CRM for the Mobile Workforce

Salespeople are the most demanding groups in most organizations, and it is important for companies to provide salespeople with the newest technologies. Although mobile technologies are starting to gain in popularity, the technology is still vastly underused by sales professionals looking for that extra edge to help them close the deal in a competitive market. The past The laptop computer produced the first "mobile" environment, and allowed workers to take to the streets with technology applications. However, in the early years mobile workers were required to dial in to their corporate office via a telephone from a remote location. Often it was difficult, if not impossible, to get an outside line to dial in to the network. As a result, these mobile workers had to rely on information relayed over the phone by a coworker located at the corporate office, or by receiving a fax to their hotel, which then required the mobile worker to transcribe the information on to the laptop. One aspect that allowed workers to truly become mobile was the use of CD-ROMs with detailed business information. However, this information was only updated annually or once a quarter, and thereby did not fully arm the mobile workforce with the necessary information to improve prospecting, increase closing rates and ultimately adding to the bottom line. The next solution to emerge on the scene was adding wireless capabilities to major CRM and SFA solutions. These portals allowed workers to simply access the company's main information through a simple Web browser. There was no need to dial back in to the main network, but there was still a need for a connection to the Internet to allow for true mobility. There was also the fact that many mobile workers were reluctant to enter information into the systems and therefore the information contained in these portals was outdated and inaccurate. The present
Today we are seeing the path paved to true mobility. Even with the growing number of wireless devices, the fundamental issue of replicating the CRM or SFA system on the device remains a major stumbling block for the mobile workforce. For salespeople, the goal is to close the deal, not enter information so a company's CRM system is updated. As a result, the information too often falls to the wayside, and thus the system continues its lack of reliability. The most popular solutions today are ones that allow for tight integration with the email system. Salespeople will always need email access, so if the CRM system can take advantage of email synchronization, then it becomes seamless. The future Many analyst firms predict that wireless CRM will continue to grow, with predictions indicating more than 36 percent growth in the industry through 2008. However, there are two fundamental reasons mobility will not reach complete adoption sooner: the cost of appropriate mobile devices and of the SFA and CRM systems themselves. It is also important to understand the limitations of the mobile workforce. While it is essential to develop a system that the outside workforce can use, one must keep in mind that there are still numerous internal personnel that must have full access to a wide variety of information for additional purposes. As a result, there is a fundamental need to create a hybrid of both mobile and fixed CRM systems that can truly be integrated in real time. Until a truly mobile CRM system is fully developed, the mobile workforce will continue to spend much of its time updating the corporate system, rather than spending time closing the deal and adding to the bottom line. About the Author Benjamin Holtz is president and CEO of Green Beacon Solutions, a midmarket-focused consulting and systems integration firm providing CRM and ERP solutions. Contact him at bholtz@greenbeacon.com
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