While I have been part of the growing mobile market for almost 20 years, enterprises have been struggling on how to support mobility. I have been calling this the “Mobile Dilemma.” It’s a challenge because it isn’t just one thing that is inhibiting adoption. In a previous post, I highlighted the main enterprise mobile dilemmas. These include: the identification (user requirements, the users), business case (costs v. value), the platform (OS, native v. thin client, home grown v. ISV) and the resources (who develops, manages). These are the key enterprise mobile application dilemmas today. I covered identifying requirements in the previous post, here. This time let’s look briefly at the business case.

When it comes to an IT business case–justification for budgeting and deploying a new enterprise technology–there are many school’s of thought. First, do enterprises always need a business case to go forward? If you think about a lot of the technologies that are used in the enterprise today, most were adopted without a thorough business case. In recent years, mobile devices, wireless networking, even email–all key technologies adopted but never fully analyzed or justified by most enterprises. In my experience, it is usually the group after the early adopters or if it is a technology that will only impact a subsegment of users that require a business case. Early adopters can’t really do a business case because there isn’t enough data yet to do one. Usually there is an overriding case to adopt a certain technology–and a business case isn’t the biggest driver. It could be competition, differentiation or a white space that needs to be filled. Mid-to-late mass market adopters also don’t do business cases. Why bother–usually the benefits are well known by then and agreed upon by all–so usually just a waste of time or a basic exercise. It’s the early mass market that usually requires additional justification for a business case. That’s where enterprise mobility and apps are today–entering still just entering the mass market (if you look beyond wireless email). Hence why there is continued talk about developing a business case.

So the next question is, what’s involved in a business case? Here is where I also see a lot of variety. Is it based purely on hard cases (return on investment (ROI) equals total benefits of the opportunity (TBO) minus the total costs (TCO) over time: ROI=TBO-TCO/time)?

That’s certainly one way to look at it. Many verticals that have specific applications and quantifiable working conditions can easily use this, and do. Inspect more stores, count more boxes, increase revenue (as in sales) reduce work hours, reduce staff–these are all justifications for enterprise mobility, usually identified in the first stage I mentioned in the previous post. In mobility there’s also a large horizontal workforce, whose time and goals are not so easily quantifiable. Benefits here are a value to the company for sure. Impact is part of the more quantifiable objectives and also very important to a business. Thus, many companies want to include the soft returns or the value of their investment (VOI), which may be increased outreach, support, collaboration or productivity. But how to measure? VOI is a soft return and in my view is one line item, a specific weight or “X” factor to include in the business case that measures ROI. It’s an important justification and part of the business case.

In the end, understanding the soft value and the hard returns are important for justifying spending money on a new technology. Both can be used for an enterprise mobility case. However, one common criteria often used is time. Saving time is good, right, so should be part of the case? Yes, but only if it is reflected on the value line or hard return goals. When wireless email came out, many vendors tried to sell it by calling it a “time saver” by adding up those “saved” minutes (by not having to wait and do email on a PC/laptop, but rather when there was downtime) each week, hours each year and multiplied by a salary. Did any company think they were actually “saving” that money? Not really. Time savings is a soft return and should be included there generally, unless it is reflected in increased, quantifiable actions somewhere else.

So in summary, most companies don’t do thorough business cases justifying new technologies, business cases are made up of both ROI and VOI and are needed, depending on where the technology is on the adoption/maturity curve. Enterprise mobility often requires a business case today, and understanding all the elements will make it easier to justify these new technologies and investments for your own organization.