Is mobile ROI really all that different from what we learned about in business school? The short answer is no. However, the context and situations are different in mobile when looking at the ROI benefits and use cases. Mobile apps in particular can help users solve some day-to-day activity problems that may have not been previously solvable with other technology.
Hard ROI is rather easy to understand. If you took some basic accounting classes, you should be able to understand the basic cost benefit. Essentially you're spending x dollars to reduce the cost of y.
One example of hard ROI can be found when changing a core business process with mobile. One example of this would be a mobile application in a remote field. Picture this: there is a civil contractor that is putting up wind turbines in West Texas and the crane that is lifting the propeller blades malfunctions. If the Load Moment Indicator (LMI) system within the crane has a bluetooth LE signal, the operator can quickly pull out his tablet and analyze the system while standing right next to the crane. Traditionally, this process would include the technician going through the crane and looking at all of the different mechanical functions and then pulling out a large manual to diagnose the problem. If a mobile app can help the technician find the problem sooner, the technician can save time in repairing the problem and lower the downtime cost of the crane. With mobile, people can find information quickly and can make decisions faster. Companies can easily measure how much time employees save with mobile apps by comparing the length of downtime before and after implementing mobile solutions.
The best practice when developing mobile applications is to develop in an agile scrum methodology. This is counter, especially in the enterprise, to the traditional waterfall methodology of building mobile apps. Instead of spending months upfront defining features and waiting for functioning software from your developers, agile development allows you to see pieces of the software in much shorter increments. Here at ChaiOne, we run weekly or biweekly sprints which means we deliver functioning software builds in 7 to 14 days. By having shorter software development cycles, you will be able to recognize some of that hard ROI much sooner than if you were waiting three to six months for usable software.
Many times the returns that you see from a mobile initiative are a little ephemeral, and often these returns aren't clearly articulated to key stakeholders. Here are some high level soft ROI categories you might consider when measuring the success of your mobile app.
If by virtue of having a mobile app I can get my job done more effectively or more efficiently, you might not be able to draw a direct correlation back to the money saved or gained. Even without the hard bottom line, there is a tangible benefit of getting things done more optimally and allowing your team to be more productive.
Being able to do something on the go can make life easier. A common example of this is an expense tracking application. Most organizations have a process to account for business expenses. After a business trip, employees have to log their receipts from food, travel, or client entertainment. Typically, there is a lag process in getting that report filed. You don't get to do it on the road or right after you make a purchase. If you were able to track these expenses as they happened, the accounting department would be able to gather this information quickly. This will reduce the amount of time it takes for an employee to be reimbursed for business trip expenses.
In relation to portability is the concept of recapturing lost time. In the past, if I was sitting in the doctor’s office or riding up the elevator of a really tall building, I would probably play a quick game of Angry Birds. If I had a mobile application that allowed me to be productive on my mobile device, I would spend that time using the mobile app rather than playing a game. That recaptured lost time is a very real ROI metric.
When you are recruiting new tech savvy talent, your reputation as a brand can play into their decision of whether to work for you or not. Showing some amount of technology leadership by being progressive in adopting mobile technology can be a softer ROI metric.
Many large organizations have found that it is more effective if they sell their products in a slick or attractive way. In the past they might have had glossy brochures or handouts, but these promotional tools were fairly non-interactive. Often, the interaction in the field between a customer and a salesperson would be riddled with errors when they did not have the right presentation or their laptop program had some issues connecting to the office wifi. If you have a mobile app, that entire process can be cleaned up. With a mobile app you can present your materials in a polished and easier format.
Now that we have talked about some of the hard ROI and soft ROI metrics for mobile app development, what are some ROI use cases that you have seen? Let us know in the comments.