Superstah! Research in Motion, SAP, and CRM 2007 for the BlackBerry - Customer Relationship Management

This is a joint Superstah! award to both SAP and RIM. They collaborated on what I think is,to date,the best release of a mobile CRM application I’ve seen. The interface is excellent—especially given the BlackBerry’s somewhat historically ugly but functional UI. The functionality is solid with both easy navigation to any function for the salesperson and rich salesperson-level management capabilities,which I’ll briefly outline below. There are also several cool and useful features.

But what makes this particularly interesting is that RIM developed the actual application using the sales side of SAP’s CRM 2007. Not SAP. RIM. This collaboration was unprecedented in SAP’s history because they had always developed their own applications in the past. It was a significant cultural milestone as well as a technological one.

Mission 21st Century
From Paul Briggs,RIM’s CRM product marketing manager:
To assess what’s ahead first we must acknowledge the year that was 2008 in mobile CRM as a tipping point. All the major players in CRM—SAP,Oracle,,Sage Software—made significant moves to bolster their mobile offerings. BlackBerry’s launch of a range of more powerful devices in 2008 enables a truly enhanced mobile CRM experience. What’s the BlackBerry mission for the future? More of the same. Innovative handsets and a continually enhanced platform for extending CRM from the desktop to the fingertips of the mobile workforce.”

Features and Functions
What makes this not only cool,but also important is that the mobile SFA application that SAP and BlackBerry acolytes and others will love is actually functionally complete and useful.

It has what you would expect of a substantial SFA application. Contact,account, lead,opportunity,and pipeline management. Location services that help you figure out how to get to your clients offices. The ability to do account-level (meaning multiple contacts) e-mails and to access your calendar to see what you’re doing on any given day at a given time. It all shows up in a convenient opening dashboard on the BlackBerry. Keep in mind that this stuff is in your pocket. Not on your laptop. Not on your desktop. But in your pocket,either being used the way it’s supposed to—as a valuable business tool—or gathering lint on the screens that show the pipeline.
Features and Functions
SAP/RIM BlackBerry application: your sales force automation-driven day begins

This is good stuff. Is it missing anything? Nothing fundamental. Profile access would be a good thing. Links to Facebook and Twitter associated with the contact and the account would be good. Even the ability to gather sales intelligence associated with the account would be good. But that,I’m sure we’ll see in due time. What is amazing is that this is one of the first mobile SFA tools that I’ve seen that is simply and easily attractive—and useful.

Mini-Conversation with Paul Briggs
Paul Briggs is one of the coolest industry guys I know. Not only was he an industry journalist and thought-leader during his tenure when he was editorin-chief of a national Canadian magazine focused on supply chain management,but he now is the leader of the CRM marketing at RIM’s Business Solutions Group. In fact,he’s been doing that with a great deal of success since 2005. Paul truly gets what’s going on in both the mobile world and social CRM world and that is a powerful combination,indeed. In fact,the only fault I can find with Paul is that he is an ardent Toronto Blue Jays fan. Beyond that,at least in my eyes,the dude is flawless—and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to mobile CRM.

With that resounding intro,I’m going to let Paul give you a picture of what you have to consider when it comes to mobile CRM.

RIM’s been working in the mobile CRM space since the early 2000s when browser-based solutions were first made available. Since then,our customers have taught us a lot about what they need in a mobile solution and what are the best practices for a successful deployment. Here are the top three:

  • Go local While handset browsers were a popular first generation attempt to extend CRM to mobile workers,the limitations were quite clear early on. Browser solutions rely on effective wireless connectivity for the speed and quality of the mobile CRM experience. Out of coverage scenarios and date rate speed limitations at each navigation point in the application compromise the overall efficacy of a mobile application. Best practice is clearly the deployment of a client application that operates locally on the handheld and integrates tightly with other native Black-Berry apps like e-mail,PIM,GPS,and calendar. This enables a snappy user experience,a superior user interface,and an “always on” experience no matter whether the user is in coverage or not.

  • Baby steps Most first generation mobile CRM projects languished due to over-ambitious deployments that tried to mimic the desktop user experience. Attempting to extend all of a CRM package’s functionality to a Movin’ and Groovin’: The Use of Mobile Devices 251 mobile device is not practical and technically suboptimal. It’s not practical because a mobile user’s requirements are different than a desktop user’s requirements. Technically,porting multitudes of features and large volumes of customer data puts undue strain on processing power and memory. Best approach here is to identify two or three CRM functions to make available for the mobile user (e.g.,start with leads and account records only) and phase in more features over time.

  • Users rule The most common cause of CRM failure is lack of user adoption and the same is absolutely true for mobile CRM. A good process for securing end-user support is to get them involved early and truly value their feedback. A good way to achieve this is through a pilot,involving a subset of users for a period of at least 30 days. This will allow IT to assess deployment challenges and enable users to provide feedback based on actual usage in the field and in front of customers. Mobile CRM will succeed when the system becomes an indispensable sales tool rather than an administrative burden.

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