Best Practices: CRM and Wireless

CHICAGO -- Looking to benefit from the advantages of mobile solutions -- including the ability to conduct business and collaborate from anywhere -- companies face increased technology complexity from any integration, operation, or change in business processes, according to analysts at the Gartner Wireless & Mobile Summit 2008 here this week. But by following some best practices that have worked for other firms, companies can help ensure they get the maximum benefit from mobile deployments. Robin Simpson, a Gartner research director, and Monica Basso, a Gartner vice president, were among the presenters at the conference this week, and both stressed the importance of front-end planning when it comes to wireless initiatives. Firms with success in the area have planned carefully before making mobile technology decisions, enabling them to take an established application into the field, according to Basso. By planning at the beginning, a firm or government entity ends up with a comprehensive, integrated wireless solution rather than several different point solutions that may not work together, Simpson added. Basso cited the example of a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, with 20,000 employees across the globe. The company wanted to centralize its mobility infrastructure and align the technology with strategic goals. Led by its chief information officer, the company involved its technology and business leaders in its strategic planning, and thereby was able to develop a successful plan for mobile email migration and consolidation plans, as well as an IT integration plan. The CIO's sponsorship was key to buy-in of the project throughout the organization, Basso said. Similarly, a large local-government entity in a state capital, with several different units clamoring for technology projects, used a mobility framework to prioritize 10 initiatives and set aside funding for another five of the total of 27 that were submitted, Basso said. Local governments and businesses alike rely on short-term contract labor for many projects. Labourpower Recruitment Services, a Melbourne, Australia-based company that provides contract labor, depends on field-based business-development managers to examine project sites to determine requirements. Providing contract labor is a low-margin, competitive business, Simpson says, making the ability to respond quickly absolutely critical. Labourpower had already developed a CRM system to respond quickly to customer needs, but the firm still took nearly two weeks to turn around contracts due to latency in getting information from the field to the central office. By providing the project managers with broadband wireless cards and laptops, the company was able to greatly reduce the turnaround time, and increased its contract win rate from 20 percent to 80 percent, Simpson said. Developing a consumer-accessible wireless capability means selecting only from among widely available technologies, rather than wireless devices with the latest bells and whistles, Simpson said. For example, the Hong Kong Jockey Club had tried for several years to develop a successful mobile-betting system. Originally -- and in vain -- the club had concentrated on high-end devices, but by changing to cellphones and SMS messaging, mobile betting has grown from virtually nothing to represent 10 percent of all bets, according to Simpson. Both Gartner analysts suggested that lessons can also be learned from failures as well as successes. "When mobile projects fail, they tend to do so due to a lack of understanding of people issues, rather than choosing the wrong technology," Simpson said. Devices and networks change faster than jobs, the analysts noted, so companies considering a potential mobile deployment need to focus on the specific required tasks, and should stay technology-neutral. Similarly, applications should be built to change as those devices and networks evolve, Simpson added. Technology providers also need to enable and support innovation by end users.

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