Business Case for Mobility: Re-Engineer, Re-Process or Both?
When we meet with organisations, often we are asked for 'best practice'. What are others doing and why, how are they addressing particular areas of their business or processes? How can the most positive business case be achieved with the best ROI?
The title is one that can make or break a business case for mobility. Too little and the business case doesn't stack up and is negative, too much and it is a positive business case with potentially higher cost, a longer timeframe and likely greater risk.
Often inefficiencies exist beyond the proposed mobility solution. A project is being considered to mobilise a particular process, but there are further downstream efficiencies to be gained. Phrases such as 'putting lipstick on a pig' or 'putting a band aid on the problem' are thrown around. Further efficiencies typically include:
- Removal of duplicate data entry into a back office system
- Putting more than one process onto the one mobile device
- Elimination of dispatch from one system but completed in another before being reconciled
- Breaking down siloed work flows and gaining visibility across different business processes
- Removal of duplicate roles
- Data cleansing
Breaking it Down: The Problem, Budget and Time
We know the 'problem' as the opportunity has been identified, which brings us to the 'budget'. It is very good to be able to show the cost savings from introducing a new mobile process, but if there is no budget for a project, these savings remain on paper. This is first and foremost.
With budget being available, this will drive the scale of the project and complexity. Is there an existing mobile software solution in place that a process can be built upon, or is the requirement to procure a solution in the same project? To procure involves due diligence and potentially the formation of a committee of business and IT stakeholders, all of which add cost and time.
Does budget include changes beyond the proposed mobile solution or is this another business unit, cost center or project?
What are the 'time' constraints on project completion? There could be legislative requirements driving the initiative or internally mandated objectives. Perhaps there is budget that must be spent by the end of the financial year or a contractual obligation with a new vendor.
Once budget and time have been ascertained, the path starts to become clearer to the initial question.
OCM is a big consideration. When talking about mobilising a workforce, many of whom are aging and haven't grown up around mobile technology. This area can be a big cost, and must be done correctly to ensure uptake of the solution and benefits are realised. How much responsibility should you put in the hands of newly trained field staff on mobile (albeit likely very experienced in the underlying business function)?
Mandating the use of the solution at rollout is a proven way to ensure uptake is strong. Rather than giving the workforce a device to 'familiarise' themselves with, put in place structured training, contact points, quick reference cards, subject matter experts and walk with them on the journey. The process should be business required with a couple of examples including job completion, audit, inspection and even timesheets for pay, where there isn't any other acceptable method of providing this data back. Placing KPIs around the process, if driven from the top down, re-enforces the business decision to go with this newly mobilised process.
Comfort can be taken in 2014 in the significant amount of self-taught or kid-taught workers. This is a huge bonus when it comes to OCM and has seen a number of our clients persuaded on the device choice, due to familiarity and cross pollination of BYOD. So...
With a reluctance to understate the effort involved in transforming a process onto a mobile platform, this is the simplest, lowest risk and easiest to manage when pitched against addressing the process in the same project. The ROI may not be as large when just transforming from paper to electronic.
Examples ranging from a smaller budget project mobilising basic forms, or smaller business processes and transactions, through to an integrated end-to-end software solution. We typically see with smaller projects, the money is put into the hardware with less spend on project methodology, software, OCM and support. This can be a good foot in the door with mobile, but is a short-term solution, which should be considered when deciding on this path. It may appease push from elsewhere in the business but will quickly outgrow itself, based on its own likely success. By opting for this approach, the removal of paper savings are present as well as time saved by field completing forms, but a number of bigger savings are not realised.
These bigger savings include removal of human intervention back into the host system, which is still present, and limited opportunity to put business rules in to validate data. Full system integrated projects can have a much greater ROI, but come at a higher cost, longer lead time to delivery and higher risk. Once the ground work is laid with a fully integrated solution, other processes can be more easily mobilised with lower cost. Project methodologies can be drawn upon, outlay is much lower for software development and testing with existing support models are able to be leveraged. Costs borne are focused on licences and OCM typically, assuming the same device is leveraged.
Re-Process and Re-Engineer
This has the potential for immediately higher costs, risk and business disruption, but potentially greater business benefits and in a shorter time. This combination can arise from businesses that need to re-process and realise synergies, but have been unable to do it without re-engineering the process onto a mobile platform.
Should someone with the newly mobilised process undertake additional onsite work to derive further efficiencies? Do they have the skills or even the capacity to do this? Is additional equipment or are specialist tools required on their vehicle? Should this be addressed at rollout or progressively over the next 3, 6 or 12 months? Will they need to be compensated additionally or undergo specialist training? Does a crew need to be created that contains all skillsets rather than a single person? What is the risk appetite of the business and stakeholders to tackle both in one go?
These are questions to ask when building the business case for mobility. Sending one person or crew to a location to carry out multiple roles has large benefits, although there is a journey to get there. Utilising project resources that are well versed in the newly mobilised solution can make very good financial sense, rather than visiting again down the track.
We see clients going down both paths and with varying levels of re-processing too. Some opt for a small data clean up, whilst others take on greater change with centralising business functions and cross-utilisation of resources. There is certainly merit in the adage, crawl before you walk, but when learning to crawl the need to walk must be considered.