There was a recent article posted on an industry web site (that I choose not to link) espousing that mobility for CRM users was basically a non-issue because of the pervasive use of web based platforms and the strength of the connectivity network in North America. The claim was that a road warrior in today’s business environment does not have a heavy need for mobile or disconnected CRM because of the high availability provided by todays SaaS and on premise solutions that are web based. After doing this for over 10 years I decided to take the article to a few of my customers that have these “road warrior” reps and get their feedback on the article.
The discussion that ensued confirmed many of my own suspicions and concerns that I had with an article that was written from an IT point of view and not from a point of view with the people that actually live the day to day life. This won’t be a long post but I felt like I had to get something in print to refute these claims.
1. Value of Mobility – In the IT world a mobile solution is another platform to support and many times it is complicated because it also brings together integration with email and mobile solutions. There is complexity but the reason that the road warrior says they need access to mobile information is to have access to data dynamically that impacts their customer facing actions. Some of these road warriors don’t have the capacity to have a laptop available at any point in time to access this information.
2. Persistent Connectivity – Our IT brethren claim that users who have web access to solutions can eliminate the need to carry disconnected data. According to our road warriors bandwidth is not always adequate in many of the places they travel and they certainly cannot assume connectivity wherever they travel. The reality is that different carriers have better networks in different parts of the country and it is the road warrior’s performance that suffers when they don’t have access.
3. Inputs and Outputs – One of the biggest challenges that IT faces in providing disconnected data is the need to manage synchronization on a one-to-many basis and the overhead that is needed regardless of the CRM system to give users what they need. The road warrior is the front line person responsible for driving the top line revenue of the business. One of the biggest challenges that they say they face is that while in the air or in between meetings it is a great time to do reporting and analysis on their business plan and it’ not just about the ability to add notes or schedule meetings.
4. Mobile CRM and CRM Are Different – Many of the solutions that are in the marketplace now are challenging for both internal IT and the software publisher (or SaaS provider). The road warrior has explained that in their minds the experience of the mobile CRM and their core CRM needs are drastically different. When the mobile CRM product is a “mini” CRM where the desktop or browser version have been scaled down to the same experience in the mobile interface make it hard to use a mobile product. They are in fact two different user experiences and should be built that way.
5. Workflow Management – One of the things IT understands is that many of today’s CRM systems house significant amounts of data. The most effective systems deployed today have significant workflow and notifications that require actions for critical business impact. The road warriors have said that when they have a mobile solution that is the extension of this workflow or is integrated with CRM processes it enables them to be much more effective in providing higher levels of service or faster to new prospects when they contact their company in search of information.
There are many more topics that we could discuss in relation to the road warrior and their CRM needs but I believe the points listed above defend the point that simply having web access or limited disconnected information don’t suffice for most of today’s road warriors. And, at the end of the day, it is those road warriors and their performance that will provide the revenue stream that pay your paychecks. The challenges in mobile CRM are still many and most organizations don’t have a solidified strategy or execution on these capabilities but it doesn’t mean that you give up or stop trying to get it right.