Mobile Enterprise CIO Q&A

By  Pat Brans — January 10, 2012

We recently caught up with Justin A. Kershaw, SVP and CIO at Eaton. We talked about developing strategies for building mobile applications, as well as best practices for determining ROI. Here's what Justin had to say...

Mobile Enterprise Magazine:
So Justin, how did Eaton, a one-hundred-year-old global enterprise, make the leap to mobility?

Justin Kershaw: Quite simply, it made good business sense. We wanted to make improvements in the way external agents and our internal sales force sell power management solutions. It was clear that if we could give them the information they need while on the road, or in front of the client, the sales process would become much more efficient.

ME: In your case, there was a business process specific to your industry, that could be improved. Do have any general advice and words of wisdom on how to pick the right time to go mobile that might apply across the board?

JK: Any IT solution has to be right for the process you are attempting to improve; and it has to make a difference. Companies that deploy a mobile solution that doesn’t fundamentally change the process are probably applying technology for the sake of technology. Eaton’s PowerSource solution for sales and support uses mobile technology and delivers a new and improved process to selling that demonstrates the benefits of mobility. In short, this innovation takes cycles out of the process of selling power management solutions to our customers and the mobile technologies are a significant part of how that happens.

ME: How did you identify the key stakeholders within your company and make sure they were on board?

JK: The first key stakeholder is the business owner. In Eaton’s case, that’s the person responsible for the income statement and balance sheet of the business involved in the project. This has to be the first person that gets involved and they need to remain an active part of the project team.

The second key stakeholder should be the end user of the application. The people who will carry out the current process differently - or the new process with the new solution - need to be on board.

After the first two groups are on board, the team that will develop the solution and new process technically should become fully engaged. They are the third set of stakeholders. All three of these groups have to be committed.

During the development of PowerSource we had the full and complete support of the VP GM and President of our Hydraulics business.  We also had a team of information technology and sales professionals working closely together.

One big advantage for us was our IT project leader and the IT director of our customer center of excellence both have significant prior professional experience in sales. Their knowledge of the business process is exceptional and it was a key part of creating the innovative new process using multiple technologies.

ME: How did you determine a cost structure, and how did you balance the triple constraints: cost, performance, and schedule?

JK: You can only work from a fixed cost structure when you have experience with all the variables involved. If you’ve already done process improvement and the technology and teams you’re working with are not new to you, you know what to expect. If the result of the project is incremental improvement, rather than true innovation, you can plan your costs.

However, when you are doing something you have not done before - or in the case of PowerSource, being the first and one-of-a-kind in a market - cost needs to be treated as a variable with a minimum and maximum threshold.

I think it’s important to know the solution will work and transform the current process into the new process. Furthermore, the new process has to be worth it. Benefits must surpass the cost. Concerning the solution itself, everything - except not working - can be forgiven. You cannot deliver something that doesn’t work or only works part way or sometimes.

If the first two groups of stakeholders are convinced the solution will work, then as long as you can stay within the budget thresholds you determined earlier in the project, your cost structure should be fine.

Determining whether to use external resources for speed or technical expertise is part of project management. If the external resources are so expensive that you go above your budget threshold maximum, then you don’t have a project. This is true whether you are using external resources for technical expertise or speed. It’s really no different from any other investment you would make in a business. You will be adding expense to the income statement and putting assets on the balance sheet.

If the additions are not offset by new income or other lower expenses in an acceptable time period, you have a poor investment. That’s your cost structure in a nutshell.

It’s important for all three groups of stakeholders to think this way. The business owner, the end user, and the technology team have to understand exactly the impact on these two critical measures of success and keep each other grounded through the whole project.

ME: I understand you chose iPad even though it’s not a ruggedized device. Can you provide some insight into what drove your choice of hardware?

JK: The iPad was an obvious choice for Eaton’s PowerSource solution because it works, it’s the most available, it’s currently the leader in mobile tablet devices, and it’s projected to remain in the lead for some time into the future. The iPad is not a ruggedized device, but there are many options available that will provide more protection from environmental conditions and usage wear.

ME: How do you determine success, and use that evaluation to build either your next new app or the next generation of the app that was just deployed?

JK: The first level of success is determined by delivering and deploying the working solution to the targeted groups. Then we assess whether the solution is working as anticipated. Finally is the improved process achieving the benefits? In our case, that means the return on investment.

Eaton’s PowerSource project is in the final stages of determining success. We have completed a working solution, deployed it to some number of targeted groups with more to go and the solution is working. We started our rollout at the annual Eaton Distributor Meeting, a large scale meeting with a few thousand participants. We had standing room only in the PowerSource training sessions and our PowerSource booth was the most visited and busiest booth at the entire conference.  

We also have some feedback from users that they have achieved sales they would not have achieved without the assistance of PowerSource. For us, this started to happen in our prototype phase of the project and it is now continuing with the deployed solution.  

Our expectations are to deploy the solution to a larger targeted group and this is also happening. At this point we are confident the mobile PowerSource solution is well worth the investment for our distribution channel partners. We are also confident we are on track to exceed our return on investment goals.


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