The Real ROI of Mobility: Part 1 of 4 – Defining Return on Investment in the Mobile World

The Real ROI of Mobility: Part 1 of 4 – Defining Return on Investment in the Mobile World

Mobilitys REAL ROI with Play Button[This article is part one of a four-part series on The Real ROI of Mobility, based on a panel discussion in front of over a hundred business executives at an event hosted by KCNext and Engage Mobile Solutions in Kansas City, MO on September 4, 2014.  The next three parts of the series will be posted over the next three weeks at and]



For “The Real ROI of Mobility: Part 2 of 4 – Control of Device and Data” click here.

For “The Real ROI of Mobility: Part 3 of 4 – Managing Security and Privacy” click here.

For “The Real ROI of Mobility: Part 4 of 4 – Adoption” click here.

The term ROI is bandied about often in business. But do you really know what your return on investment is for a given product or service? What about when you’re talking about mobile?

Recently Kansas City business leaders met at Union Station with KCNext ( and Engage Mobile Solutions ( to discuss the real ROI for mobile technology.  Among the participants was Engage Mobile’s CEO Darrin Clawson, as well as local businessmen Brice Jewell of Cerner Corp., Randy Spivey of CrewTracker Software, and Jeff Turano of Pyramid Roofing Co.

Generally in business, defining ROI means tracking how efficient a product or service is. It pits profits against expenses while accounting for other nuances of business like how long it takes to get the job done and how efficiently systems work. For mobile, it means going beyond what’s tangible.

“Our biggest return of any of this is knowing what’s going on in the field at all times,” says Turano, vice president of Pyramid Roofing Co., Grandview, Mo. The company realized that part of its ROI included positive customer referrals (which increase business overall) and viewing projects in “real time” to maximize profits.

Prior to using a mobile app, Turano would review each day’s roofing jobs the next day. If there were any problems, he’d have to send another crew out a day later to fix the issue. That meant extra labor costs and a threat to the company’s professional image because customers who thought the job was done would see workers returning later. Now Turano views jobs “live” so he can catch any issues immediately and have the on-site crew fix them at once. “We look at every little piece what we do” to maximize ROI, he says.

“A lot of times it comes down to employee efficiency and productivity claims,” says Cerner Corp.’s  Jewell, senior director of enterprise solutions for the Kansas City., Mo-based company. “We try to do timings of how long it takes to do this (or that) and try to identify where there are errors commonly made and what the cost of those errors are. Then we go back and see what kinds of improvements can be made.”

Really, defining ROI for mobile comes down to three things, Engage Mobile’s Clawson says. ROI means:

  1. Making more money/ increasing revenue
  2. Reducing expenses


  1. Managing risk  (It’s harder to see the immediate benefit in this, he notes, because it’s not a engage mobile - kcnext - mobility's real roi - paneltangible thing. However, managing risk could mean staying current with compliance-type situations – taking that step keeps a company at a professional level unmatched by others in the industry. In the long run, that builds the business.)

For Engage Mobile, the ROI defines the first step in creating a mobile app or website. Before

creating a product, Engage Mobile designers are required to get a specific handle on what exactly the client wants to achieve with the mobile app or program. Do they expect the product to increase revenue? Do they want the service to decrease costs?

“Specifically, how are we going to measure how this worked?” Clawson says. The ROI must be clearly defined. “We do that before we ever draw a screen or before we ever start writing a single line of code.”

For CrewTracker Software, DeSoto, Kan., managing ROI meant turning a necessary expense into a way to generate income.

“We have an ROI we have to get,” says Spivey, chief technology officer at CrewTracker. “Then
we have to ask ‘how does that affect our end customer?’ … and ‘how does that bring it back to us?’”

When big retailers like Walmart and Home Depot began requiring certification for snow removal teams, that posed a big expense, he said. Instead of just accepting that cost, CrewTracker formed an alliance with other companies to become a “solutions” provider for anyone wanting to get certified.

“Now we’re marketing that to our customers,” Spivey says. The firm can sell this certification “solution,” which helps its bottom line, while at the same time providing a service that helps other customers better perform their business.

Bottom line: Don’t build a product and then figure out how it will make you money. Define the ROI first. Then get to work.

[Stay tuned for next week’s installment on The Real ROI of Mobility: How Data and Device Control Play a Part; forum participants will explore how ROI ties into keeping devices and data safe while making sure employees have access to all the information they need to do their jobs.]

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