Getting the Most Out of Mobile CRM



Mobile CRM is a whole different ball game from conventional CRM solutions. While CRM applications on mobile devices like smartphones and PDAs are designed to support the same goals and strategies as CRM on desktop or laptop systems, the way you apply mobile CRM is very different.

Making mobile CRM work for your company requires careful planning and a good understanding of how to design successful mobile CRM applications.




Pick the Right Platform

One of the most constraining choices you face when deploying mobile CRM is deciding which mobile device to use. Unlike desktop or laptop CRM, mobile devices are anything but standardized as each one has different sets of features. What's more, not all carriers support all devices.

Neither do all CRM vendors. While companies like Salesforce. com Inc. , Oracle Corp. and Sage Saleslogix make an effort to support multiple platforms, none supports all offerings. Your choice of mobile device is going to heavily influence what applications you can use.

Even if you decide to throw out all your mobile devices and your current carrier and start from scratch, you're going to face major challenges. For one thing, your users are going to have their own preferences, and will probably not be happy about having to learn a new device on top of a new application. You're going to be doing well if you only have to support a single platform for mobile CRM.

Because mobile CRM is so constraining, you need to carefully consider your options when choosing which mobile devices to use with your solution.


Design Applications Carefully

"Picking the right [application] - that's the dividing line between the ones who are successful at mobile CRM and those who are not," said Guy Waterman, senior director of service and mobile products for Oracle. This doesn't just mean choosing the right product. How you design and customize your mobile CRM applications is absolutely critical no matter what software you choose.

Mobile CRM does things differently, and in some cases reversely, from desktop or laptop CRM. "You got a much smaller device sandbox," said Chris Miller, director of product management for mobility products for Sage CRM Solutions . "The amount of space is much smaller than on a desktop or laptop."

While CRM is about information, Miller says that mobile CRM is about carefully-selected information. "With CRM data [in general], going out the gate the reflex is to save every possible record on this device just in case. If you've got lots of CRM data and email, you end up with conflicts in memory. You've got to educate your users. Which sets of data shall I take with me? Can I subscribe to things I don't have remotely?"

Because of space and connectivity limitations, mobile CRM data has to be carefully pared down. The goal is to give the user what he or she needs and no more. This requires a different mindset and a lot of hard work on the part of the development team."You need rethink CRM in the context of what is going on," said Waterman. "How is the person going to be accessing the information​? You have to design the process not to replicate the desktop CRM solution but to provide pertinent information and the minimum number of screen flows to get processes done. You need to be very efficient, present just the information that is pertinent to the interaction, and probably deploy a subset of the larger CRM capabilities on the mobile device."

The information has to be carefully organized as well. Given the screen size of mobile devices, there's not much display real estate to show the user what he or she needs to know. As a result, what information is displayed on which screen has to be carefully considered. "The question is what [does the user] need to answer [the customer] at the point where I'm at?" said Waterman. "It becomes very focused on the specific interaction."

Miller added, "If we're making the user click four times to get at information, that's probably four times too much."


Get User Feedback and Buy In

"Buy in is critical," said Miller. "It's much like what we saw in early days of CRM. The solution is designed for the users to be more productive, to engage with the customer and to contribute data back into the system." If the users don't accept the mobile CRM application, they won't use it.

Buy in is not only critical for making sure the mobile CRM application is used. It is critical for designing a successful application, Waterman said. Because mobile CRM is so compressed, it needs to offer just the right information in just the right way. The people who are best qualified to tell you how to do that are the end users.

In addition, the users who help to develop the system can also help to sell it to other users. "If you've got a few key users, they can also be your evangelists," said Miller.




Consider Security

Security is a major concern for mobile CRM, especially since security for mobile devices is generally less well developed than it is for laptops and desktops.

There are two main concerns for security in mobile CRM: data in motion and data at rest. By now the problem of protecting data transmitted wirelessly is fairly well understood, even if the available security measures aren't always applied. For example, companies like Trend Micro Inc. and Symantec Corp. offer packages designed to protect information in transit and guard mobile devices against worms, Trojan horses and viruses.

Once is the data is on the mobile device, it also needs to be protected, which is a problem that hasn't gotten as much attention. Miller cited a study showing that about 8 million mobile devices will be lost or stolen this year. "If the device gets lost you could get into trouble," Miller said.

There are a number of ways of protecting information on the mobile device, but the most important is to encrypt it. A variety of firms, such as CREDANT Technologies Inc. , offer encryption software specifically for mobile devices. But acceptance has lagged, largely because companies haven't appreciated the importance of protecting the data on mobile devices.

A number of CRM applications offer security features as well. For example, one feature of Sage Saleslogix is a data destruct feature. With a command from the server, all the data can be wiped from the Sage applications on a mobile device without affecting the other applications on the device. Miller pointed out that this is important not just if a device is lost of stolen, but if someone who is using their own mobile device to run the CRM application leaves the company.