Sage, RIM Say Mobile CRM Is Ready for Prime Time

With connectivity improving and mobile device data storage capacities increasing, more companies are supporting sales, service and BI applications in the field.
Mobile CRM applications have been kicking around for years, but data access, synchronization and connectivity problems have hampered adoption. That's fast changing, however, and mobile CRM adoption now outpaces the growth of the core CRM market, according Sage Software. Spotlighting its partnership with Research In Motion (RIM) at an event in New York yesterday, Sage said breakthroughs including increased data storage capacities, online and offline usability, and more strategic applications are making the difference.

"The sweet spots are field service and field sales from opportunity management through forecasting," said Dave Batt, senior vice president and general manager for Sage Software Global CRM Solutions. "Whether it's lead-to-quote or quote-to-close, companies are compressing business processes by pushing information back [from the field to the home office] to book business and create invoices or by having headquarters send approved quotes back to salespeople while they're still on sales call."

RIM is keen to push usage of its ubiquitous BlackBerry devices beyond e-mail and Web browsing, and it says mobile CRM is on the short list. "We just completed a study of 1,600 enterprise users, and we found that 25 percent are using our devices for more than e-mail," said Paul Briggs, of RIM BlackBerry Business Solutions. "About a quarter of those respondents are using mobile CRM, so it's by far the leading enterprise application."

"Companies are compressing their business processes," says Sage's Dave Batt.

"CRM is by far the leading mobile enterprise application," says Paul Briggs of Research in Motion.

Gartner expects strong annual growth in mobile CRM, predicting sales increases of 40 percent to 60 percent over the next two years. In addition to enabling individual customer transactions, mobile CRM solutions are increasingly delivering sales-, supply chain- and service-related reports and dashboards to managers. With 200,000 records downloadable to a BlackBerry, Briggs says users can drill down on those reports offline, while on airplanes or otherwise disconnected from the network. Once back online, "users are interacting with CRM like they've never used it before, doing more frequent searches and updating information after each call."

From an IT perspective, many deployment challenges have also been resolved now that software updates and changes to custom apps can be delivered over the network rather than requiring devices to be recalled and physically reprogrammed. As for security concerns, "RIM network communications are encrypted, the data on the device is stored in a compressed and encrypted database, and the [RIM] admin tool comes with a kill button that can remotely erase the persistent data store on a particular device," said Amadeo Tarzia, Sage's senior vice president of mobile & wireless solutions.

Sage shared two customer implementation success stories at the New York event. Colliers International in Canada is using the Sage SalesLogix Mobile CRM solution to support a team selling approach for commercial real estate whereby salespeople gain up-to-the minute information on what's leased (the minute the deal is signed) and what's still available. Armstrong World Industries, the flooring manufacturer, has armed its field sales reps with BlackBerries, and a custom SalesLogix Mobile CRM app helps track customer data and leads.

The maker of Act, Sage CRM and Sage SalesLogix CRM solutions, Sage plans to migrate its mobile capabilities to the SME-focused Sage CRM platform this year. The platform also supports Windows-based devices, but built-in security capabilities are not as extensive, according to Sage.