SAP and Research in Motion (News - Alert) (RIM) announced they are jointly working to bring SAP’s back-end business applications, starting with CRM, to BlackBerry devices.
Terming the co-development partnership a “game changer,” SAP enlisted RIM to build a version of its CRM applications to run natively on the BlackBerry (News - Alert). SAP also plans to extend this to other SAP’s applications, including ERP resource planning) and supply chain, said Bill McDermott, president and CEO of SAP Americas (News - Alert), Asia Pacific, and Japan.
He further noted, “This is a major win for RIM and for SAP, but much more importantly, for any mobile professional that works anywhere in the world today,” adding that until now, CRM has failed many salespeople because of the inherent mobility of their jobs.
“They don’t want to be chained to a desktop or tethered to the wall; they want to be out on the street selling something to somebody who needs a solution.” he said.
McDermott called putting CRM on the BlackBerry platform empowering them “at the tip of the spear where the relationship happens with the customer.”
AMR Research analyst Rob Bois also acknowledged the challenges for salespeople in accessing information from CRM applications on the fly and, hence, does not see any real downside. However, “Synchronization of data can be a challenge and a technical burden,” he said. “A lot of IT organizations can’t justify the amount of work it would take to get basic information to a salesperson’s devices.”
By integrating the CRM application natively with BlackBerry’s e-mail, address book, and calendar applications, the information from the application will be seamlessly integrated. Users will be able to call contacts directly from within the SAP application and also receive e-mail alerts about changes to information.
Research firm IDC expects the mobile business users to exceed one billion by 2011, representing about 30 percent of the workforce, making the integration of CRM software into a mobile environment increasingly vital.
The partnership between RIM and SAP is not exclusive, though RIM Chairman and CEO Jim Balsillie said that there are no similar partnerships with other application providers planned at this time.
AMR Research’s Bois expects SAP’s competitors to follow its lead in natively building CRM applications into mobile platforms. One of SAP’s competitors in the CRM space, Salesforce.com (News - Alert), already has a mobile version of its hosted CRM service. However, rather than having functionality directly built into the mobile OS, like SAP mobile CRM, it is more of a mobile rendering of the Web application, he said.
Bois added, “Microsoft (News - Alert) tends to be Microsoft-centric when it comes to what technologies they want to enable.” However, in this case, Microsoft should perhaps reconsider its strategy because of the ubiquity of BlackBerry in the mobile business market.
Mary Wardley, analyst with research firm IDC, said ease of use that will be key to encouraging a company’s sales force to use a CRM application on their mobile devices.
“For the salesperson, sales automation is about productivity for the organization; it’s about information that is collected and analyzed and can be used in making key business decisions for strategy and business development,” she said. “Bringing the natural interaction between the applications and the device to the SAP application will advance the usability tremendously.”
Anamika Singh is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Anamika’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
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