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SAP and RIM team to bring native CRM to BlackBerry

Running SAP CRM natively on the BlackBerry -- and other SAP applications in the future -- promises to change the mobile access game, according to SAP.

SAP AG and Research in Motion Ltd. (RIM) today revealed a partnership to run SAP's CRM application natively on the BlackBerry and eventually to bring the full SAP suite to the device.

SAP and RIM executives detailed the arrangement at an event in New York Friday morning, just days before SAP's annual North American user conference is set to begin.

"In 2004, RIM and SAP announced a strategic partnership around SAP CRM where a sales professional could access CRM by using the BlackBerry device as a browser," said Bill McDermott, president and CEO, SAP Americas and Asia Pacific/Japan. "Today's a different day, a very different solution. Today we're talking about CRM natively integrated into the BlackBerry device itself."

For example, with the new partnership, mobile sales professionals can have leads and opportunities pushed to their BlackBerrys directly from SAP CRM. Similarly, when a mobile user clicks on a contact, the BlackBerry can access up-to-date service or sales orders.

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"This is only the beginning," McDermott said. "What SAP and RIM are committed to doing is integrating the entire business suite from SAP onto the BlackBerry device. If you're in human capital or a finance professional and you too are mobile, you will be able to access your application on your device."

In a brief demonstration, SAP executives showed how a sales representative could turn on his BlackBerry, check his calendar for a meeting, access account information, and then call the customer to check in beforehand. He could then log that call into the CRM system with one click.

"If you see it from a user's perspective, this is what they're looking for -- there's nothing quite like this," said Mike de la Cruz, senior vice president for SAP CRM solutions. "This lets us achieve the vision of CRM we never were quite able to achieve."

The CRM application is now in production and should be available in a couple of months, executives said. Pricing and go-to-market details have not yet been fully formulated.

SAP and RIM developers have been working together for several months on the partnership, according to Bob Stutz, executive vice president for product unit and technology industries and CRM at SAP. The project was based in part on SAP's recent initiative to make its applications easier to use in general and specifically to make CRM more user friendly, an effort that culminated in the release of SAP CRM 2007 late last year.

"We went to RIM and said, 'We have a proposition; we know applications, but we don't really understand the connectivity piece,' " Stutz said. "We want to build a native CRM application on a BlackBerry, and we don't want to do it. We want RIM to do it."

The two organizations will continue to collaborate on development, but there is no timeline for integrating SAP's other business applications. It will be more like months than years, according to Stutz.

"As fast as we can build them," he said. "We'll start with CRM, put it out there and gain some experience, figure out some things we need to do differently, work with users, find the pain points, and move on to the next applications."

SAP CRM will be the first enterprise application that will run natively, but there is no exclusivity to the deal from either SAP or RIM.

RIM and SAP also plan to extend their collaboration to include secure click-to-call, event-based alerts, and pushing outbound conference calls, according to Jim Balsillie, president and co-CEO of RIM. Also, RIM's multimedia capabilities will allow users to store up to four hours of video material, such as training, corporate communications or product information.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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