The saying goes, don’t sweat the small stuff. However, as we continue to make our hand-held devices smaller and smaller, the chances that we’ll lose something small with a lot of important data housed on it become larger and larger. I have miniature panic attacks about where my iPhone is two or three times a day (usually it’s in my pocket), but a lost device with company information induces panic on a company-wide scale.
That said, if you’re going to provide mobile CRM in an effective way, you’re going to have to have some data resident on the device. Allowing your users to work offline is critical; a mobile CRM application that is only usable when people are within cell-tower distance will be an even bigger adoption nightmare than a CRM system tethered to a desktop.
So, there are your two challenges: maintaining security, and having access to data offline.
I like what SugarCRM’s doing with these two considerations. First off, in Sugar Mobile Plus, which has a client that stores a copy of all CRM data (including custom fields) locally on the remote device. Additions to the data are stored until the device is connected back to the Internet, when it’s synced with the main CRM system.
Ah, you say! Now you’ve set yourself up for that dreaded device loss, and along with it your data! Well, no software is going to help users hang on to their phones 100 percent of the time, although there might be other, less high tech solutions (epoxy? Bungy cords? Staples?). Face it – they’re going to go missing every so often. The Sugar solution is neat in that, while the sales person is weeping unconsolably about the loss of his device, your IT guy can simply remotely wipe all customer data from the missing device. I like to envision a big, red button that the IT manager pushes, but in reality it’s a bit more pedestrian of a process.
Of course, the person who lost his handheld phone has to KNOW he lost it, and has to call back to the administrator to zap out the customer data. However, once a sales rep or a field service person has adopted mobile CRM, it seems likely they’ll realize their device has gone AWOL very quickly and make the call to IT (on a borrowed phone, I presume).
Things like this make me really excited about what CRM will look like in the future – and it won’t be a sales pro slouching back to the office for two hours of data entry at the end of the day (or simply becoming a CRM non-adopter). It will be people in the field using their handheld devices to make the use of CRM a routine part of the way they work, in the field or in the office. Mobility is going to boost adoption, when it’s done right, and it’s going to become ubiquitous. And, I suspect, as social CRM becomes a standard part of the CRM mix, it’s going to interact with mobile in new and interesting ways.
Now, if they can just figure out a way for your mobile phone to autonomously seek you out when you lose it. How hard could it be to create a combination iPhone/Roomba?