If your enterprise has a substantial workforce in the field and you have a CRM system up and running, now is the time to evaluate a mobile CRM investment.
There are a number of measurable and quantifiable benefits that a mobile CRM solution can provide workers accessing and sharing enterprise information from the field. Although these benefits vary from industry to industry, they typically include increased productivity, improved customer satisfaction, enhanced inventory management and faster revenue recognition. Here’s how that breaks down:
- Increased productivity. A well-executed mobile solution enables a smaller field team to service your current client base or your current field team to expand its client base. Field staff will be able to update important client information on the go, cutting administrative time requirements.
- Improved customer satisfaction. Mobile CRM accelerates customer responsiveness. Sales reps can enhance their relationships with customers through point-of-contact access to order tracking and purchase history. Quick and easy access to this information will create more timely service, boosting customers’ experience.
- Enhanced inventory management. Mobile CRM can help you lower bloated inventory costs and effectively manage stock allocation.
- Faster revenue recognition. Within minutes of a sale, your finance department can record a transaction and report revenue earnings. This has significant impact on the bottom line. The sooner an enterprise recognizes revenue, the sooner it can send out an invoice, expediting the accounts receivable process.
So what do you need to do to go mobile? A mobile CRM solution is made up of three components:
- CRM back-end systems
- Wireless handheld devices for mobile access
- Mobile middleware for the interactions
There are two ways that a handheld device can interact with the back-end system:
- The device has real-time access to the CRM system via a browser.
- The device automatically synchronizes with the CRM system at predetermined intervals or manually upon user request.
Most CRM vendors use a browser-based approach to make their solution mobile. Unfortunately, this approach does not provide the kind of robust solution that optimizes the user experience. Browser-based solutions assume that a network connection is always in place and do not provide the user with offline functionality. Despite vendor claims to the contrary, wireless coverage is not ubiquitous, and broadband wireless is not where it needs to be to create a cost-effective mobile CRM system based on Internet connectivity.
|Offline functionality is king
CRM vendors with mobile solutions providing offline functionality include ACCPAC, Oracle-PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel.
CRM vendors that use the AvantGo mobile platform to provide their mobile solution with offline functionality include Onyx and salesforce.com.
Third-party solutions that provide offline functionality to a variety of CRM solutions include: iEnterprise’s CRM on the Go for the BlackBerry and Good Technology’s GoodAccess for the Pocket PC and Palm OS.
A solution that provides offline functionality circumvents the limitations of real-time mobility. With regularly scheduled synchronization, users can download the information they need to their handheld device without having to rely on 24-7 connectivity.
Making the business case for mobility
Don’t be put off by the price tag. The most important thing to remember when calculating the costs of a system extension is: Don’t count unassociated infrastructure items. The key to finding the ROI in a mobile CRM solution is rolling the calculation into the ROI of your current CRM system. As an extension of your infrastructure, the projected benefits and costs of adding mobility must be integrated into your current yearly forecasts. And the last thing you want to do is double-count costs already built into your original CRM ROI calculation. Your main cost considerations are likely to be in the middleware license and implementation.
Simplify the process by dividing your projected costs into the following cost silos:
- Software: This is the middleware used to move back-end data unto a handheld.
- Hardware: It includes additional handheld devices and new servers.
- Personnel: These are the IT staff required to implement the solution.
- Consulting: These are external personnel required to help you implement the solution.
- Training: This includes the costs of the instruction (and instructor) as well as employee downtime.
- Miscellaneous: Be sure to include the bandwidth required to transmit data to the handheld fleet.
Of course, just as with a stationary CRM system, merely going mobile isn’t going to solve all your problems. Do your homework and follow these rules of thumb when you’re investigating a mobile solution implementation:
- Do not buy a new CRM system just because it has wireless support. Although the promise of mobile CRM is great, it must be viewed as a system extension for organizations that have already successfully implemented CRM. The CRM learning curve is otherwise far too great to expect a reasonable ROI.
- Know the measurable benefits of mobile CRM in your industry. Although this seems self-explanatory, it is essential to understand how a mobile solution can increase the overall value of a CRM investment. Benchmark the success of a mobile implementation against industry standards.
- Do not let a CRM vendor drive the wireless device selection. How your users are able to interact with a mobile CRM solution is critical. The handheld device will determine the parameters of your users’ interaction with the solution. To ensure buy-in, you need to provide your users with a handheld device that will allow them to get the most out of the solution. Let your users test drive BlackBerry, Pocket PC and Palm devices before making a final decision.
- Avoid real-time access solutions. Ducking out of a middleware purchase that provides offline functionality will cost you in the long run. As I noted above, although real-time connectivity seems like a good idea, wireless coverage and broadband are not where they to be to make this a cost-effective solution. Choose a mobile CRM application that uses a wireless connection intelligently when it’s available but does not depend on it.
- Look for interoperability. Be sure to cost a mobile platform that is based on an open standard like XML. This allows for integration with ERP, intranet, legacy, database and email. Open-standard support also ensures that your application can be used on a wide variety of platforms and is flexible enough to keep up with changing handheld devices.
For enterprises already supporting a CRM infrastructure, making your system mobile can help you improve its ROI. If you have salespeople and support personnel in the field, it is time to investigate CRM mobility.