CRM integration is a major challenge for organizations of all sizes. In this new series, SearchCRM.com will explore best practices for integration between CRM and other systems.
How to overcome integration challenges and avoid traps by using a blueprint
Not long ago, integrating an enterprise-wide CRM system with mobile devices was costly, time consuming and riddled with challenges. That is still the perception, but it's not necessarily reality anymore.
The challenges of implementing CRM across the enterprise have dissipated over the last few years. Organizations now understand the need for accessible training and the importance of an "up and down" approach as opposed to a top-down approach to implementation. The same holds true for implementing mobile CRM applications on mobile devices, if these key points are kept in mind:
Create a comprehensive plan, complete with a detailed blueprint.
Don't assume anything, e.g., just because field representatives are adept at checking and sending emails doesn't necessarily mean they will intuitively know how to get the best out of mobile CRM.
- Get users and upper management on board with the initiative as soon as possible.
There are essentially four steps to effectively integrating CRM systems and mobile devices:
Step 1 -- The needs analysis phase
This is the "do your homework" phase from a business, technical and practical standpoint. Do not rush this stage. Here, it is important to understand the difference between technical needs and the desires of users, and to make it clear to end users that the mobile device is to be used in conjunction with CRM applications and not as a replacement for a PC or laptop.
Beyond assessing the needs of individual users and management, it is important to understand the business needs of the entire organization.
One key thing to keep in mind for the needs analysis phase -- and one that should prevail during the integration process -- is that the mobile CRM system has to grow and evolve with business and technical changes in the organization.
Step 2 – The mobile design phase
After the needs analysis phase, design is the next critical step. Because there is limited screen size and storage on a mobile device, a user must have access to an intranet to recall specific information at a moment's notice and to be able to input data for use across the enterprise. However, this raises a number of technical concerns regarding security, authentication and data input of sensitive or proprietary information.
Organizations need to understand that massive amounts of data, including customer trends, pricing tables (by territory) and other customized fields need to be available in real time with a data-input option.
Integrating a robust CRM system with mobile devices, which often average about 64 MB of memory, can be a daunting task on the surface level. We first determine what data is most important to display and then develop appropriate screens to view it within the limits of the device. We balance local storage of data with real-time access on the device, allowing users the option to work off-line with as much data as needed.
At Infinity, we have helped clients integrate a (local) mobile product with a Web application that sits on the server. This Web application communicates with a host database and allows field representatives to draw real-time information simply by clicking an icon on the mobile device.
In addition, implementing a rules-based push to a BlackBerry or another mobile device avoids the need to synchronize all information. Instead, only the appropriate amount and most relevant information is delivered at the right time.
Step 3 – The mobile application testing phase
The main objective of the testing phase is to gain user acceptance through education. This often starts with a group of beta testers, who are trained and prepared to implement a new and improved mobile CRM system. We advise clients to choose beta testers who will also serve as champions of CRM mobile integration. This group should include 10% to 20% of the desired user base.
From a technical standpoint, the testing phase is for functional and performance testing, to make sure the software and mobile infrastructure meet the project goals and objectives. This is the time to test the configuration of the live application server environment and security.
From a practical standpoint, avoid the common mistake of assuming that mobile-device users will intuitively utilize mobile CRM applications with little-to-no preparation and technical training -- simply because they are good at sending and receiving emails and looking up contact information. Extended capabilities through Web services can be tricky for first-time users, and therefore accessible, interactive training is a must.
Armed with information gathered from the beta program, in-house IT and, in some cases, integration consultants are able to adjust the infrastructure (without overloading it) and bring the program up to meet the objectives laid out in the needs analysis phase.
As you're going through the implementation process, remember to deliver prototypes to the end-user community. This will grant them the flexibility to request changes so that IT can make adjustments to ensure that the mobile CRM applications will work the way they need them to. This process significantly increases end-user adoption.
Step 4 – The mobile rollout phase
Technical adjustments have been made (although upgrades make this a work in progress), the objectives are in sight, and the feedback from beta testers is in place. Now it's time to roll out the new program to the users. This does not entail simple "keystroke education" but, rather, a comprehensive training program to help users understand the key technical aspects and ensure buy-in.
Remember, the biggest challenge for new end users is "confinement." Users who are accustomed to CRM on a PC, with its large screen, keyboard, dashboards and expansive database, often have a difficult time adjusting and feel restrained when using a large program on a device usually reserved for email, contacts and phone calls. Infinity has learned that one way to avoid this problem is to make sure the third-party vendor installing mobile CRM is experienced at training end users until they are comfortable with the application.
It is critical to get the IT department, the end users and management on the same page, especially during the first three steps, so that the program is implemented correctly and effectively meets business objectives.
As mentioned, it is also important to ensure that the system is flexible and adaptable enough to grow with the business. Remember, mobile technology is continuously evolving, so it is best to avoid getting tied to specific hardware or one software-operating platform.
Our experiences have shown that end users quickly understand the practicality and benefits of mobile CRM applications. With mobile CRM, quick information is at hand in the field, on a plane, or even in a remote territory, where booting up a PC or laptop is a challenge. Being able to enter information in real time and quickly retrieve client and target data and even business intelligence are often key benefits for organizations using mobile CRM applications.
Don't miss the other installments in this CRM integration series
* CRM application integration with Web services
* Integrating Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM and ERP applications
* Integrating CRM with business intelligence tools
* Benefits of ERP-CRM integration
About the author
|Yacov Wrocherinsky, Contributor
Yacov Wrocherinsky is the founder, CEO and president of Infinity Info Systems and most recently was chosen by the U.S. Small Business Administration as its "Person of the Year" for New York State. Since 1987, Infinity Info Systems has been the premier front-office technology expert, specializing in contact management, sales force automation and customer relationship management. Infinity's proven business analytics practice helps decision makers run their businesses more efficiently and effectively. Infinity has a proven track record, with more than 3,500 successful CRM implementations, and has trained more than 130,000 people in the financial, publishing, life sciences and business services sectors around the world. Visit www.infinityinfo.com or call (800) 354-4228 to learn more about Infinity Info Systems.