You bought into mobile email - what have you got to show for it?
Have mobiles increased productivity?
Mobile Clinic Our mobile clinic returns today, this time looking to get some clarity on whether or not we really have become more efficient since the advent of the mobile phone, and if we have, by how much, and why. As before our panel of experts provide their opinion, something which you can do to via the comment forms at the bottom of the article.
What are the main components of a business case for justifying investment in mobile access email and other business systems? - Cost Benefit Analysis.
Dale Vile, Research Director, Freeform Dynamics Ltd
This is a question I have been investigating through primary research since 2001, and over the years, the various studies I have been involved in have probably gathered feedback from upwards of 15,000 IT and business professionals on this topic. And still, the question of how to justify investments in mobile technology keeps coming up. Why? Because it remains notoriously difficult to construct tangible business cases for many types of mobile solutions based on classic financial return on investment (ROI) modelling alone.
To illustrate the challenge, imagine how you would go about retrospectively cost justifying your investment in normal everyday email today. The level of visibility, reach and immediacy of communications offered by email are pretty much essential for the majority of businesses to operate effectively, yet try turning that into a tangible value you can put a number on.
It's the same problem with mobile solutions aimed at professionals – managers, sales people, consultants and the like. Cost justifying the provision of a BlackBerry or Windows Mobile device, or even a data card to enable connectivity from a notebook PC, can be extremely difficult. Sure, you can make assumptions about number of minutes of lost productivity recovered in a day as people use previously "dead" time between meetings or in transit to do useful things on their mobile devices, and I've seen some great Excel models and analyst reports that do this very nicely. While there is nothing wrong with such an approach, however, I do think there is a danger of missing the point.
In our business, for example, we certainly don't justify giving people BlackBerries and data cards on the basis of getting them to work every minute of the day. It is so we can run the business more effectively. We get much better visibility of what's going on and team members can be much more responsive both when supporting each other on activities and decisions, and when dealing with clients, partners, subcontractors and so on. What it basically means is that stuff gets done more quickly and effectively, rather than processes being continuously blocked because people are not available to do a quick review, confirm a decision, or provide a vital snippet of information.
And our research confirms time and time again that that's really the way to think about the value of mobile email and mobile application access for white collar workers – simply greasing the wheels of business processes and decision cycles, and removing artificial delays. As someone said to me a while ago in relation to mobile email – "How do you put a financial value on being able to get to a ‘Yes' more quickly?"
Having said all this, there are some types of mobile solution for which the financial business case can best be described as a "no brainer". Paper and administration intensive field service and logistics operations transformed through the introduction of mobile technology can give rise to ROI periods measured in months. Cost savings come directly from reduced overhead and better control over the way in which resources are allocated and used, leading to better overall resource utilisation. The positive impact on resourcing was, in fact, something that came through strongly in one of our more recent research studies, which also highlights the spin-off benefits of increased customer responsiveness and a general improvement in levels of service delivered.
So, while it is easy to dismiss a lot of mobile technology as being predominantly about providing executive toys and perks, if you look for benefits in the right way, they are there and can be very compelling. It is all about the way you define and assess the level of value.
...by some of the luddites posting here! I mean...are people really still debating whether to have mobile email or not? Reminds me of similar conversations about mobile phones in the early 90s...
The technology has been around for long enough now to be....well...not really that exciting any more. Time saver...of course! As a director for a small software company in the UK we don't have the luxury of having dozens of people who can fill in when one of us is on annual leave. And being located in GMT means have to be flexible when dealing with customers from other time-zones.
A couple of years ago I swapped emails with a company interested in buying our software using my trusty old Windows Mobile device whilst on holiday in Spain, using a roaming network and whilst sat waiting for a take-away pizza. By the time my wife and I had finished off the pizza along with a bottle of Rioja the customer had stated how impressed they were by our responsiveness and had purchased the software.
What Happens if you don't Implement....
I think its also worth considering what employees will do and how they will respond if they aren't given access to mobile and productivity tools.
I reckon ....
A large proportion of employees would like mobile email but don't have it for one reason or another.
A good proportion of those employees already forward email to web accounts to access email.
Most of those workers have phones which have an email client allowing push or pull email.
Employees are becoming increasing IT smart and will find out how to make things work if its in their interest.
Mobile operators are offering some incredibly low cost data bundles in the consumer space.
Corporate IT can't do much to stop any of this - it needs to move with it.
Retention and Productivity
A few years back we removed all desktops and gave everyone laptops. This was to allow for greater mobility and agility of our workforce and to increase their quality of life. Our workers can go home and have dinner with their families, then continue to burn the midnight oil.d
Our group travels constantly. Having the 3G and EDGE cards has eliminated shoddy hotel ethernet service problems, inaccessible hotspots, etc. Our people can get mail and grab files from our servers from anywhere: in the cab on the way to a meeting, waiting for the gate at the plane, etc.
We deployed Berrys to the company about 5 years ago. It was a phenominal investment. Some use it as their primary email device: depricating their mail client, while others use it as a touchstone: they need to get to a computer. Add to this the convenience of having their calendar and contacts realtime synchronized, they can accomplish CRM anywhere, anytime.
We've been living with this tech for years now. It has never been a question of ROI as much as SOP. This is the landscape in which we work. This isn't a competative edge, it is the cost of doing business -- as much so as having an office space and computers.