Do Users Really Want BI and CRM on the Go?

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I wrote on Friday about interest in making more business applications, including business intelligence and CRM, available to users of mobile devices like the BlackBerry, prompted both by companies' considerable investment in these devices and by their desire to make better use of customer data.


Throwing a little cold water on this idea is a Network World article that cites several common concerns associated with moving beyond e-mail to more complex applications like CRM and BI on mobile devices, including the devices' tiny screens and limited storage, memory and computing power.


Saswato Das, a spokesman for SAP's business application unit, notes that such limitations pose especially big challenges for any applications involving analytics. He says:

A lot of business applications that are done in house have to do with analytics. If you want to run something fairly sophisticated that requires a lot of memory, that requires a lot of computing power, a handheld today is not the best place to do it.

This also may be another case of vendors pushing an idea and hoping customers will adopt it -- whether or not it's desired by business users. Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney questions whether many folks will want to use their devices to access business apps that, in theory, can wait. He sees only the most time-critical apps as being a good fit for smartphones and other mobiles.


Still, there's no question that business apps on mobiles sometimes prove quite useful. DirecTV sales managers use BlackBerries equipped with the same Antenna Software application I referenced in my earlier blog to access Oracle's Siebel CRM On Demand. The company opted for Antenna three years ago because Oracle hadn't yet extended its own app to mobiles. Though it has since done so, a DirecTV program manager says Oracle still doesn't offer as much functionality as Antenna.


The executive says managers can easily access relevant information about dealers' payments, service requests and activation rates because all communications with dealers are automatically associated with their accounts. Sales reps also enter notes in accounts that are then visible to all salespeople, says the exec, offering "a complete 360-degree view of a dealer."


Network World notes that vendors appear especially eager to work with the ain't-it-cool technology of Apple's iPhone -- a device that has yet to crack the enterprise, with some IT departments banning it due to security concerns. (Consumer craving for the device appears to have influenced the designers at BlackBerry maker RIM, whose BlackBerry Bold is reportedly more "sexy" than previous iterations of the device, writes IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle.)


DirecTV has asked Apple to participate in a beta to trial using business apps on an iPhone, according to Network World.