Supporting CRM with mobile operations (Analyst Insight)

Date: April 23, 2010
Pages: 16
US$ 1,495.00
Publisher: Ovum
Report type: Strategic Report
Delivery: E-mail Delivery (PDF)

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Supporting CRM with mobile operations (Analyst Insight)
Over the past decade, forces including globalization and hyper-competition have made it a matter of critical importance to stay in close contact with colleagues, customers, and partners. CRM solutions have become a standard way of doing this, and mobile access to CRM information and processes has become an increasingly essential element of effective CRM – a must-have capability for companies that want to stay at the forefront of their industries.

Tens of thousands of companies rely on “traditional” mobile applications such as salesforce and field-force automation, which enable greater efficiency and productivity by helping mobile workers manage schedules and routes and by providing ready access to information such as customer contact details, order history, and service history. Realtime access to current collateral, from sales brochures to repair manuals, has increased field effectiveness. Realtime synchronization has become the norm, replacing the “batch sync” that was state of the art back when field people had to reach the office or a hotel room to log the day’s activities and check product availability to know whether they could keep the promises they’d made that day while offline.

Now, as mobile solutions’ three main elements – devices, networks, and applications – evolve at warp speed, mobile CRM is adding even more value. Handheld devices with the computing power of yesterday’s servers, networks capable of megabit download speeds, and applications that can incorporate Internet feeds such as realtime traffic data and display it through intuitive, role-tailored interfaces – all these developments and more are making mobile CRM more valuable than ever.

But even this rapid evolution only hints at what is to come. Smartphones are still largely the province of mobile professionals, but consumer demand is rising too. Mobile networks aren’t just getting faster; they’re expanding their footprints and evolving toward common standards that will simplify interoperation across broad geographic areas and boundaries. Technologies such as cloud computing and software as a service create more options – applications that live entirely in the cloud or that live mainly on the device but draw on cloud-based data and services as needed. Social networking tools already are driving much of the increase in mobile network usage. An increasing array of technologies – GPS, RFID, and near-field communications – can be combined with cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth radio capabilities to open even more possibilities.

Considered as a whole, the warp-speed evolution of devices, networks and applications mean that “old” solution definitions and categories are becoming less relevant. The new mobile technologies are creating new types of customers, new services, new channels and routes to market that require not just an extension of existing solutions but new solutions that support new kinds of customer relationships.

The result is that mobile CRM can, and should, be re-imagined from the ground up. It should no longer be regarded as a discrete application but as an umbrella concept that covers all the ways in which mobile technologies can help organizations get closer to their customers.

The rapid pace of change creates new challenges; nothing in the mobile world can be considered stable or mature. Many applications are limited to a single type of device, and many devices can run only on certain mobile networks. It is difficult to predict which of today’s devices, operating systems and carriers, if any, will dominate over the long haul, or if (as Ovum believes likely) the market will continue to support multiple mobile platforms. That could force a significant shift in today’s mobile app-store model. Today they are primarily vendor- and/or platform-specific. But in a multi-platform market with no dominant player, developers will press for a more open model in which their apps can run on any platform.

In the face of such rapid change, many organizations are understandably cautious – reluctant to invest in technologies that may become obsolete; in vendors that may not survive; in so-called “solutions” that don’t deliver what they promise or match the competitive advantage that a rival gains from some other mobile option.

Caution is wise, but only to a point; companies must avoid the temptation to follow a certain technology path simply because it’s the path they know best. True, whatever they adopt should integrate with and leverage the IT infrastructure already in place. They must consider “lock-in” and avoid options that will limit flexibility as business conditions change and technologies continue to evolve.

But they shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that rapid advances in all three key ingredients – devices, networks, and applications – will provide tremendous advantages to the companies that exploit them effectively. The way to stack the deck in one’s favor is to revert to fundamental principles and evaluate new mobile options in the context of how they can enhance the organization’s core strategy and value proposition and help it to reach more customers, more often and more effectively
Ovum view
Key messages
Mobile access is a must-have today
The roots of mobile CRM
The early evolution of mobile CRM
Rapid evolution in devices, networks and software is making mobile CRM more effective
Tailoring apps to devices
Tailoring apps to job roles
New capabilities bring opportunities far beyond conventional CRM
Business intelligence
RFID and location awareness
New types of customers
New routes to market
Mobile CRM is no panacea, and technology isn’t the answer to every business issue
Devices, networks, and software are not fully mature
Markets in upheaval
The limitations of mobile CRM
How to exploit innovation in mobile CRM, while avoiding the pitfalls
Start from the ground up
Practical matters
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