If you are starting to see rogue devices such as iPhones being brought into your organization that are not part of your official mobile infrastructure, know that this actually presents a great opportunity for you and your company. Take advantage of your employees’ willingness to use their smartphones to increase the adoption and usage of line of business (LOB) applications such as CRM and sales force automation (SFA)-which traditionally have not achieved 100 percent user adoption.
The following are five tips on how to effectively manage this process and mitigate risk, while gaining the biggest business benefits:
Tip No. 1: Set device management policies to ensure security
The policies you choose to implement will depend on how much time you are willing to invest initially (whether by deploying Web-based mobile applications or device-side applications) and the type of information available via smartphones. The simplest in all categories will be Web-based. By using HTTP Secure (HTTPS), you can ensure the information is encrypted and nothing is lost if the device is left in a coffee shop.
In addition to the challenge of finding yourself out of a coverage zone, the other downside to this solution is that, although standard Web sites can be accessed by smartphone browsers, the more effective ones have specific Web pages tailored towards the smaller screens and reduced user input facilities. Plus, not every LOB application your company uses will have Web access tailored towards a mobile experience.
If you want to invest a little more time, then consider a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), which gives you more control over the type of applications your employees can use on the devices, higher security and the ability to wipe devices if lost (or refresh them if there are support issues). BES works with more than just BlackBerry devices, including many of the Nokia phones. Also, support for new devices are being regularly added.
Tip No. 2: Use browser-based applications for occasional users
To conform to your company’s security requirements and to keep deployment and management simple, enable your rogue device users and occasional users to access enterprise applications through mobile browsers. This is ideal for people who bring in personal devices that don’t conform to your mobile infrastructure such as iPhone, Google G1 or Nokia devices. By using Web-based mobile applications tailored for micro-sized browsers and reduced data entry of a smartphone, you eliminate the challenge of deploying device-side applications and the concerns of having data stored on the device. Data is viewed on the device through the browser and most Web applications use secure protocols for data transmission.
The downside to this approach is that your field staff will need to have a solid network connection, which may be a challenge if they’re traveling to rural areas. This challenge will obviously decrease as carriers continue to build faster and broader network infrastructures. But these types of solutions should satisfy the demands of your rogue mobile users, while allowing them to be more productive and still in alignment with your IT policies.
Use Device-side Applications for Power Users
Tip No. 3: Use device-side applications for power users
For rogue power users who bring in devices that actually conform to your mobile infrastructure (likely BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices), offer them offline, device-side applications for a richer experience. This type of solution synchronizes with your servers and usually stores data offline on the device. This will require you to invest in the infrastructure to run them, but will result in a greater experience with the applications, more usage from your staff and more control.
Tip No. 4: Monitor returns and then consolidate plans
By allowing rogue devices into your company to be used for accessing enterprise information and applications, you open the question of who pays for the device and the voice/data plans: the company or the individual? Once you allow rogue users to use Web-based or device-side applications under a pilot program, assess how much they are using it and how much they are gaining from it. If the ROI is positive and they are more productive due to the smartphones, it only makes sense to pay for all or a portion of their plans (such as data only). Then, consider the next step and consolidate plans and device options to reduce your costs on all the plans.
Tip No. 5: Build the business case
Now that you have handled the immediate issues and opportunities with rogue smartphone usage, it is time to plan how mobility can become a key initiative to help your company achieve its goals. As always with new business initiatives, you will want to build a strong business case to convince the executives. In an economy where the output of every staff person is critical, building a case for allowing smartphones to boost productivity shouldn’t be an uphill battle. Current users of mobile CRM applications in the field are reporting that it saves them enough time to make one more sales appointment per day. That’s five more per week or 20 more per month, which is a 17 to 20 percent tangible increase in productivity.
One company, a medical device manufacturer, has even raised their sales targets and expectations due to mobile CRM. Also, for managers who need to justify the existence of field and traveling sales staff in this economy, having visibility into activities and effort is key. With real-time information, they can measure effort to performance to identify areas that need fixing.
The medical device manufacturer’s sales managers utilized activity information from their mobile CRM system to coach and guide struggling sales reps and, in turn, increased their performance-with one achieving 110 percent of quota the following year. When you get to this stage, you should have qualitative feedback and quantity data for your own “pilot” of allowing rogue device owners to use LOB applications on their own.
As business professionals are demanding the latest and greatest smartphones, you now have the upper hand: you can encourage usage of critical business applications such as CRM on your employees’ smartphones to increase business productivity for staff and business visibility for managers. Instead of trying to stop the wave, take advantage of the heightened interest in mobile and adopt the critical and necessary strategic steps to ensure your IT organization is in control and deriving the benefits.
William Anderson is Executive Vice President of Technology at Maximizer Software. William is responsible for setting the direction and overseeing strategy and progress of research and development, customer support and services groups. William is recognized as a leading authority in the CRM industry, having more than 18 years of CRM software development expertise. William graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Western Ontario. He can be reached at [email protected].