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Sales Hits the Road
Three CRM vendors have released applications for mobile devices in recent days. What's the payoff for the sales representative?
Posted Nov 22, 2007
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Three companies recently announced new or enhanced mobile versions of their CRM solutions, taking advantage of what one industry analyst calls increased demand for CRM software that can hit the road. The following mobile CRM application announcements came within days of each other:
  • Oracle released its Siebel CRM Mobile for the Blackberry platform;
  • iEnterprises announced the availability of its prebuilt wireless CRM application, Mobile Edge, for Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers; and
  • for BlackBerry, Palm, or Windows Mobile devices, Antenna Software released AMPower Sales for Oracle's PeopleSoft Enterprise CRM.
These announcements come at a time of continued functionality convergence and technology improvement to mobile devices such as cellular telephones and Palm Treos. The difference is easy to see, says Peter Marston, CRM analyst at Forrester Research: Just compare the one-dimensional capabilities of your previous cell phone to those of the multifunction device in your pocket today. "These devices are getting more robust in what they can do," Marston says. "They're also getting more relevant, as companies actually integrate data stores in the face of the demands of sales and field reps trying to get info from their systems." Platform standardization, specifically the industry trend toward services-oriented architecture (SOA), is making it easier to implement and integrate mobile solutions within the enterprise. SOA platforms provide flexibility to bring together application data from disparate applications and data sources to better assist field sales reps in their daily tasks, Marston says. In just the past six months, for example, iEnterprises, of Murray Hill, N.J., has released mobile CRM applications for SugarCRM, NetSuite, and Microsoft Dynamics. "All CRM needs a real-time mobile component today," says John Carini, iEnterprises' chief software architect. His company gives users offline access to their data, meaning the information is stored on the mobile device itself, and therefore more easily accessible than it would be via Web browser.
"Do you remember the last time you tried to [load] a Web application on your cell phone?" he asks. "Remember how long it took? This is easier to use than on the Web. We built an app directly on the BlackBerry. The bottom line is you have a replica or subset of your CRM information available right on the BlackBerry--and when you interact it's instantaneous because it's directly on the device." Access to CRM data via mobile devices can be even more esoteric, says Jim Somers, vice president of marketing at Antenna Software, such as the ability to call customers from the road with the simplicity of a single click. Somers delineates other reasons a sales representative might access CRM on his or her mobile device. "There's a sense of loss of time in the sales force--70 percent of the time is actually lost time and 30 percent of the time [is spent] selling," Somers says. "People are traveling outside the office and spending time on administrative tasks. We've created a solution to give them real-time access to data out in the field. It helps them saves time and reduce administrative costs and helps companies reduce cost of mileage and traveling around." But, in the end, the most important reason that more sales representatives are demanding mobile applications is simple, Marston says: They know that instant access to CRM applications can ease headaches in the field. "They're not connecting to the systems and downloading these huge files," he says. "It's really [just] updating an order or capturing information from a contact, or [seeing] what type of interaction has happened, to get background on the customer. Mobile is useful for last-minute prep."

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