Complexity, performance, and price have inhibited the adoption of some mobile wireless solutions into the enterprise. But thanks to advances in mobile data technologies and devices, mobile wireless solutions are now much more affordable, interoperable, and easier to setup. However, the costs are still high enough to warrant careful thought, particularly in harsh business conditions where it's not so easy for IT managers to justify large investments in wireless data applications.
Many enterprises have already invested in some type of basic wireless infrastructure, such as PDAs and applications like mobile office, e-mail, and calendar management. The first step towards realizing a measurable wireless investment is to make access to these services available within and outside of the office. The next step is to graduate from the basic Personal Information Manager (PIM) applications to advanced applications like field service and e-CRM.
What gains should you expect out of the wireless investment?
There are three types of gains that are realized by the investment in wireless technology: increase in revenues, reduction of costs, and the development of a competitive advantage.
- Increase in revenue is achieved by improving the number of sales when your mobile sales force has access to the company database.
- Reduction of costs is achieved by improving employee productivity and reducing down time. The mobile workforce spends more time on business-focused activities by dealing with e-mails and other information while on the move. A large part of the work that arises is dealt with in real time as opposed to handling it at the end of the day or the day after. Time that was previously spent traveling and waiting at airports, trains, and bus stations is utilized by getting some useful work done. In addition, collaborative working is extended to all mobile workers, and the benefits of the wireless solution reach the entire team.
- A unique competitive advantage is achieved by extending the wireless CRM solution. Field staff handles calls more efficiently if they can be contacted on the move. Technicians and field reps benefit greatly from immediate access to customer data and information about similar problems. FedEx Corp., for example, has been using a wireless e-CRM solution for many years and has achieved productivity gains of two and a half times for its couriers. In addition, FedEx customers are able to track shipments by using mobile devices and AvantGo Inc.'s Mobile Internet solution.
The cost equation
Before you start evaluating the returns, you must be aware of the costs and other considerations that are associated with running a wireless solution. These include the following:
- Initial costs: These costs correspond to the analysis, prototyping, and the implementation of a pilot program.
- Operational costs: These costs include service charges, airtime costs, and cost of device maintenance and upgrades.
- Development of applications: The adaptation of existing or development of entirely new applications. You need to decide what applications to extend to the mobile solution and to which employees it will apply.
- Deployment: The deployment of software and hardware, plus the decision to have an in-house, outsource, or hybrid setup. Deployment of a wireless service is also associated with training and support, which is costly and must be carefully evaluated.
- ROI: Benefits such as efficiency and productivity enhancements are easily translatable into tangible returns. In particular, this applies to sales, the technical workforce, and management professionals. See "Learn how to improve wireless ROI."