Making the mobile business case


Every mobility initiative needs a solid business case. In this extract from Adam Sivell’s book, Enterprise Mobile Tips and Tricks, he covers all the bases that you need to consider.

To stay in business it’s important to consider how funds are spent. Different sizes and types of businesses go through this process with more or less rigour. Some organisations may be capital-heavy and invest in large equipment or plants. In these cases, IT spending may be seen as a small, insignificant part of the overall investment plan. For others, money spent on IT is core to the business. Regardless, there are usually many competing initiatives for funds.  Creating a business case has a number of benefits:

  • It socialises concepts and aligns vision,
  • It sets the scope and boundaries, and
  • It defines the costs and returns.

A business case for a mobility project can be treated in a similar fashion to other business cases, but there are a few tricks and traps to look out for:

  • New technology is not well understood,
  • Replacing paper may have much bigger benefits than replacing an existing IT system, and
  • A mobile application as part of marketing spend.

If your budget allows, the risks can be somewhat offset by leveraging specific skilled resources or a specialist consulting company to assist with the business case development.

The key elements of a business case specific to mobility are:

  1.  Drivers and principles,
  2.  Requirements,
  3.  Benefits and costs,
  4.  Return on investment, and
  5.  Risks and other factors.

It is becoming increasingly common for executive sponsorship of mobility initiatives, where seed funding is provided to “try out” mobile, do a pilot or similar. Even in these cases when a business case is not formally required, it is valuable to document the requirements, scope, and benefits. With this information, it is easy to de-scope functions in a guided way or request additional funds when the seed runs short.

1. Drivers and principles

It may not always be possible to set drivers and principles upfront. It’s a good idea to get some fundamentals down and then through the business case process, further refine and finalise these. Drivers will help especially with the prioritisation of requirements, and principles may be extremely useful in the design stage. Here are some examples that commonly apply:

  • Project timeframe and/or budgetary constraints,
  • An ongoing programme with various sub-projects,
  • Technology project or a business project,
  • Mandate not to modify existing services/back-end systems,
  • Goal X and Y must be achieved (e.g. paper process must be replaced), and
  • Design-driven approach versus a COTS approach.

2. Gathering requirements

As with other aspects of enterprise mobility, the requirements gathering process can be tricky. It is often hard to specify something that you and your team are not familiar with. Below, a typical process is outlined (to drill down into further detail, refer to the appropriate sections of Enterprise Mobile Tips and Tricks).

Understand your audience

Unless you own the company and make snap decisions, it’s critical here to gather support from the business. Socialise the project, refine the idea, and get some real momentum and excitement going. For example, a survey of the user community for information that proves the need or will support the uptake of the mobility project can really get people interested and make them feel a part of the project. Sometimes enough pressure from the business for an idea will get it across the line.

Leverage expert knowledge

It may pay to work with a vendor to help define the requirements. Make the first part of the project a detailed requirement-gathering exercise, with subsequent phases to actually deliver a solution. Alternatively there is a strong community that is often willing to provide free advice through social networks, blogs, and forums.

Consider alternatives

Depending on your point of view, you may have a business need that can be solved by mobility, or alternatively you may have a mobile solution that you are looking for a business need. Often there are problems, inefficiencies, and gaps in business process, but it may not be apparent to the business that mobility offers a solution. In a replacement project, requirements could heavily leverage your existing process/documentation and IT systems. Be careful, however, as you don’t want to stifle innovation.

Write it down!

The requirements will become the scope of the project. As you work through the project, the requirements may change, so ensure you have an upfront understanding of how to manage the change and associated impacts. At the start it’s advisable to write down everything and think about categorising and prioritising the list of requirements. Consider a high-level scope that drills down into the details of functional requirements (features, functionality, business streams); technical (integration, security, standards); and non-functional requirements (performance, support, training, procurement).
Specifically for enterprise mobility projects, consider the following mobile requirements (each topic is covered in detail in the book):

  • User groups and organisation structure,
  • Device types and form factors (phones, tablets, kiosks),
  • Operating system/s (iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry),
  • Input mechanisms (keyboard, stylus, touch-screen),
  • Peripherals (scanners, printers, RFID),
  • Communications (4G, WIFI, LAN/cradle, Bluetooth),
  • Related mounting and charging hardware,
  • Authentication mechanism (password, SSO, fingerprint),
  • Encryption method and security,
  • Application style (online, offline),
  • Volumes (users, data, organisational elements),
  • Storage requirements,
  • App distribution method,
  • Remote updates, and
  • Integration capabilities.

