Salesforce.com on Tuesday introduced a scaled-down version of its mobile software for use on smartphones, including BlackBerry, iPhone, and Windows Mobile. It's offered a full-featured mobile app for a few years, and one designed specifically for the iPhone since last year. But most interesting is how these apps demonstrate that the SaaS model works exceptionally well for businesses wanting to deploy mobile software to their workforces.One of the biggest challenges
with mobile software deployments is getting the mobile apps to talk to and synch with back-end systems. You're introducing a whole new client into the IT ecosystem-in fact, perhaps a bunch of new types of clients, if the workforce uses more than one type of smartphone. The integration work wouldn't be necessary if the smartphones worked in Web browser-only mode, but since there's no such thing as a constant connection, that's a bit unrealistic.
But with these mobile apps for SaaS, there is no integration work. Users can download the mobile app, often for free, log into the same SaaS system they would log into from their desktop or laptop, and get working.
Salesforce.com isn't the only SaaS vendor doing this. Omniture (SiteCatalyst Web analytics) and Workday (human resources and ERP) also offer free mobile versions of their software on iPhone App Store. Salesforce.com CRM mobile can be downloaded from App Store or BlackBerry App World, and Interchange's SalesNow is available on App World. No IT department involvement is required.
For companies considering broad mobile application deployments of such things as CRM and HR, the SaaS vendors have a pretty good argument for how they can make that effort a whole lot easier than traditional software that's installed on site.