What is Mission Critical?

Mission Critical : Activity, device, service, or system whose failure or disruption in normal business hours will result in the failure of business operations. For example, for an online business, the communication system is mission critical; for a steel mill, water and power supply have the same importance.

So it goes to reason that if a company implements a solution it considers Mission Critical and that solution delivers an R.O.I. substantial enough to merit the investment in the technology initially, the solution is worth implementing in a professional industrial manner.

A solid R.O.I. analysis must start with a thorough understanding of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Elements like initial equipment costs and replacement costs are only a small portion of the TCO of a mobile technology implementation. VDC’s research indicates that the device costs often make up less than 30% of the TCO.

A well designed TCO model considers all expenses associated with the solution implementation and lifetime support starting with a solid understanding of your intended use environment. This understanding will help you avoid a common mistake. Very often companies deploying mobile technology for the first time underestimate their workers environment by implementing consumer or commercial grade equipment into an industrial application with the ultimate result being an excessively high failure rate and a cascade of costs that follow.

David Krebs of VDC Research puts it well: “When it comes to determining the optimal mobile computer, many evaluators underestimate the risks associated with the deployment environment. This fault is most common among first time adopters of mobility who fail to consider device durability and deploy solutions without consideration of the soft costs associated with device failure.

According to VDC Research, of respondents who deployed solutions to non-carpeted environments, 37.8% deployed commercial-grade solutions. Of this group, 61.7% did not evaluate semi-rugged or fully rugged solutions. However, and perhaps most interestingly, most users of rugged or durable/business rugged mobile solutions initially adopted commercial grade hardware. In other words, having experienced the pain of high rates of failure, they took a more proactive approach with subsequent deployments.”

So as you can tell, ruggedness counts. Ruggedized devices provide a TCO advantage because they have longer replacement cycles, and result in less breakdowns, repair expenses and lost productivity while they are in service. The average annual failure rates for non-ruggedized, handheld computers is 38 percent, compared to just 11 percent for ruggedized models. Companies typically plan to keep mobile computers for enterprise operations in service for 31/2 years, but less than one in five non-ruggedized models will survive that long. The longer mobile devices are exposed to working conditions, where drops are common, work takes place in hot and cold temperatures, equipment is exposed to rain, snow, dust and humidity, the more value rugged construction provides.

The average annual TCO for consumer-oriented PDAs and smart phones ($3,894) used for business is 42.6 percent higher than that for enterprise-grade ruggedized handheld computers ($2,731).

The facts are failure rates, the resultant loss of solution benefits, combined with extra support costs associated with non industrial ready solutions increase your TCO dramatically. Often times these increases are hard to find because many are buried in increases to your operational expenses. If you’ve implemented a consumer/commercial grade device into an industrial solution your IT staff is now over burdened with support calls and supporting multiple variations of your solution, your mobile workers are often spending days without the benefits the solution was implemented to deliver, your customers are feeling the operational differences between a worker with a working solution and one without.

In tight times can your business suffer extra downtime, loss of operational efficiency & accuracy or bruised customer service? Can your business afford a consumer grade solution?

Written by Jeff Sibio

Director, Industry Marketing Trucking / Fleet Management & Postal CEP at Intermec, a Descartes United by Design Alliance Partner