Building the Business Case
By Michael Barbella
Building a business case for mobile deployments is not always easy. It can be particularly difficult when the benefits are intangible and the return on investment (ROI) has to be measured in soft dollars.
However, it's not impossible, says Craig J. Settles, president of Successful.com, a consulting firm based in Oakland , Calif. Three key ingredients are needed to build a successful business case: understanding the value of simplicity, knowing where the true business case is and minimizing security threats.
"It pays to know how to define the business case," Settles told an audience of mobile technology industry executives at the Mobile Enterprise Executive Summit (MEES) last week in Coral Gables , Fla. "What is the basic thing you want to address to make your workers more productive in the field?"
Settles spoke during the second day of MEES, at which Mobile Enterprise also announced the winners of its annual Mobilizer Awards. Full coverage of MEES and the awards banquet will appear in the December issue of the magazine.
To better understand where the true business case is, look to the end user, because they are essential in helping organizations' mobile deployments reduce costs and improve worker productivity, Settles advised. "People have to use the technology in order for you to get an ROI. If the end user does not use the product, you'll spend a lot of money with very little to show for it."
Vendors, for example, should go out in the field to see the environment of the workforce using the technology they are selling. Being in the field allows vendors to better understand the needs of mobile workers, Settles continued. Understanding how paperwork reduction ties directly to revenue generation and/or cash flow also helps companies better define a business case for mobile deployments.
Eliminate the paper-driven process, Settles also advised, and put decision-making power in the field. Those in the field can make decisions much faster than workers sitting in an office.
Simplicity also is fundamental when building a business case. Settles suggested focusing on a "few needs of many people" and using objectives that are easy to understand. In addition, the mobile deployment under consideration must be easy to use. "If the end user cannot figure out the technology, they will either not use these products effectively or find excuses not to use them at all," he said. "In both cases, you fall short on your expected return."
The final ingredient to building a strong return on your investment is security. IT departments in many organizations tend to restrict the deployment of mobile applications, or impede mobile workers' access to the organization's network. Settles says you need to have good security to prevent data loss and unwanted access to your network. "But don't make security so difficult that the user won't comply, or they fail to reap the benefit of real time data access because they refuse to put up with these severe restrictions," he warned.