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Forrester offers five steps to curb mobile CRM chaos

Forrester Research has released a best practices plan for companies trying to get control over their mobile CRM deployments.

Mobile devices are flooding into CRM environments, yet many companies have no mobile CRM best practices in place to effectively manage the onslaught.

In a just-issued report, Best Practices: The Right Way to Implement Mobile CRM, the Cambridge, Mass.-based research firm outlined five steps CRM organizations can take to get a grip on their mobile deployments.

“It is a fairly chaotic world right now,” said William Band, a Forrester vice president and lead author of this report. “Faster bandwidth, smartphones and iPads are the tipping point. Employees are demanding that they want this new stuff, but it may or may not solve business problems.”

Band said many companies do not yet have a detailed plan because they are still determining who should be in charge of the CRM mobile initiative. At many firms, IT groups and CRM managers are at odds over who is in control and what devices and apps should be in the field. Compounding that conflict are the many employees who sidestep the issue altogether and start using their own personal mobile devices to get their jobs done.

Forrester recommends that CRM managers consider the following best practices and avoid some common pitfalls to help shape a mobile CRM strategy.

1. Start with identifying the users' roles and needs. Forrester suggests that companies identify the different user environments and determine how to best support them. They are bound to find no one device will fit all employees.

“Often, companies don’t do this homework and don’t study how people work,” said Jeffrey Hammond, a Forrester principal analyst who also contributed to the report. As a result, companies can invest in the wrong technology, by making such moves as anointing the iPad as the new mobile platform when many users could be better served with laptops.

As an example, a sales representative in the pharmaceutical industry only has a few minutes with each client, typically a doctor, and would likely work best with a tablet that could quickly demonstrate high-quality graphics and videos.

On the other hand, many remote workers perform data entry and word processing each day and they are likely better suited to laptops, Hammond said.

2. Determine business objectives. When managers are looking at adding new CRM functions they should consider whether the mobile component will help meet the business goal, rather than add-on mobile support after the fact.

Also, companies need to do a better job targeting what they really want to get from a mobile CRM app, instead of thinking that they need to support mobile devices across the board. Forrester suggests that managers ask the money questions, such as, Will mobile support improve a worker’s productivity or help streamline a process?

3. Define the mobile CRM strategy. This is tricky. Band recommends the mobile CRM strategy align with the overall corporate mobile strategy, but he also points out that for many companies, there is no overall corporate mobile strategy yet.

“It could be a chicken-and-the-egg thing, but CRM could drive the use case” for mobile computing, Band said. “Sometimes, CRM can become the catalyst; they are not always the first cycle [for mobile adoption] but CRM is often target because of sales and customer service.”

If there is a mobile strategy void, CRM managers should step up. At the very least, they need to determine guidelines on important issues such as security.

Hammond said companies need to identify security procedures for the device, the network and the back-end servers. “Encrypting the information locally becomes critically important,” Hammond said.

4. Choose the right technology. Forrester recommends assessing the new technology demands mobile technology brings to the organization by asking a series of questions like, What will the speed and performance requirements be for different groups of users? How can we best support a range of mobile devices? How often do we need to synchronize the mobile devices with background server? Will users need native access and integration with the CRM applications?

5. Follow the correct implementation approach. It may seem odd to layer projects teams around a device that fits in someone’s pocket, but Forrester recommends adopting the tried-and-true project management techniques to mobile adoption. When implementing mobile devices, first build a team that includes an executive sponsor and follow traditional project management procedures such as defining a project timeline and scope. As always, an executive sponsor is critical.

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