Getting the CEO and CFO to go Mobile

It’s no secret that enterprises have gone mobile. From retail to field service, more and more industries are utilizing mobile technology to strategically grow business, service clients better and efficiently allocate their workforces’ time. Often these decisions are coming from the C-level instead of the IT department. Mobile vendors are finding they need to get buy in from CEOs and CFOs who have very different motivations than their end users in the field.

While the CEO is looking at mobile implementation as a way to expand the business model, the CFO is tasked with determining if investing in new technology will reduce costs or produce revenue. There are three areas that should be addressed to solidify CEO and CFO buy in: Return on Investment (ROI), Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and management expectations.

Demonstrate the ROI

Recently, Mobile Enterprise released a white paper “CEO and CFO Buy-In: The Key to All Successful Mobile Projects,” which outlined the business proposition when dealing with CEOs and CFOs.  This principle acknowledges that streamlining processes and increasing employee communication boosts productivity, period. For field employees, the ability to receive immediate assignments and GPS directions, access to real-time data entry and the capability to take and quote orders onsite saves the company time and allows more customers to be serviced. While efficiency is a great selling point, the CEO and CFO also want to understand how the technology will produce ROI through productivity gains, lower costs, higher profit margins and increased employee and customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction is an example of a “soft benefit” that is harder to quantify. However, a recent report, “Mobile and Tablet Shopping Demystified: Adoption and the ROI Business Case,” by researchers at the Aberdeen Group noted that the number one external pressure for mobile adoption is rapidly changing customer expectations (at 47%). The ability for enterprises to deliver real-time quotes and purchasing information increases sales and caters to customers’ short attention spans and need for individualized attention quickly.C

Address Total Cost of Ownership Concerns

While increased productivity looks great on paper, there are other support concerns that should be addressed.  Mobile devices grant freedom to the workforce but they also must be updated, require IT support and occasionally need parts replaced. The CFO is likely to be more astute to these life cycle costs than the CEO, but both will want to know what the overall deployment of the product will cost.  Short term warranties (2 years or less), short battery life, broadband support fees for managing external wireless cards and high failure rates all negatively affect TCO and can literally halt business. In fact, recently reported a study that found a 15 percent failure rate for consumer-grade business laptops.

ArborMetrics Solutions, Inc., a nationwide vegetation management company, was looking for a mobile option that addressed these risks and discovered a perfect solution when it deployed Panasonic Toughbook 19 computers to its workforce. Toughbook mobile computers are cost effective for ArborMetrics with long deployments, low failure rates, exceptional battery life and an extended warranty. Management at ArborMetrics also commented that the company has won new contracts with the implementation of its efficient and reliable mobile capabilities.

Consider Mobile Implementation and Management

Computerworld described a study by Enterprise Device Alliance, which states only 16% of organizations reported using mobile device management tools last year. However, this figure is expected to increase to 50% by the end of 2012. Mobile can be a security nightmare as well as a headache for the IT department.  Before the CFO and CEO can sign on the dotted line, they must know that the new system is compatible with company standards, meets the organization’s security needs and is supported internally and externally. Opus Research recently did a survey of 200 C-level executives and found that 60% lacked a defined strategy for managing mobile users.  Panasonic and its partners often work with IT to not only help implement the technology smoothly, but also to keep production running smoothly with superior support.

Steris Corporation experienced this when it equipped its field employees with Panasonic Toughbook notebooks, allowing for more efficient work flow, real-time data entry and on-site customer signature capture.  The company has received a high level of support, including a “hot-swap program” that allows a damaged Toughbook laptop to be exchanged for a fully-functional device within 24 hours or less.

Mobile devices provide field service workers the ability and freedom to service clients better and more efficiently – all in real time. However, at the C-level, concerns vary from overall implementation costs to confusion regarding strategy and management.  As these executives become more involved with purchasing decisions, it’s imperative to address these issues thoroughly to achieve buy-in, in high places.

As we enter this new age of mobile computing, how are you conquering C-level concerns?