A long-awaited WordPress client for the BlackBerry has just been released as a public beta, which got me all excited since I have been looking for a tool to help me blog when on the move. And yes, WordPress does have its use in the SMB too, as can be evidenced by the readers who concurred with my suggestion to use it as an internal communication tool. Anyway, the news of the WordPress client got me thinking about the role of mobile applications in business.
PDAs and "palmtops" were once considered nothing more than playthings for tech enthusiasts or necessary gadgets for mobile executives. The inclusion of mobile capabilities by Palm created the niche called smartphones, which proliferated and forever changed the mobile landscape.
Despite the popularity of smartphones, however, the use of mobile applications in business continued to lag and they're mostly implemented by enterprises rather than SMBs at this point. Contrary to popular belief, though, building custom mobile applications is not that much harder than their desktop cousins. In addition, the requisite SDK and programming tools for building on mobile platforms are usually available at very low cost or free.
Obviously, there are concerns in terms of the device security and compliance, which I will not cover today. IT Business Edge blogger Carl Weinschenk did write recently about how the smartphone security free ride will soon be over, so check it out.
In the meantime, below are a couple of benefits that mobile applications can bring to the sales team in the SMB.
Real-time availability of data
At a previous SMB where I worked, the members of the sales team would make frantic calls back to the office to inquire about the availability of stock to accommodate new orders from customers. In addition, pricing estimates were also derived from static numbers that had little bearing on the constantly fluctuating price of the actual raw materials.
It really would not be hard to pluck the figures from the relevant databases and push them on a read-only basis to the sales team via mobile software running on their smartphones. In today's competitive climate, being able to access real-time data can mean the difference between clinching a deal and losing it.
Reduce time in the office
Having the sales team hanging around the office for any length of time is certainly not an ideal situation for most businesses. As it is, the ability to access customer information while on the move translates directly to fewer trips to the office, increasing the productivity of the sales team.
Are there any mobile applications in use in your company - customized or off-the-shelf?