Pocket-Size CRM Choices Grow

Handhelds have long been considered perfect as contact management assistants, but the new generation of powerful wireless data devices is drawing the attention of serious CRM players. Salesforce.com and Sendia recently launched a RIM BlackBerry edition, and SAP unveiled plans to port mySAP to BlackBerry at its recent SAPPHIRE conference. "We're seeing a lot of pull from this, and a huge amount of interest in mobile CRM, period," says Kevin Rickson, mySAP CRM director of global marketing. "The overall reason for doing it is not just to support one of the leading mobile platforms, but to extend CRM applications further out in the field." Rickson anticipates from user feedback that in addition to the expected use for contact reference and last-minute opportunity updating, handheld mySAP will be used to collect survey data from prospects in the field. Not only would the data be reported instantly, but users also could view instant analysis and reporting through the BlackBerry interface. Although some PDAs can now hold more than a gigabyte of data, specialized devices like the BlackBerry have just barely more than a megabyte of free space after Sendia's Salesforce.com browser is installed, meaning users cannot carry enormous corporate databases in their pocket. "We aggressively manage that data set when we have connectivity" to optimize the stored information for the most likely needs of the field user, says Christopher Lumby, Sendia director of marketing communications. In addition to BlackBerry, Sendia has plans to support other handheld data platforms, including the PalmOne Treo and certain PocketPC form factors, with Symbian as a possible future addition. "We are [first targeting] those with a keyboard, to focus on productivity tools rather than data toys," Lumby says. Customers of the Salesforce.com/Sendia Blackberry integration solution pay $35 per user per month for a Sendia-hosted version of the product. A subscription-based on-premise version of the software is also available. It remains to be seen how strong uptake will be. So far Sendia has only a handful of customers for its handheld, Salesforce.com offering, and SAP will not be rolled out until later this year. "These PDA, cell phone, and pager interfaces for SFA have been around for a number of years, and really are a great fit for a small segment of traveling salespeople who are managers and have very high value for small amounts of real-time data," says Joe Outlaw, chief analyst of Outlaw Research. Outlaw predicts that for executives who are already equipped with BlackBerry devices, adding this functionality may seem a logical step, but large-scale deployments will be rare. "If it's not going to replace laptops, they are not going to do it," he says.
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