Hello instant connectivity and contact customer access.
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Mobile CRM users like field sales and service personnel are among the biggest fans and key beneficiaries of wireless technology. All CRM project leaders should recognize that value as well. What follows are three key trends that are helping to propel CRM, as well as our emerging wireless society--and are proving that the time for wireless is now.
1. Hot spots: Hot spots are public areas where people can access the Internet using devices based on 802.11b, or Wi-Fi, a wireless network standard with a range of about 300 feet from a network's access points, or radio transmitters. IBM, AT&T, and Intel announced the formation of Cometa Networks, an ambitious Wi-Fi venture that intends to deploy 10,000 hot spots by year-end in coffee shops, universities, hotels, and elsewhere throughout the United States. Toshiba and Accenture have since announced plans to create an additional 10,000 hot spots in the U.S. In Asia five telecommunications firms have committed to building 20,000 hot spots across Asia by year-end. Expect similar announcements from leading European companies over the next few months (e.g., British Telecom has committed to installing up to 4,000 hot spots by June 2005).
2. Chips ahoy: Leading computer chip manufacturers, including Intel and National Semiconductor, intend to build wireless radio chips into their processors by 2004. Intel has already delivered its first family of integrated wireless 802.11b radio chips as part of the Centrino mobile processor architecture. Moreover, Intel has committed to investing $100 million in Wi-Fi companies, and plans to spend three times that amount promoting its Centrino chips. The implication of this announcement is far reaching: Soon all computer devices will be instantly wireless upon being booted up for the first time.
3. Today, not tomorrow: As a result of the wireless boom more hardware and software vendors are investing larger amounts of R&D funds to bring wireless architectures and applications to market. These include Amdocs, Antenna, AvantGo, Broadbeam, Ericsson, Microsoft, Openwave, OracleMobile, Palm, PeopleSoft, Siebel, Sun Microsystems, and many, many more. Already 50 percent of American companies use Wi-Fi, and this is likely to exceed 75 percent by year-end. There will be in excess of 7 billion wireless computer devices connected to the Internet by 2010.
The impact of our wireless society came to a head for me during a recent business trip to Dallas. When I checked into the Marriott Courtyard at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, I informed the desk receptionist that my computer modem was no longer working and asked whether there was a business center I could use to access the Internet. He pointed up to the ceiling at the Wi-Fi hot spot in the hotel's living room. "Use this," he said. I thanked him, but informed him that I did not have a portable Wi-Fi modem card with me. He said, "Not a problem," and offered me one. "What will all this cost me?" I asked. He surprised me and said, "It's free of charge to our guests."
What does all this mean for the CRM industry? Based on a recent ISM survey of CRM software vendors, 50 percent of all CRM software applications will work in a wireless environment by the end of 2003. This figure should increase to 60 percent by the end of 2004, and to 90 percent by year-end 2005. The wireless impact on CRM has already begun to change the way customer-facing personnel work: Rapid answers to customer questions, fewer delays, instant access to order status and inventory, and real-time intelligence--all of which confirm CRM's driving role behind the real-time enterprise.
How long can you afford to wait before you join the wireless society?
Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM and real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of CRM Automation, and the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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