When I started exploring the mobile app for Acumatica a few years ago, I had a dream of updating our storerooms to use mobile devices like tablets and phones instead of scanners and PC’s. I had heard rumors that Acumatica was working on enabling your phone camera to act as a barcode scanner, a feature many of us have embraced with QR codes and shopping apps for brick and mortar stores. Truth be told, I’d been working on ways to get our storerooms off of PC’s for quite some time, whenever the opportunity would present itself. But this was something more. I wanted – no, needed – the experience to be more intuitive for the storeroom attendants… something that aligns with how many of them function outside of work.
Advances in technology move fast, but rarely does something as substantial as an ERP software move with it. The sheer mass of code in an ERP software makes traditional systems far from agile, and thus eventual boat anchors relegated to the past. While some software companies succeed at keeping an ERP “current”, they often end up being very cumbersome to configure or use. Our legacy system was proof that evolving an older EPR to keep up with modern times is a lot to bite off. I ended up creating a proprietary web based solution to bridge the gap, providing features that would take years to appear in more mainstream products. My experience with SAP and Oracle also left me with the feeling that some software is not designed to help the user function but rather prohibit work efficiency for the masses so that a report can be generated in an office. In all fairness, this may have changed in recent years, but I doubt it.
Acumatica lives outside of those constraints, having adopted a core principle that the ERP should be built above the challenges of ever changing technology. It is designed in a way that supports a virtual plug and play to jump ship on one technology before it sinks and embrace a new technology that has begun to prove itself. Even in something as relatively new as machine learning, Acumatica is designed to leverage the best of the best in ML but also for the company to unplug from that ML service provider and jump to a new one when another one takes the lead. The result is that we, the developer and user community, reap all of the benefit and none of the pain.
Today’s post is about one small piece of that puzzle, one that gets me one step closer to my dreams of an easier to operate, more responsive, and more intelligent storeroom with Smart Panels on the Mobile App. Smart Panels essentially are dialog boxes that pop up in Acumatica to make actions that were once mundane data entry into interactive “helpers” that enable the user to give context specific input to the system. It is a feature that has existed in the website version of Acumatica ERP for a long time and in my opinion is a major key to the efficient and easy user experience.
The pop-up dialog box is far from new. The intelligence that can be placed into a smart panel, such as dynamic selection lists with many columns of data, simple prompts such as number of labels to print, etc. goes beyond a traditional pop-up dialog. Again, this is something that has been supported in many software solutions for years, so it isn’t new to full-feature applications we run from PC’s and Mac’s. Unfortunately, full support for smart panels was not available in the mobile app when I started exploring it… that is, until Acumatica ERP 2021R1. I believe it to be one of the most important features in recent years to be added to the Mobile app, right along side of the barcode scanner from your phone’s camera that DID make it into the product shortly after the rumor mentioned above. Why? Because the Acumatica mobile app is not “written” as an app by the developer community. It is configured, meaning we control the content without ever having to understand how to write an app for Apple or Android devices. Every screen, every field, every behavior – all left to our control. The underpinning of the mobile app itself… something Acumatica takes care of and gives us as a free download from the app stores.
Exploring this new feature, it looked incredibly easy to execute. I assure you, when you do something differently than any example given to you on a newly introduced feature, there is a great risk that one tiny detail being omitted from the documentation will stall your efforts. Since that was the case for me, I created a VLOG for the Acumatica Blog showcasing the feature and “dumbed down” to a super simple example that even I could understand! For your viewing enjoyment, see the VLOG on the Acumatica Blog here…