The following post was written by William Band, a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, where he contributes to its CRM Playbook, a programmatic framework for leading application development and delivery professionals through the life cycle of their CRM initiatives.
At Forrester Research, I continue to field a steady stream of inquiries about “mobile CRM.” There has been an explosion of mobile devices and applications entering enterprises through corporate-approved channels, as well as via employees who bring their own devices to the office. Assembling all the components of a mobile CRM solution to meet the precise use cases for specific types of customer-facing workers requires navigating a complex set of decisions, including:
Application types. Applications can be native (thick client), Web or hybrid (native plus Web), or cross-platform (mobile middleware or rich Internet client applications). Today, developers build specialized thick-client applications that are downloaded onto PCs or mobile devices. But the rise of HTML5 will solidify the browser as a viable local host for applications. With HTML5, the browser becomes a more capable thin client, accessing services on a centralized, cloud-based host.
CRM applications. All of the leading CRM application vendors focusing on large enterprises support mobile access to their applications, and they are racing to upgrade their capabilities to keep up with the new form factors that mobile workers demand. These vendors and their products include Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Oracle Siebel and Oracle CRM On Demand, Salesforce.com, and SAP CRM. CRM suite vendors focused on the midmarket, such as CDC Pivotal CRM, Maximizer, Sage SalesLogix, and SugarCRM, also have new mobile solutions offerings.
Specialized business process and industry solutions. Specialist vendors are also moving into mobile CRM. Pegasystems is rushing to develop mobile capabilities to incorporate into its business process management solution offerings. Quofore has strong mobility solutions and specializes in supporting the unique needs of sales and merchandising organizations in the consumer packaged goods industry. Life sciences CRM specialists like Veeva Systems, Cegedim Mobile Intelligence, StayinFront, and Update Software AG recently announced new offerings to support tablets—specifically iPads. Independent software vendors offer mobile solutions to extend the offerings of CRM enterprise suites, like CWR Mobility’s solutions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Device type and form factors. The range of devices and form factors is proliferating rapidly and includes laptops, phones, smartphones like the iPhone, and Android devices, and tablets like the Apple iPad, Amazon Kindle Fire, Motorola Xoom, and Samsung Galaxy Tab. Each size and shape is more suitable or less suitable for specific use cases.
Device OS. Apple’s iOS has become very popular very quickly, but there are other versions to consider, including Android, Bada, RIM, and Windows Phone 7 and 8.
Browsers. Even the choice of browser requires a decision: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, or the BlackBerry browser.
Mobile middleware platforms. Mobile middleware provides the tools, in one platform set, that allow an organization to develop and deploy multiple mobile applications that may run on multiple mobile device types. Examples include Kony, Antenna Software, MobileIron, RIM, SAP Sybase, Spring Wireless, IBM Worklight, and Verivo.
Telecommunications carriers. Your mobile solution configuration must align with the capabilities of specific carriers and the related policies and contracts that your company has with respect to providers like AT&T, BT, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Vodafone.
Professional services providers. Due to the complexity of developing and deploying mobile CRM solutions, major professional services organizations are ramping up their mobility skills. BearingPoint, Cognizant, Tata Consulting Services (TCS), and Wipro are all active in the mobile customer management solutions arena. Model Metrics, a long-time Salesforce.com consulting partner that built innovative mobile solutions for the life sciences industry, was recently acquired by the vendor to beef up its mobile apps development capabilities.