Stop treating mobile as a cost center

You won't net much savings for your company if you don't consider mobile's value along with its costs

Whenever you have a conversation about mobile, you invariably end up discussing BYOD (bring your own device) and COPE (corporate-owned, personally enabled) programs. It can turn into a debate about which is better, which one is easier to support, or which one costs more. This then turns into a cost exercise. One person or another will form a team to study the costs associated with mobile and what can be done to bring them down. That's all wrong.

The goal of any mobile program is to enable your business to meet its goals by enabling your users. You are looking to improve business processes, reinventing old ones and creating new ones that allow your business to grow through the use of mobile technology. You are trying to provide your users with the right tools, which means the right device matched with the right app, to allow them to focus on their own duties to get whatever task they need done when and where they need to do it. You spend your effort trying to make your workforce more flexible and agile while increasing its productivity and efficiency -- so far, so good.

[ InfoWorld's Galen Gruman shows when the tech to manage your mobile expenses -- BYOD or not -- can cost more than it saves. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT newsletter today. ]

Then what do you do? You decide it's a cost center. You are providing mobile technology at some price, and you look for ways to lower that cost.

The problem with doing things this way is that no matter how good your intentions, you end up lowering expectations and taking shortcuts in an effort to save a few dollars. You rationalize it's OK if your users can only use one type of device because it's cheaper to buy from one device maker. There might be an app that does a better job and allows your employees to work a little more flexibly, but it costs twice as much -- never mind whether it's adequate. You begin to make compromises. These compromises pile up and eventually take you back to the land of legacy thinking. It's quite simply the wrong approach.

Cost vs. value

This is not to say that cost doesn't matter, but what if you were to look at it a little differently? When you look at your mobile program, concentrate on the value you derive by enabling your users. Figure out how much more productive they become. Calculate how much more agile you are as a company. Stop looking at mobile as a cost center and start looking at the value it provides.

The quest is for the company to meet its business goals. These can be hard numbers, like the amount of sales or repeat sales. It can be how many times you have to service a product or how easy it is to acquire new business. Whatever these goals, you have to see how mobility helps you meet them.

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