3. Benefits of enterprise mobility

When it comes to preparing a business case, a thorough investigation of mobile applications benefits is required. As different use cases will have very different benefits, you need to look at your own requirements to understand what the potential benefits are. Some benefits will be easily translated into dollars and others will be more subjective. As well as funding your mobile project, the benefit areas are extremely useful to frame the mobile project’s design principles and constraints. For example, these benefits may indicate whether a feature is mandatory or just ‘nice to have’. A mapping of requirements to benefits can also be helpful if there is a need to de-scope or take a staggered approach to the implementation. The following sections outline example benefit areas for many different types of mobile applications.

Employee self service

Employees are empowered to enter leave/timesheet/expenses directly into their mobile device. Employees can more easily enter the activity when it happens rather than at the end of the week or month. Benefits include:

–    Reduce trips into the office just to do administration.
–    Eliminate the need for a VPN token to access a laptop remotely.
–    Information is more accurate – resulting in fewer credit notes.
–    Information is timelier – resulting in better planning, reporting, and resulting actions.
–    Reduce double handling e.g. taking down timesheets on paper forms and sending them into the office.
–    Photograph/scan receipts directly with the expense claim.


Employees can access customer and sales activity information at the point of business. Existing data can be updated or new data can be entered at the customer site. Benefits include:
–    More accurate information (customers, activities, sales) is more accurate.
–    Reduce double handling (e.g. taking down notes and retyping them later).
–    Act on customer leads/opportunities/sales in real time.
–    Be better prepared for customer facing engagements.
–    Spend more time with customers and less time in the office.

Service/plant maintenance/asset maintenance

Employees can receive and view jobs in the field. Jobs can be transacted through to completion and new jobs can be created while on site. Assets can be inspected, updated, and created on the fly. Benefits include:
–    More accurate information (jobs, assets, customers).
–    Reduce double handling.
–    Easier to plan and schedule workforce.
–    React to changes more quickly.
–    Less need to travel to the office.
–    Take payments directly in the field.
–    Print customer receipts in the field.
–    Scan and interface directly to data.
–    Process conformity.


Employees can capture and/or scan counts directly into a mobile device. Benefits include:
–    Reduced time to complete stocktake and fewer count errors.
–    Reduced paperwork.
–    Enable more frequent stocktake, guided and/or blind stocktakes, and cycle counting.
–    Print new labels.
–    Process conformity.

Proof of delivery

Enable employees to receive a schedule of deliveries on a mobile device. While on site, enable the update of delivery, inventory, and AR data. Capture customer signatures and take payments at the customer location. Benefits include:
–    Reduction of paperwork.
–    Information timeliness.
–    Inventory accuracy.
–    Improvement of DIFOT.
–    Simplified cash reconciliation.
–    AR position accuracy.
–    Customer signature capture.
–    Reduction of errors and credit notes.

Mobile training and documentation

Enable employees to receive documentation out in the field to support training and/or OH&S. Benefits include:
–    Push reminders and documents to employees.
–    Ensure process conformity and compliance.
–    Reduce need to travel.

Mobile inventory/warehouse management

Enable employees to transact receipts, transfers, and other inventory movements with a mobile device and/or scanner. Benefits include:
–    More timely information.
–    Eliminate errors and reliance on paperwork.
–    Scan documents, inventory, and locations.
–    Improved DIFOT.

Retail loyalty application

Allow customers to get in store location based specials. Benefits include:
–    Reduction in churn.
–    Fewer walkouts, and more sales.
–    Targeted and directed sales.

Customer self service application

Enable customers to perform AR self-service tasks on their mobile device, reducing calls through to a support desk. Benefits include:
–    Reduction in customer churn.
–    Increased customer satisfaction.
–    Reduction in cost of service.

