For most organizations, a time comes when a decision about mobile applications needs to be made. Why go mobile? What benefits will it provide to the organization, to the application users, and to their customers? Does it make financial sense to deploy mobile applications? These are just a few of the questions that organizations need to answer. Unfortunately, there is no single answer that relates to everyone. The answers to these questions will vary depending on the industry, application type, and the current infrastructure in place. For this reason, we will not attempt to provide concrete numbers on going mobile, but rather cover some of the general benefits that both businesses and end users can hope to achieve with a mobile solution.
We are at a time where mobile solutions can provide tremendous benefits to a business. The advances in devices, software infrastructure and wireless networks have made mobile solutions more practical than they ever have been. The cost of these solutions is going down, while the performance is going up, allowing the price/performance ratio to reach a level that is acceptable for most businesses.
From a business perspective, the main reason to implement a mobile solution is to increase profit. There may be other side benefits, but when it comes right down to it, any expenditure has to have a positive impact on the bottom line to make it justifiable. The question then becomes, How can a corporation increase its profit by implementing a mobile solution? Profits can be increased in two ways: by increasing revenue or by reducing costs. This section explains how mobile solutions can aid in accomplishing each of these goals.
A mobile solution can help to increase revenue in several ways. Most are realized by empowering employees to be more effective at their jobs. Examples include providing access to accurate information at the time it is needed and reducing inefficiencies brought about by dated business procedures. Some of the main advantages that mobile solutions provide to increase revenue include the following:
Increased employee productivity
Faster response times to business changes
Streamlined business processes
Improved customer satisfaction
Increased competitive advantage
In positions such as field sales and field service, employees require access to many forms of enterprise data. A mobile solution allows them to access this data when it is required, without having to print out work orders, inventory lists, price charts, customer history records, and other similar pieces of information. For many workers, being able to access corporate information from a mobile device helps them avoid unnecessary visits to the office so they can spend more time working with customers.
Having accurate data on hand also makes them more effective at their given position. They can respond to change in the business environment much more quickly, allowing them to capitalize on new opportunities. With the ability to add, alter, or remove jobs throughout the day, field service workers can quickly and easily fill in any gaps in their work schedule, preventing costly downtime. In addition, once a job is complete, the required billing information will automatically be updated in the enterprise system without having to manually enter the data. This allows companies not only to respond to a customer's needs faster, but also to collect for services rendered in a timely fashion. Customer satisfaction will increase, leading to repeat business.
Having a way to measure the benefits the solution provides is very important. For a sales representative, this may include looking at the average revenue per salesperson, measuring the time it takes to close an opportunity, or counting the number of upsells that were executed. For field service workers, it may include counting the number of visits required to fix a problem, measuring customer downtime, and looking at the increase in the number of service calls that are made with the new solution in place. Once these metrics are calculated, they need to be compared with the costs associated with the solution to determine the overall benefit.
In many cases, the cost reductions obtained by implementing a mobile solution are more substantial than the increased revenue. Most paper-based systems are very inefficient, with much of the time being spent manually transferring data from printed forms into electronic systems. This introduces an opportunity for errors and adds an extra layer to the process that can easily be avoided. Mobile solutions allow for data to be captured electronically where it is first acquired. This leads to more detailed data with higher accuracy than paper forms. The data is then directly integrated into the appropriate system for processing. The result is quicker turnaround times on orders, shorter billing cycles, more accurate time and expense reporting, reduced reject rates due to errors, and overall more efficient systems that do not require redundant data entry.
Other areas for cost reduction include reducing the number of printed materials. For many businesses, the cost of printed materials such as manuals or schematic diagrams alone is quite high, especially if they have to be reprinted often. Being able to replace these materials with an electronic system can provide tremendous cost savings with little effort. There are also opportunities to manage the supply chain more efficiently, allowing companies to reduce required inventory levels while providing more timely service to customers.
In addition to the business benefits, there are also advantages for the end user. Rather than being confined to the office, mobile solutions provide flexibility to work in whatever surroundings are convenient. This is particularly important to mobile professionals who are frequently traveling for business purposes. While traveling, they often have extended periods of downtime waiting in airports, between meetings, or when in a hotel. During these periods, remote access to enterprise applications can provide a tremendous benefit. Having the ability to do time and expense tracking, enter sales orders, or check corporate email allows them to get back to their families and friends on their return home without having to visit the office. For employees who travel a lot, this is a great way to help them balance both work and family priorities.