Mobile CRM: Not Just for the Enterprise

Summit Strategies' new report, "Selling Mobile Solutions to Small and Midsize Businesses," qualitatively maps out new opportunities for SMBs to work with technology providers to advance the use of wireless beyond cell phones and occasional hot spot or cellular data sessions.

Although major enterprise wireless deployments have traditionally been the domain of large companies, according to Warren Wilson, Summit Strategies practice director, wireless platform developers are increasingly building solutions to suit the needs of companies with fewer than 1,000 employees--and in some cases, as few as 25 or less. Prepackaged wireless solutions promise to get dozens of employees up and running for an investment of just a few thousand dollars each, inclusive of hardware, software, and integration.

Even though SMBs tend to lack the sophisticated IT infrastructure and support of larger companies, they also tend to have less cluttered systems, often basing their operations around tightly integrated solutions or even a single-vendor server system. Consequently, wireless vendors can often come in and integrate wireless connectivity applications with a minimum of consulting hassle. "One of the keys is being able to identify the ROI from these solutions, and on that basis justify a $10,000, $20,000 or $30,000 investment," Wilson says.

Despite IBM's reputation for large enterprise solutions, Big Blue is actually the market leader in SMB wireless solutions, Wilson says. "[IBM] is very effectively tailoring its solutions to the mid-market, in terms of hosting, simplicity, and ease-of-use, and it's recruiting channel partners," he says. IBM's Pervasive Wireless Solutions group has 65 SMB integrators onboard, and plans to increase that to at least 100 by year's end.

Wilson says that the key to wireless growth for SMBs is prepackaged solutions tailored to specific wireless industries. IBM, for example, has designed on-demand field service applications for the electronics and automotive industries, and is developing mobile payment systems for banks.

"Workforce mobility seems to be one of the largest growth areas," says Brian Dalgetty, marketing director at IBM. One of they key challenges to making such systems seamless is the primitive state of roaming wireless broadband networks, something Dalgetty says IBM is working to improve through data connectivity clients that are network-independent.

According to Wilson, the battle for SMB wireless dominance is far from over. "I think both HP and Microsoft have the technology, but it's a matter of focusing on the [SMB] requirements--HP has all of the capabilities that are required, but for some reason hasn't applied much focused energy to provide those solutions for SMBs," he says. "Microsoft obviously has a lot of appeal to SMBs overall, but in terms of mobility marketing hasn't specifically differentiated, and is allowing IBM to get ahead in terms of market traction and mass-market recognition." Other contenders include Cisco, particularly through its ownership of Linksys, and Sybase with its iAnywhere solutions.

"Even enterprise wireless is still in early states--it's far from saturated," Wilson says. "But the SMB market is harder to go after, so it makes sense to start building programs and channels sooner, rather than later."

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