Minerva Hobbs' Top 10 Tips For Mobile Crm (And Other Mobile Enterprise Apps)
By Minerva Tantoco Hobbs, Mon Oct 01 00:00:00 GMT 2001

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1. Do your mobile strategy homework:

As with any mobile or wireless initiative, make sure that all the strategy stars align-market strategy, business strategy and technology strategy. Businesses must ensure that the wireless application provides true value to the customer or user (e.g., real-time customer knowledge), creates business return on investment (e.g., increased customer loyalty, for example), and technology issues are addressed appropriately (e.g., starting with a limited pilot). An m-strategy workshop or full strategy phase will help get these strategies on paper, validated, and ultimately measured.

2. Channel-check

The customer is king, knowledge is power, and anytime, anywhere customer knowledge is today's 'killer app.' How can you most effectively use the mobile channel to create, maintain, and enhance relationships? Whether providing a convenient new channel for your customer, or empowering your field personnel with real-time customer knowledge, away from their desktop, keep all the channels (voice, web, wireless, etc.) humming along.

3. What is the state of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) infrastructure?

What enterprise software are you using? Do not try to simply squeeze huge enterprise applications on a small screen at low bandwidths. Which systems need to communicate and synchronize? Is the needed application integration in place? If not, which are most critical for the mobile application? Are you replacing an existing proprietary wireless system with an open platform or new handheld devices? Are you mobilizing or enhancing an existing desktop-based process, such as on-site order processing, dynamic pricing, inventory and parts tracking on service calls, or more accurate data capture? This is where the Return on Investment (ROI) rubber meets the road.

4. Does it pass the 'urgency filter'?

Context is king, they say. Where are the users and what are they doing? In an airport looking for customer service? On a sales call? Dinner with the big customer? Looking for a repair or delivery status? Approach functionality directly from the mobile user's perspective-relevant, time-critical, location-based, context-sensitive, fast, personal. If it can wait until they get back to their desk (especially in the U.S.) then it's not urgent enough. If it takes me too long (read: longer than calling on the phone or using the web), then it's not fast enough (think: six seconds or less).

5. Are you user-experienced?

Creating a compelling user-experience is even more important on handheld devices. Because convenience and speed are the main value proposition for mobile users, they have an even shorter fuse and lower tolerance for delays, poor navigation design, difficulty in using an application. Continue to build apps for low, intermittent bandwidth; and small screens. Even thin-client versions of larger enterprise application should be thought through in terms of task-specific design. What is the user/customer trying to do? And in a hurry?

6. Go with the data flow:

How quickly does the data change? Is it a lot or a little? Can some data be stored locally, while other data needs to be updated in real time? Are the transactions one- or two-way? Keep in mind that most enterprise application will likely end up at a hybrid solution-some combination or synchronized or wired-download data with real-time wireless updates. Does your technology and deployment strategy accommodate this? Think seriously about handling intermittent connectivity, queuing, and transaction recovery.

7. Localization and deployment:

Different countries, different applications-devices, networks, bandwidths, latency, privacy, and security issues can and will differ by country. Start small but plan on multi-country support at the outset. For example, which carriers can provide appropriate service level where needed? How will you fill in the gaps?

8. What devices will you support? And how?

Is your application primarily appropriate for a browser phone, Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), or a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)? If your intention is to support multiple devices, how will you manage multiple versions of content and software? Multiple and incompatible messaging protocols? Navigation and function differ by device. Who needs to be trained and how will they be trained?

9. Wear a belt and suspenders:

With CRM and other enterprise applications, security needs to be tight. We're talking sensitive customer data, whether for your field personnel or for the end customer. No one wants a hole here. Look for secure transport, encryption, user authentication, and authorized device ID's to help nail it down.

10. Three words - test, test, test:

Start with a well-defined pilot, with a solid ROI business case, and measurable results. Mobilizing the enterprise takes good solid planning and testing, and sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. With all your ducks in a row, it will be time and money well spent.

Minerva Tantoco Hobbs is Director, Advanced Technology at Answerthink. With over 15 years experience extracting business value from advanced technology, such as AI and internet, is a frequent speaker and writer on mobile and other emerging technology topics.

Answerthink, Inc. is a leading provider of technology-enabled business transformation solutions. Answerthink's mobile solutions clients include Mibrary, IBM, Nextel, American Isuzu Motors, and BAX Global.