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Measuring Mobile ROI: Tricky, but Necessary

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Posted March 10, 2014 By Ann All     Feedback

Companies categorized as mobile trendsetters are more likely than average peers to use formal, technology-enabled processes to measure mobile ROI, according to new research.

Like many other technology initiatives, measuring return on investment (ROI) for mobility programs can be tricky. Even companies that calculate ROI often base it on "soft" benefits such as customer satisfaction improvements rather than hard ones such as increased sales, said Darren McGrath, global director, Mobility Solutions, for Unisys.

iPadUserNot surprisingly, mobile trendsetters put more emphasis on measuring ROI than their more average peers. Unisys defines mobile trendsetters as companies with a clear mobile strategy that drives their technology investments. They use defined metrics to measure their success and integrate mobility into their overall enterprise governance. Just 21 percent of companies put themselves into this category, according to an IDG Research study commissioned by Unisys.

The other three categories are: mobile enabled companies that, like trendsetters, have strategies and policies in place but lack proactive governance; mobile aware companies that have some mobile initiatives and policies but no real strategy or governance behind them; and mobile void companies that lack any mobile policies, strategy or governance. According to the research, 40 percent of companies are mobile enabled and 28 percent are mobile aware. Only 11 percent of companies are in the mobile void.

Mobile ROI: Hard vs. Soft

While measuring ROI is important, said McGrath, many companies view mobility as similar to the Internet itself, with benefits so obvious that few companies do not use mobile devices and apps. And support for mobile often comes from the top executives in the company.

"Executives use mobile. They realize where the market is going, and they know they have to be there," McGrath said. "Those who do not move until they can see a hard ROI are going to remain lower on the continuum. If you don’t do it, you are at a greater risk than if you choose to do it."

Sixty-five percent of mobile trendsetters use formal, technology-enabled processes to measure ROI. Still, many of the benefits they cite most frequently involve added productivity and enhanced customer satisfaction, both of which can be tough to quantify, McGrath said.

In many companies sales teams are the first to introduce these types of improvements, McGrath said. Some companies build apps that let sales teams do customer presentations and demonstrations on their phones or tablets so they do not have turn on a PC and wait for it to boot up, he noted, with more advanced companies providing functionality for sales reps to also take orders on the spot so that orders can be processed much more quickly.

"Sales and marketing led the way, and now we are seeing more organizations that support operations teams. Anything you can do to reduce the steps in your processes is a win," he said, noting that highly manual processes involving handoffs between teams in the field and other business units are logical candidates for mobility.

Trendsetters lead more average companies in other areas as well, including mobile security. McGrath said trendsetters are far more likely than their peers to employ policies such as performing code reviews geared toward security before releasing mobile apps, using VPNs for secure data transmission and establishing and enforcing end user policies to help ensure appropriate behavior. More than half of mobile trendsetters have implemented policies governing employee access to corporate data on mobile devices, vs. 22 percent of mobile void companies that have done so.

Getting Strategic about Mobility

Trendsetters are also more likely to adopt a holistic approach toward mobility, which McGrath said is the key to creating an effective mobile strategy and a governance plan.

"Many organizations take an ad hoc approach to developing mobile apps, and when you do that you do not really understand how mobility can change and impact your entire organization," McGrath said.

McGrath's recommendation is to assemble a team of employees to discuss possible uses of mobility before business units begin producing their own mobile apps.

"You want to ensure you have adequate representation across all areas of an organization impacted by mobile. When you get people in a room and start talking about 'let’s develop an app to address this business process,' it helps in setting strategy," he said. "As you move forward, you need to keep users involved in governance. The more that you can do this, the better you will be able to attain results and measure them. If you use a piecemeal approach, it is going to take longer to move along that continuum."

It's possible a growing number of companies are following McGrath's advice. A Good Technology survey found strong growth in mobile apps, especially in custom applications.

Ann All is the editor of Enterprise Apps Today and eSecurity Planet. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade, writing about everything from business intelligence to virtualization.e

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