4. Calculating the ROI

Return on investment (ROI)… Is it worth investing in this mobility project? Depending on your business, the benefits and costs can be modelled over a sensible time period, and mobile project-specific benefits and costs are outlined below.

Benefit calculations

Some will say that benefit calculation lies somewhere between black magic and science. Benefits can be tangible or intangible and may relate directly to finance, operations, staff, customers, or many other categories. It is often helpful to utilise scale models for the expected size of the benefit with a conservative and best case models. Here are some specific examples that can be used as a starting point:
–    Enhanced IT control and productivity,
–    Protection against data breaches,
–    Increased revenue,
–    Reduction in administration overheads,
–    Travel savings,
–    Paper/printing savings,
–    Reduction in ongoing training costs, and
–    Increased cashflow.
–    Improved operational efficiency,
–    Reduction in management,
–    Enhanced quality of collaboration,
–    Greater timeliness of information,
–    Reduced and more transparent audit trail,
–    More accurate accounting of employees day,
–    Reduction in data errors, and
–    Reduction in credit notes and return of goods.
–    Increased staff satisfaction,
–    Increased organisational culture, and
–    Longer staff retention.
–    Improved customer satisfaction,
–    More accurate invoicing,
–    Customer retention, and
–    Increase customer base.
Often a calculation with workings will help justify your savings. Included are a couple of examples of how this is commonly done for mobile benefits:
Value of immediacy = (# of users) X (task value) X (# of tasks) X ({db8ca4bbfe57dc8f9b6df9233a3a6c04f4968125edf9bb330d4f787c3a87cd09} of Time Importance)
Recovery of time = (# of users) X (salary cost) X (mins/day saved)
Elimination of calls = (# of staff) X (# of calls) X (average call time) X ({db8ca4bbfe57dc8f9b6df9233a3a6c04f4968125edf9bb330d4f787c3a87cd09} of calls avoided)

Cost calculations
Costs are generally easier to calculate than benefits. You need to be especially careful when evaluating solutions that you are truly comparing apples with apples.
In the business case, you want to document as many costs and categories as you can. You can firm these up more fully if and when you go to market. When dealing with vendor solutions, closely examine the terms and conditions and customer responsibilities to see if there are any additional costs that need to be baked in. As these costs are likely to be estimates, ensure you understand what contingency your service providers are including and add your own contingency if necessary. Some specific cost areas for mobile projects include:

  • Product licensing costs,
  • Project software costs (e.g. does everyone need a license for Microsoft Project or Visio?),
  • Implementation service costs (what deliverables and phases does this include?),
  • Business and IT support during the project (after all, it’s usually not just the vendor doing the work),
  • Mobile hardware costs (and their lifespan/replacement costs),
  • Communications costs (consider the costs of data plans),
  • Infrastructure/hosting costs (can be tricky to compare apples with apples),
  • Ongoing support costs (consider in-house or external, software and hardware), and
  • Change management/training costs.

5. Risks

As discussed in the benefits section, some aspects of a business case will evolve into an art versus science style debate. Each organisation will have its own degree of rigour around the risk management process for projects. At a minimum, ensure you consider the mobile technology-specific risks:

  1. Things are changing constantly – will you still be able to buy the same mobile devices in six months’ time?
  2. Will the operating systems and development languages change?
  3. Can you ensure adequate skills?
  4. How will you ensure user uptake of the solution?

With a large number of countries having a mobile phone penetration rate of greater than 100 per cent, mobile computing is becoming ubiquitous. This kind of statistic might lead you to believe that mobile projects are easy with a guaranteed ROI. There are of course costs, risks, and challenges that need to be considered. It is well worth discovering (and documenting) your particular requirements and benefit areas. Can you get benefit out of mobile projects? Yes, you can! Should you invest in a business case? Yes, you should!

Adam Sivell has worked in IT since the mid-1990s. He has worked on more than 30 SAP and mobile projects. Adam works for SAP but his opinions are his own. To find out more about Adam, visit His book, Enterprise Mobile Tips and Tricks, is a useful reference for anyone currently engaged in or embarking on a mobility project, and is available in all popular eBook formats for mobile or browser via iTunes, Google, Amazon, and Smashwords. This article was first published in Inside SAP Summer 14/15.

Leave a Reply