AstraZeneca Showing the Way in m-CRM
By Steve Wallage, Wed Nov 06 13:47:00 GMT 2002

The key success factor is allowing business to drive the CRM initiative, not technology.

What is Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM)? Analysts Gartner define 46 segments in the CRM market, and see it as part of the evolution to the Real Time Enterprise (RTE). More traditionally, it is about such ideals as the 'customer-centric' organization and the drive towards 'loyal and profitable customers'. There is no doubting the importance of information related to understanding, retaining and attracting customers. A Harvard Business Review study found that financial institutions could boost profits by as much as 100% if they retained 5% more customers. Mobile CRM (m-CRM) seems a natural evolution of CRM, allowing access to customer information at any time.

Despite the billions already invested globally in CRM, a recent piece of US research by consultants Accenture found that 38% of surveyed executives felt that CRM was their #1 IT spending choice. Yet, much of the CRM investment is widely believed to have been wasted. For example, the Dutch direct marketing, distance selling and sales promotion organization (DMSA) in a survey of its members, suggested that 80% of CRM projects fail. Given this and the current IT spending climate, the still immature m-CRM products and services becomes a very difficult thing to sell. One company that has overcome many of the specific challenges is AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca Case Study

AstraZeneca, one of the leading global pharmaceutical companies, introduced m-CRM into its Finnish office about 18 months ago. About 60 salespeople are using the system. For AstraZeneca, much of the sales efforts is focused around meeting doctors with a typical salesperson getting through four or five meetings a day. The business imperative is that these salespeople know as much information as possible prior to each meeting, and record as much information as possible after the meeting. By providing a Nokia 9210, each salesperson now is able to do this. The system uses WAP, with a WAP content gateway from Sonera, and a local CRM consultancy providing the integration and interface to the existing CRM system.

The development is part of an initiative by AstraZeneca to look at how mobile technologies and services can enhance their working experience.

There are six main obstacles that any m-CRM implementation needs to face. Jouni Kock, manager of knowledge management and IT at AstraZeneca in Finland, believes that the experience of AstraZeneca shows how these can be overcome.

Driven by Business, and Not Technology

A key reason for the failure of many traditional CRM implementations is widely believed to be the lack of business input and thinking into the decision. CRM requires the whole business to be customer-focused in its activities, and successful implementations are driven by departments such as sales and marketing rather than IT.

In the AstraZeneca case, Kock says that their implementation were very much driven by the organizational needs rather than any technology considerations. Even in the technical deployment, user groups were involved in all stages and salespeople were providing feedback at all stages.

Kock also believes that AstraZeneca found that simplicity was one of the keys to user acceptance. He says that over-complexity would have deterred the salespeople, and would have prevented them even giving the system a chance. Linked to this, was a strong investment in training and ensuring that salespeople felt comfortable with the system.

The Business Case

Companies are demanding technology vendors show them the business case the payback and return on investment when making a purchase. It is no good just to make vague promises, or hope that technology can lead to improvements in the business.

The search for tangible rewards has been a difficult challenge across the CRM space. Ideally, the benefits should be seen in the bottom line but even if this happens, how much can be realistically attributed to CRM?

Kock believes that AstraZeneca have been able to measure the effectiveness of their m-CRM investment in three main areas.

First, the data inputted into the CRM system has proven to be of much higher quality. Second, the amount of 'free commentary' has been much increased. This highly useful data was often under used as salespeople either couldn't remember as much detail or were in a hurry to write up the details. Third, there has been an improvement in the employee satisfaction of the salespeople. A particular reason in the AstraZeneca case was that many of the salespeople were having to input data after they had finished their meetings, which often meant working in the evenings. The m-CRM solution has overcome this.


The real benefits of CRM can come when the information is widely used within the organization, is accurate and up to date, and is integrated into other systems. Companies have often failed to do this, as they have undertaken projects by department and on a piecemeal basis and have had very little thought as to how the information will be used alongside other systems across the organization. Integration can also add to the cost and complexity of any CRM project, and thus some users have chosen not to remedy this problem.

AstraZeneca were very aware of this issue when they implemented their m-CRM solution. Kock believes one of their main weapons in overcoming the issue was to use the CRM consultancy they had already worked with, to design the m-CRM interface and align the system. He feels that a new company, or a specialist m-CRM integrator, would have faced a lot of problems in trying to work with the existing AstraZeneca CRM deployment.

Another strategy used by AstraZeneca was to develop similar functionality for the mobile users as existed for the PC users. This not only encouraged familiarity, but gave credence to the idea that this was all one CRM system as opposed to a separate m-CRM application.

Reliability, Security and Speed

With valuable customer and prospect data being accessed, security is obviously a key concern. AstraZeneca used the security built in by Sonera on their WAP content gateway. The pharmaceutical company has clear security guidelines on the use of customer data, and it needed to be convinced that this would not be compromised before deploying the m-CRM system.

In reality, salespeople will stop using the system if it is either too slow or often breaks down. A m-CRM solution must be able to work at an 'appropriate' speed for the application and provide the sort of reliability that users expect from IT systems. These issues were key in AstraZeneca choosing the WAP approach. Dialing in on the GSM network was fast and reliable enough for their needs.

Kock says the company is evaluating GPRS, which provides the higher speeds and always-on service of a packet network. Operators need to prove that their GPRS networks can offer the level of speed and reliability that is required for an application such as m-CRM.

Future for m-CRM

AstraZeneca shows the value that m-CRM can provide, and the importance of the business strategy and planning that must be undertaken. The attraction of m-CRM can be clear-cut; providing valuable customer information to traveling salespeople, field engineers and maintenance staff. Other pharmaceutical companies have also been among the early adopters in using m-CRM although most are using a 'disconnected' service that is, synchronizing information rather than gaining real-time access.

Researchers Aberdeen Group concluded that Europe has a 12-month head start over the US in using mobile technology for CRM applications, despite the US being 18 months ahead of Europe in overall adoption of CRM software.

Customer-focussed European companies should look to follow the AstraZeneca example and trial m-CRM to assess the benefits that can be provided.

Steve Wallage works and writes for the451. Steve has more than 13 years of experience as a technology analyst specializing in telecommunications.