Product introductions, with all of their attendant pitches, promotions and rollout ceremonies, are a fact of life when you work for the high-tech press. Its not unusual for editors to receive dozens of announcements per day.
Some announce things that are dramatically new. Some announce upgrades. Some announce products that arent new but fill holes that others left unfilled. Some announce things that are hyped as “new” but really arent. And so it goes …
One that puts a new wrinkle on an old concept came to me recently from a small Atlanta-based company called Air2Web.
This month, the wireless solutions provider launched a set of mobile and wireless applications called 2CRM.
2CRM is designed to be the link that moves information out of SFA (sales force automation), CRM (customer relationship management), FFA (field force automation) and call-center applications, including Siebel, and onto the BlackBerrys of remote workers who can use the data.
But field force automation? It brings to mind the old bridal adage about something old, something new. There is a lot thats familiar here. Field force automation systems—whether they have to do with sales, fulfillment, transportation or CRM—are hardly new.
Federal Express and United Parcel Service built theirs from scratch back in the days when there were no off-the-shelf solutions.
So, at this late date, what does Air2Web have to offer thats different?
For one, a customizable solution that can work across applications and that adds a measure of usability on the client device. 2CRM uses a thick-client technology that enables local storage on BlackBerry, letting field employees use and interact with the information even if theyre out of network coverage.
Len Emmick, vice president of sales at Air2Web, calls the thick-client technology “one of the most compelling and beneficial uses of wireless technology available to organizations today.” Its a marketing statement, to be sure, but to the extent that 2CRM can turn Research In Motions BlackBerry into a more robust computing device, its right on target.
Interestingly, one of the first major deployments of 2CRM has nothing to do with CRM. CSX Intermodal, a transcontinental transportation service provider, is using it as a field service application to track and dispatch shipments.
Drivers notify dispatchers of the status of shipments when they are picked up and dropped off. Dispatchers advise drivers of the whereabouts of waiting shipments, and any of the companys 425 drivers can respond to determine who is in the proximity to pick them up. And its all done through their BlackBerrys.
The beauty of the solution is, naturally, that it was not built from scratch, as so many integrated mobile solutions are.
For years, representatives from Federal Express and UPS have told eager audiences at industry conferences and expos how they built the impressive field-force systems that made them the nations top couriers. Their message was: Expect costs and complexities.
Thats the “new” that 2CRM brings to an old concept and, unlike the bridal adage, theres nothing blue about it.
Check out these other articles by Carol Ellison.