Mobile CRM: Movin' On Up ... Maybe


Call us a bit cynical, but skepticism is usually our first reaction when pundits predict "this will be the year" for any given technology. This indicates that the hyped tech has failed to catch on despite obvious surface appeal.


This has certainly been the case for mobile CRM. Despite an increasingly mobile workforce, companies' growing interest in broader data access and vendors' efforts to push the technology, mobile CRM still accounts for less than 10 percent of CRM revenues.


So what's the hold-up? Companies already using mobile CRM are finding it cuts costs and boosts efficiency, by removing much of the paper and repetitive data entry from tasks like customer service calls. It also streamline sales calls by giving reps access to the data they need, when they need it.


Perhaps the biggest road block is a lack of truly ubiquitous broadband. With network communications like cellular Wi-Fi, WiMax and voice over wireless LAN (VoWLAN) coming into their own, however, it should be only a matter of time before this barrier falls.


Another barrier -- one that includes both technical and cultural elements -- is companies' relative inexperience with mobile apps. Companies will have no choice when it comes to navigating this learning curve, though, as workers become less bound to their desks. It's yet another area where employees bring expectations gleaned from their personal tech usage to the office.


This could change -- really -- thanks to several key developments. General awareness of mobile CRM applications should pick up now that Salesforce.com, a company with marketing skills as strong as its technology, has entered the market with its purchase of Sendia, a mobile CRM provider.


Though a single dominant platform has yet to emerge, Microsoft is a strong contender with its Windows Mobile 5.0. A key advantage: It uses a push e-mail function that doesn't rely on server-based communication the way that rival BlackBerry does.