-in.
The app takes up a tiny 500 KB in the smartphone memory and costs $32.99 from the iTunes Store.
The ebf.connector app gives users access to a whole host of enterprise data. As well as supporting SAP software from SAP R/3, it is also enabled for access to IBM Lotus Domino and Microsoft Exchange 2003/2007. On the server side, the operating system platforms installed can be either Windows Server, Linux, or Unix. Possible databases are mySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, or Lotus Domino.
The ebf.connector, for example, enables approval procedures from SAP or Lotus Notes to be conducted while users are away from the office and various calendar systems – such as calendars in SAP and Microsoft Outlook – to be reconciled. At the same time, file attachments in the form of Excel, Word, PowerPoint or PDF files can be integrated. Unlike the other apps, the ebf.connector is also available for other smartphones, namely BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices.
This free app occupies 1.2 MB memory space on the iPhone. The new, updated version 2.1 is now available from the iTunes Store.
Many people who drive a company car with a driver’s log will be familiar with this problem: If you need to calculate and record your routes accurately, a paper-based logbook is often still the only option. But there’s good news: In the age of central databases, your iPhone is now able to take on this task. The data can be exported to Microsoft Excel and complies with German tax office regulations. The user can decide how many vehicles to manage and whether various waypoints need to be marked. Useful features enable you to record refueling stops and maintenance checks, as well as detailed statistics on fuel consumption, periods spent traveling and resting, travel costs, and the number of miles driven. If desired, the tool will also remind you of any impending maintenance checks.