Mobile CRM Finds a Permanent Home
Historically, many CRM vendors haven’t made the mobile component of their suites a priority, and have either added it as a future upgrade or relied upon a specialist partner or integrator to provide it. One such specialist is iEnterprises -- one of CRM magazine's Rising Stars of 2007 -- and its focus has always been on mobile CRM solutions. The company’s Mobile Edge and iExtensions products now have a younger, more multitalented sibling with the recent introduction of iEnterprises Empower, a browser-based CRM system that can cross the boundaries between the desktop and the wireless device.
Empower builds upon iEnterprises’ experience with mobile devices, including the RIM BlackBerry family and Windows Mobile devices, and with integrations to Lotus Notes and Microsoft Outlook. This means strong email and calendar integration, including what John Carini, chief software architect of iEnterprises, calls “email caller ID.” In a sense, Empower eliminates the middleman by providing iEnterprises’ mobile functions and desktop integrations in one package. Full integration with Apple's iPhone is in the works, Carini says, and could debut before the end of 2008. Social networking functions are also coming soon.
The configurable business-logic rules engine in Empower lets users automate processes across multiple products, so current iEnterprises customers won’t be forced to scrap what they already have before jumping onto the new platform. In fact, Empower uses Mobile Edge as its wireless component. Customers will be able to stay with what they prefer and use Empower to unite and extend their CRM capabilities, according to Carini. “Empower preserves the upgrade path,” he says. “You don’t need an integrator."
Empower is built on the set of open standards known as LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) and on open-source programming, which keeps the cost down and should appeal to customers who want to alter or add capabilities beyond the scope of the basic package. The company claims Empower is scalable -- from a handful of users all the way up to large enterprises. Further, it can be deployed as an on-premises system or through the software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery model. While it’s not the sort of user-interface sandbox that many vendors (such as SAP and Salesforce.com) have implemented, Empower does have a full set of tools for creating and customizing business rules and workflows. “It’s highly configurable from a power-user perspective,” Carini says.
Analyst reaction has been light so far, as iEnterprises soft-launched Empower and hasn’t been pushing for attention. “They need to punch up the marketing and really accentuate the mobile,” says Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM consultancy Beagle Research Group. The visibility and differentiation such an effort could provide would go a long way toward making an impact in an already crowded market. This is especially true of SaaS applications, a subgroup that has grown cluttered with new vendors and platform technology partners. “If you’re gonna be in the cloud, you’ve gotta stand out,” Pombriant says. “This seems like a ‘me-too’ kind of product.”
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