Mobile: Cost reduction or business transformation?

Analyst group IDC is predicting that the mobility market will be worth $12.2 billion by 2015, so businesses and IT professionals and their suppliers, quite rightly think constantly about how they communicate with employees and customers....


Analyst group IDC is predicting that the mobility market will be worth $12.2 billion by 2015, so businesses and IT professionals and their suppliers, quite rightly think constantly about how they communicate with employees and customers.

Mobility can enable employees to be in constant communication over multiple platforms, previously unwieldy business processes can be reined in and organisational efficiency increased. Yet the really exciting opportunity for organisations is that mobility opens doors to new and exciting market opportunities.

By taking advantage of emerging technologies such as geopositioning, augmented reality and voice interaction, mobility helps brands to innovate in order to extend their relationship with customers directly to their mobile device.

No wonder progressive CIOs are excited about the future of mobility. But the question of how best to use it can still create confusion. Gartner discovered that while78% of CIOs considered mobility to be strategically important, just 18% actually had a mobile strategy.

These findings aren't a one off. At the recent UK & Ireland SAP User Conference, just a quarter of attendees had a defined mobile strategy in place. So, what's stopping organisations from using mobile technologies to drive their business forward?

Developing a compelling business case

For the majority of companies, the stumbling block is developing a compelling business case. While they are clear on the advantages of mobility, many CIOs are less sure about how it will transform their enterprise, how to align it with their current business strategy or how to prioritise investment with business need. Mobility can be many things to a business but the danger lies in trying to make it everything.

If CIOs don't prioritise those benefits which will have the greatest impact on their company, they risk creating a scattered plan that might reach all aspects of the business, but will ultimately result in chaos and little return on investment.

A good place to start is by asking: "What are the greatest business benefits of mobility for us?" Typically the answer will fall under either cost saving or revenue enhancing. Once a CIO has identified which category their mobility investment falls into, they can then determine what the priorities of their mobile strategy need to be. All too often, cost savings are confused with the ability to transform businesses and create new platforms for growth. That isn't the case, and both strategies require different approaches.

Cost savings

If a CIO is focused on cost cutting, then they are likely to reap the greatest rewards from an internal-facing strategy. Business-to-Employee mobility can have a significant impact on the enterprise as it generates far-reaching cost-savings. Top of the list is greater employee productivity. Many employees are already using their own personal devices in the work place, and it is becoming harder for CIOs to clamp down on this trend. 

Rather than resisting it, by properly integrating employee devices with enterprises systems, companies can benefit from greater productivity levels as it becomes easier for people to work on the go, communicate across departments and share knowledge.

However, internal mobility strategies don't just lead to improved productivity. Implemented correctly, they can also give operational efficiency a boost. Applications that allow customers to serve themselves enable call centre agents to handle more calls quickly and accurately, or let staff to file their expenses, all remove layers of cost. In addition they have the added benefit of increasing user satisfaction.

Revenue enhancing

There is a lot to be said for cost-saving being the main business driver behind the adoption of mobility. But what you shouldn't expect from such a strategy is fundamental business transformation.

If transformation is the business priority, there needs to be a focus on Business-to-Consumer mobility; how can mobility help the business drive revenue through stronger customer engagement? If executed well, mobility has the potential to create new market opportunities for an enterprise. Mobility makes it easy for customers to interact and transact with brands, and as a result, has a positive impact on the bottom line.

Smart applications that catch the consumer's eye and provide an easy and convenient customer service are like little pots of gold. Just look at your own phone: do you really need that Groupon mobile app? Chances are not, but you clicked on the 'buy now' button without really thinking about it. Why? Because it is an easy and functional way of consuming the information you want. That ease of access is exactly what your customers want from you.

And the best bit is that a well thought-out app has the potential to acquire you hundreds of new customers. Not just through App Stores or Google Play, but also word of mouth. Think about it. How do you find new places to eat? Drink? Sleep? You ask a friend. The same principle applies to applications or mobile ready websites. Get it right and not only can you attract new customers, but retain existing ones.

Smart, functional applications that deliver a better customer experience via the device of their choice are the future. To ensure that they are at the forefront of the mobility revolution, CIOs have to be clear about what they want to achieve. Mobility to save costs requires a very different strategy to mobility to drive revenue. Prioritising the needs of the organisation will help to define an effective mobility strategy that becomes the lynchpin for business success way into the future.

Posted by James Riley, Global Head of Innovation, HCL EAS

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