A key benefit of mobile apps for Caraustar would be to assist production managers in the company's 90 manufacturing plants around the nation, so they can be on the production floor monitoring tasks rather than sitting at desks in offices away from the action, Ritter told eWEEK.
So far, Ritter and his team are exploring the kinds of apps that could be helpful and determining what tasks can be most effectively managed on a mobile app, such as production reporting, order status and apps that boost production efficiency.
"If you don't do it, your competitor is going to do it," said Ritter. "That's in the back of everybody's minds. At the end of the day, machines can only run so fast so making managers more efficient will be the next step to help them."
Ritter is talking with other companies to learn how they are using mobile apps and how these apps are working out for them. By the end of 2016, the company will have deployed at least some mobile apps to employees to begin the process, he said.
"We're in the phase now of deciding what comes first," he said. "Besides manufacturing, there will also be stuff to give to the sales force out on the road." Salespeople today have to call in to their offices and ask for accounts receivable or open orders details and then ask for the figures to be emailed to them, he said.
"What we'd like to do is set it up so that a salesperson looks on an iPad and finds it right there, and then can place a customer order on the iPad while they are meeting with the customer instead of having to call it in to office," said Ritter. "You're removing steps from the process. We're going to make doing business with us easier for customers, too. It's not a pipe dream."
Mobile Apps Must Deliver Real Benefits
When a business decides to begin adopting mobile apps for its workers, partners and or customers, it needs to start by determining just what it wants to achieve with these apps, Katharyn White, vice president of the IBM and Apple partnership inside IBM Global Business Services, told eWEEK. That may seem obvious, but in many cases, it is not, leading businesses to chase apps just for the sake of having mobile apps but without any solid targets or plans.
That's a big mistake, said White. Instead, businesses need clear, concise and targeted plans when mapping out, creating and enacting their enterprise mobile app strategies.
"An app has to solve a problem that we care about in a business context," said White, such as lowering costs, adding features such as GPS or microphone capabilities or aiding with business analytics.
"You have to ground it in a very specific use case to start, where they can yield value" for users and the company, said White. IBM helps customers plan such strategies by inviting them to workshops where they can define what users need and how those issues can be addressed.
The next step is working with a company's IT department to determine how such an app can be delivered and how it can be melded with a company's existing IT data and infrastructure, said White.
So far, the IBM and Apple partnership offers more than 100 pre-built apps that customers can buy and implement in about six weeks to deliver new capabilities to their users, she said. The apps are available for a wide range of uses, such as for flight attendants, financial advisors, bank loan officers and more.
In 2015, discussions about mobile app deployment became more prevalent inside enterprises, but those talks often weren't backed by actions, she said. That could be changing now as the market reaches a tipping point, according to White. "I think from a volume standpoint that 2016 will be the year."