Friday, October 1, 2004

Cost-saving TCO tips for enterprise mobile solutions


By Dale Troppito and Dawna Paton

Ok, you've had a month to digest the set of cost drivers that contribute to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a mobile enterprise solution. In this month's column, let's take the TCO discussion one step further.

You might be asking, "Just how can the selected handheld unit really make a big difference in the mobile solution TCO? A handheld is a handheld, right?"

Wrong! The handheld you select, and how you deploy it, can greatly sway the TCO outcome for your organization. Let's see how by discussing a few top practical tips.

Handheld unit costs

The cost of the basic handheld unit varies widely -- by model within a given manufacturer's line, and across handheld manufacturers. It's important to assess the handheld capabilities that are really necessary to support the mobile enterprise solution you wish to deploy.

Do the users truly require every "bell and whistle" that top-of-the-line handhelds have come to offer? The message here is: don't over buy; buy what you need ... but with foresight of the direction you want to take your mobile solution.

Not only can you lower the basic device cost investment, but you might also reap payback in ease of mobile solution use. Often the complexity of a fully-loaded handheld can make the mobile solution somewhat unapproachable for users. Less can be more!

Mobile solution environment

Where and how is your mobile solution going to be used? Will the handheld be coddled? Or will it be exposed to harsh operating environments on a manufacturing floor or at the drill-hole edge of an oil rig site? The ruggedness of the handheld must be considered.

Ruggedness of handhelds varies across manufacturers. If your user community will be in operating situations where the handheld is likely to be jostled, dropped, exposed to extreme temperatures, harsh chemicals, etc., you may need to invest in a more rugged handheld in order to save money over the lifetime of your mobile solution.

Sometimes it's not a harsh operating environment, but a harsh user community. If your user community has a bad case of the "dropsies", you could be facing a bundle of handheld replacements ... and a bundle of additional cost. Most enterprises decommission handhelds with broken screens, replacing the entire unit.

Dropped handhelds are the leading reason for handheld replacement, followed by the user simply losing the unit. So maybe a drop test is something to consider when making your mobile solution's handheld selection.

While rugged handhelds often cost more than non-rugged handhelds, the savings is derived from lower handheld replacement rates, lower repair depot costs and a small spare pool size.