“Mobile CRM” Takes on a Whole New Meaning with New Software for iPhone
The market’s reception to the iPhone has been astonishing, to say the least. And in spite of questions about its viability in corporate scenarios, customer relationship management (CRM) solution providers are standing up and taking notice.
The iPhone set new sales records, moving more than 3.7 million units in the second half of 2007 alone, according to its creator, Apple. Leading industry analyst Gartner estimates that number to be approximately 20 percent of all smart phone sales during that period.
But, many business technology experts have been rather skeptical, citing that the iPhone devices are not enterprise-ready, and are much better suited for personal use. Analysts such as Gartner and IDC, as well as several renowned CIOs from leading companies, have even gone so far as to recommend that the iPhone be banished from corporate use because its security is flawed (it uses four-digit, all numeric passwords) and it will not support most popular email servers.
These and other industry pundits anticipated that while many individuals would buy an iPhone, few companies would supply them to their mobile employees due to the concerns mentioned above, as well as their high price tag (average retail is approximately $599 per device). However, some CRM vendors – particularly Etelos – refuted that prediction, and forecasted that many sales reps would buy iPhones for themselves, and use them while at work.
CRM expert Paul Greenberg, author of one of today’s most popular CRM blogs, agrees with both sides. He has recently stated that “Apple will have to increase the security and administrative controls for enterprise purposes – but it is a lot better a business device than their detractors say.”
On the other hand, there are many others who believe that the iPhone is the ideal platform for a mobile CRM application. For example, its larger-than-average screen size can make contact records and associated notes more readable than other mobile devices.
Within just a few days of the iPhone’s introduction, leading on-demand CRM vendor Salesforce.com announced that it would be the first to make mobile CRM applications available for iPhone users. Etelos and other CRM system providers, including NetSuite, HEAP, CompanionLink, and EBSuite soon followed suit.
How do these mobile CRM solutions work? Some offer direct access to core Web-based CRM functions, such as contact management, task scheduling and calendaring, sales order processing, and invoicing through the iPhone’s Safari browser. Others simply allow for local updates, with synchronization with the desktop application through an Internet link. And one even uses open source CRM code to allow companies to develop and deploy their own fully-customized mobile CRM applications for iPhone users.
To date, the list of CRM companies that offer mobile applications for the iPhone is still relatively small. Less than a dozen solution providers have entered the market so far. But as business users continue to rapidly embrace the iPhone, expect to see more and more CRM vendors jumping on the iPhone bandwagon.