The Mobile Endgame Part 2
September 2004 - By Bob Egan

Over the next two years, 80 percent of all enterprise mobility programs will fail due to cost issues, not technical complexities. Most CFOs have reigned-in the free-wheeling spending of the 1990s and demand clear justification for every investment. Yet most IT managers tend to put more focus on the technical complexities of a mobile solution, and, true enough, simple mobile solutions remain elusive. However, successful IT managers will reconcile the business case for wireless mobility against the technology and application solution risk.

Many enterprise mobility initiatives have been regarded as failures in their companies due to high costs, real or perceived. This typically occurs for two reasons: The costs of mobility were not properly identified and/or accounted for during the early planning stages, or because a solo “pet project” began masquerading as an enterprise platform.

Enterprise planners must assess and present the total financial impact. This includes both total cost of ownership (TCO) and traditional ROI analyses. Pilot initiatives and platform-based corporate-wide mobility programs should be considered separately, even if not on sequential timelines. When assessing the TCO of a mobile solution, it is important to optimize the investment in the following four areas:

Capital Investment Standardize offerings wherever possible, both to maximize negotiated discounts for equipment and services and to lower ongoing support costs. Even in cases where the initial investment in software and equipment may be higher because existing equipment is being replaced, overall deployment costs will likely be lower if standardization strategies are applied.

End User Operations Productivity is the critical factor to consider here—exploiting mobility to achieve a personnel “work at capacity” level. Consider the financial impact of a mere 1 percent increase in employee productivity. Assuming a $40 per hour, fully burdened cost of an employee working 2,000 hours per year, a 1,000-employee organization could realize $800,000 in savings from a 1 percent productivity improvement. An organization with 10,000 employees may see a bottom-line improvement of $8 million through a workforce reduction or deferred hiring requirements. The same is true with respect to IT operational productivity; even a 1 percent improvement in operational efficiency can noticeably affect financial performance.

Technical Support It is critical that an investment in help desk services and training be made. Many mobile solutions have turned into a disaster because employees were orphaned with little or no support to solve their own IT problem. Whether the decision is to in-source or outsource the IT support, it is critical to put proper focus on this piece of the success puzzle. Although moving toward a wireless-enabled workforce may increase the overall complexity of the IT infrastructure, implementing a standardized device and applications platform can mitigate this effect. When standards are enforced, the overall mean time between failures for devices will increase, while the mean time before recovery from those failures will decrease. This will improve the efficiency of IT while improving productivity and satisfaction. Supporting a common platform also facilitates user training, applications distribution and even device refresh, resulting in a more controlled change-management process.

Administration While short-term TCO benefits can be attained by managing acquisition costs and realizing productivity gains, overall administrative benefits represent continuous savings over time. In the case of remotely deployed mobile applications, these savings can come in the form of improved process efficiencies and automation, decreased errors and reduced training times.

While considering the above four areas, it is also important to note that ROI cannot be properly managed or realized without establishing clear metrics of the existing environment. •

Bob Egan is president and CEO of Mobile Competency (, a Calif.-based consultancy.


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