August 10, 2015
Today, we will discuss yet another cultural and organizational challenge of wearables at work: Proving ROI.
How does one measure the ROI of wearable technology in enterprise settings? How does one show statistical results of wearables in the workplace? We have been told of the potential benefits of wearable tech in business and industry, told that wearables could improve communication, provide greater access to information, increase efficiency, enhance productivity, augment safety, build better customer relations, etc. etc. But where’s the proof? Where are the numbers?
The Human Cloud at Work research project conducted by Dr. Chris Brauer of Goldsmiths, London may be the closest any organization has come to providing robust stats for wearables in enterprise. At the very least, it is the most referenced study. It may be that it is difficult to prove the ROI of wearables simply because we are at the early stages of this new wave of mobile technology–perhaps that is why there aren’t very many statistical results or figures being pronounced. A statement such as “The use of smart glasses in this manufacturing industry application increased productivity by X% and saved the adopting company Y amount of dollars over the course of Z months” is hard to come by in news sources today (though it would be great if such reportage existed).
So how does one prove the ROI of wearable technology? An organization might do so by demonstrating that wearable tech leads to increased (quantifiable) efficiencies, documenting a change in operational activities to that effect; or it might record an increase in revenue or profit resulting from the introduction of wearable devices to the workforce. In simplest terms, wearables have either got to save time or money or both, the two being inextricably linked in most business and industrial applications. In addition, it has to be shown that wearable technology is a better replacement for existing technology solutions like smartphones, tablets, and other hand-held devices. Indeed, the new tech has got to be a lot better than the old tech, and evidently so. Wearables have to save even more time and money than traditional mobile solutions or they just won’t “cut it” in business.
At the end of the day, quite how ROI is calculated comes down to the objectives of the company that is adopting the technology, and the metrics put in place at the outset of that company’s wearable pilot program or firm-wide implementation of wearable devices. It seems corporate wellness programs incorporating fitness-tracking wearables are seeing more measurable results than other workplace wearable programs; yet in cases where wearable technology is being tested to enable remote collaboration between field technicians and experts at home base, several organizations are finding that the time it takes to complete tasks has decreased, which leads to other measurable outcomes such as cost savings and improved customer satisfaction.