EConz, Sendia Deliver CRM Apps Wirelessly

 
 
By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-01-02 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

EService and WorkSpace CRM provide sales and work force automation applications on wireless phones.

For mobile sales workers, a big challenge has been bringing sales data along in a convenient package and in real time. Most CRM applications allow users to work with a notebook and PDA only via synchronization tools. EConz Ltd.s EService and Sendia Corp.s WorkSpace CRM take a different approach, delivering sales and work force automation applications on wireless phones.

EConzs EService is built in the framework of a work order management system for field service agents and is priced at $19 per handset per month. Sendias WorkSpace CRM, which ties in to Salesforce.com Inc.s namesake service, ranges in price from $400 to $600 per user per year, depending on the number of users.

These services illustrate the adaptability of wireless devices as front ends to enterprise applications. In working with EService and WorkSpace CRM, eWEEK Labs found that each does a good job of providing actionable and relevant data to users.

Both services require users to subscribe to data services plans from their carriers. EService requires Verizon Wireless V Cast data plan, priced at $15 per month, and text messaging, which costs $3 per month. Cingular Wireless customers can subscribe to WorkSpace CRM through Cingular for a monthly fee of $50.

There are substantive differences in EConzs and Sendias approaches and in the service they deliver. EConz, for example, sells its service through Verizon Wireless on BREW (Binary Runtime Environment for Wireless)-enabled phones, and it is a real-time application. Sendias service is available for Palm OS-based PalmOne Treo phones from Palm Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. BlackBerry devices and is both a synchronized and real-time application.

EConz offers Timecard, a dedicated time sheet management application, along with EService and EServices API-based means of bringing other applications to wireless networks. Sendia also offers a service, called Wireless WorkSpace, that brings other enterprise applications to wireless devices in much the same way as WorkSpace CRM does with Salesforce.com.

EService consists of two main applications: the BREW interface to the application on the phone and a Web-based management console for customizing the application and managing workflow. EService also supplies two APIs: one is for integrating custom applications with the service, and the other is a dedicated API for Intuit Inc.s QuickBooks.

The Web-based interface is a front end for two types of users and roles—supervisors, who use the system to create and track work orders for remote users, and the administrators who would customize the application. Supervisors can assign and schedule work, track work completion, and create reports.

From an administrative standpoint, we used the customization capabilities to build on the data structure EConz has already established. Administrators can configure custom fields and populate drop-down lists with information such as creating a list of service items and goods and their associated costs. This allows a remote worker to deliver quotes and invoices in the field. We found another clever feature of the system to be the integration of the underlying CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) infrastructure within the application, allowing a field worker to clock in directly on the phone using local time zone data.

In addition, companies can build a customized application outside the administrative interface using the Simple Object Access Protocol API and a dedicated SOAP test client. The client includes an interface that assigns Web methods to buttons so that the developer can determine which button to press to call a particular method. The interface gives companies a way to test the behavior of an application before deploying it in the field.

Synchronicity

Sendias workspace CRM delivers Salesforce.coms application to Treo and BlackBerry devices primarily through synchronizing data, with some functions working in real time. Sendia provides an intermediary service that manages the transfer of Salesforce.com fields and data between the PDA and Salesforce.com as well as managing users, devices and services.

WorkSpace CRM gives administrators a Web-based management application that exposes Salesforce.com fields so that the administrators can provide the relevant subset of data that users will require on a memory-constrained device. Any Salesforce.com field can be made available so that data from customized applications, such as customer order data, can be available to users.

Administrators can limit the amount of data synchronized with the device not only by data type but also by date, so that only recently accessed data will be pulled down from the service. Users can get to information that has not been pulled down by directly accessing Salesforce.com data through a record search interface.

Overall, we found the user experience to be good, and despite the dramatically different interface on the Treo 650 we used for testing, we found Sendia has done a good job providing fidelity with some Salesforce.com conventions, such as collapsing sections. The interface puts contextual links to other information in appropriate places. For example, we could access account information from within an opportunity record and initiate a call from the account data via links.

Its easy to see that, through the basic interface and customizations, salespeople will be able to act in the field from a single device. In addition, there are some good integration points between the application and the Treo; for example, we could place a call by selecting a phone number in a contact record.

On the security side, Sendias service allows administrators—and, if the customer wishes, users—to manage the security of the application. The security tools accessed through the management and user console enable administrators and users to remotely remove or disable the application and remove application data.

Administrators can also push or publish updates to the client application from the management console.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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