There is lots of variation in return on investment (ROI) for business intelligence (BI) and analytics.  Some use cases are clear cut, some are greyer.  I’ll share a few thoughts around ROI when it comes to mobile BI and analytics in field sales use cases.  Some of the concepts below can easily be applied to use cases outside of sales.

First, Use Case. 

Not all field sales teams need mobile BI.  If sales people are selling a payroll service, and they don’t use dynamic data in the sales phase or account management phase, there is likely not a true need for mobile BI.  The sales teams that benefit most are the ones that actively manage customers and can leverage data as part of their process.  Good examples can be found in the pharmaceautical industry, life sciences, and consumables.

Measuring the Before and After

A key to grasping ROI is to understand the state and processes prior to deploying new mobile BI capabilities.  The post deployment state needs to be measured against the “before” state.  Sometimes deploying mobile BI is the first time the sales people are seeing the data, other times it was delivered via another method (e-mail, online portal, PDF, Microsoft Excel).  In either case, both need to be well understood to measure the impact.

Here are a few areas to look for ROI when mobilizing your BI Data:

  1. Time savings
  2. Delivering new capabilitites
  3. Reduction in friction and increase in BI Adoption
  4. Driving business outcomes

1.Time Savings

Quantify the time to access the data via the old delivery method and the new delivery method.  For new delivery methods, I’ve seen examples where the initial state was: open laptop, login, VPN, Navigate to an online portal, filter -> data.  After deploying mobile BI, the process was, open phone, launch app, tap 1, tap 2 -> data.  In this case, the time savings can be minutes. Multiply how many times a day the data is accessed by the number of sales people and the savings can be substantial.

For delivering data to a mobile employee for the first time, the data may not have been readily accessible.  For example, say an employee meets a customer who asks, what’s the status of my order from Tuesday?.  In this case, it may mean a phone call would need to be placed back to order management or perhaps a follow-up action once they’re back in the office to get the data back to a customer would need to be performed.  Having the data on a mobile app and a few taps away is always faster than having to go and retrieve it with another method.

2.Delivering New Capabilities

Often e-mail is used to send Microsoft Excel or PDFs with data to sales people’s phones and tablets.  I’ve seen some sales teams actually move from printed paper to mobile BI.  Either way, filtering, sorting and changing time dimension can’t easily be done on a mobile phone without a true mobile BI application.

Allowing sales teams additional capabilities can deliver new insights which can improve actions and decisions in the field.  Take time to understand the impacts of allowing users additional ad-hoc capabilities, the new actions/decisions that can be made and what improvements can be realized.

3.Reduction in Friction and Increase in BI Adoption

Allowing easy access to KPIs and BI reports on mobile devices can reduce friction found in other delivery methods, which can increase adoption.  Investment in data warehousing and analytics can be stifled if users are not accessing the data and insights the produce.

Delivering data and insights that are a few taps away, are easily accessible, and always available can improve adoption and value realization of the overall investment in producing, housing, and maintaining data.

4.Driving Business Outcomes

Giving sales users insights into sales performance, real-time insight into actuals vs targets, and visibility into cross-sell opportunities can drive behavior.  Driving behavior, especially when linked to compensation, can yield results.

Measure the business outcomes before and after deploying mobile capabilities to gain insight into the ROI of providing these insights.  Other variations, seasonality, and outside impacts need to be considered, but over time across the sales force there should be an improvement in business outcomes.

Delivering insight into customer orders, shipping, and promotional targets while in front of a customer can also improve service levels and the customer’s perception of responsiveness.

Your Point of View

I’ve shared my thoughts around ROI when it comes to mobile BI and analytics. What do you think? Do you have other field sales use cases to share?

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