You may find that your service is more responsive to your customers because your service staffers have their devices on them all the time. It may be easier to check something while they are out in the field on a simple handheld device rather than going back into the office to open the manual on a computer. They may be able to respond quicker because the information arrives faster.
Then and now
Let's take the example of an insurance adjuster. Even just a few years ago, if you had a car accident, you would call the adjuster and make an appointment for him or her to inspect the damage to your car. The adjuster would come out, take pictures, start a draft report, then head back to the office. He or she would do some research on your car -- how old it was, where the damage was -- then let you know what repairs you were eligible for. If you were lucky, he or she would cut you a check.
Today, the adjuster comes out with a mobile device, takes pictures, and uploads them while standing with you. In many cases, that adjuster can check out repair costs and even cut you a check in the same visit. It also takes the adjuster a quarter of the amount of time, so he or she can see more clients each day. What is the value to that insurance company of streamlining the process? A lot.
The same can happen on a manufacturing line. You may have a dozen machines stamping out pieces and putting them together. You visit the machine once an hour, and on the clipboard attached to the machine, you write down all the relevant statistics on how it's doing. At the end of the shift, you collect the paperwork and put it into a computer. If there was a problem, you may not realize it until the end of the day when all the data gets crunched. That's how it's long been in factories.
Today, you can do the same thing with a tablet that you walk around with. All the relevant information is processed as you enter it. You can detect issues earlier and reduce the amount of time you spend on a task. Eventually, these machines will report themselves, and the analysis will be done automatically while you spend your time working on something else. How much is that worth to the business? Again, a lot.
We need to stop looking at everything as a cost center that we have to cut to bare bones and instead look at the value we derive from enabling our users and our business. It may not be a simple ROI equation, but it needs to stop being just a line in the budget. Learn to change your thinking from cost to value; in the long run, your business will be much happier and more successful.
This article, "Stop treating mobile as a cost center," originally appeared at A Screw's Loose and is republished at InfoWorld.com with permission (© Brian Katz). Read more of Brian Katz's The Squeaky Wheel blog at InfoWorld.com or at A Screw's Loose. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.