Written by Larry Ritter
You’ve decided to provision your employees with mobile devices, have been tasked with implementing a mobile strategy by year’s end, or perhaps have eagerly awaited maturity of devices and applications now commonly being leveraged in the business place. No matter how you arrived at your “go mobile” decision, there are must-haves to be mindful of and items you can leave off your checklist. Here are important implementation recommendations to consider as you proceed.
Confirm mobile devices and applications fulfill your specific business requirements
Let logic lead the way to true business benefits. Most devices and business applications tout ease-of-use so when you demo them make sure you agree. Focus on key tasks your users need most frequently when mobile like calendar scheduling, managing contacts, adding notes and updating key information within sales opportunities. Be sure these functions are well integrated and efficiently support your business processes. Retrofitting your time-tested processes just to accommodate technology is seldom preferred. Making sure your mobile solution works the way your team already does will encourage adoption.
Opt for device-independent mobile applications
You never know what the next cool device or critical business capabilities will be. If your mobile application is built for a specific (native) device you may limit your employees’ and your budget’s ability to adopt and support the latest devices and new features. Mobile applications built upon portable web standards provide broader expansion options and device-independent deployments; meaning you can use an iPhone, your sales manager an Android and your administrator a BlackBerry while all accessing the same customer database. Device independence can also increase adoption of your chosen applications because employees increasingly want to use their own personal devices in the workplace.
Use multiple security levels
Nielson data suggests smartphones are used by 48% of American adults, likewise suggesting that millions of devices in circulation – and your data – are prime targets for malware and thieves. Lookup the top antivirus apps and install them directly from device manufacturers’ marketplaces, for example, Android and Apple. Many devices also have geo-location “find me” features you can use if you lose one. Also look for applications that have kill switches or remotely wipe business and customer data from devices when they don’t “call home.” This is especially helpful when a device is lost or an employee leaves the company.
Canadian menswear retailer Harry Rosen Inc. uses a Sage mobile customer management system that its sales associates access via personal devices. Customer details from preferred garments and tailoring sizes to birthdays and average sales per visit are in hand whenever assisting someone. Since the mobile application is web-based, associates never need to download customers’ information to their devices and are disconnected from each store’s network once they are 10 feet outside the door.
Seek mobile capabilities included at low or no additional charge
Mobility is now a must-have in many business scenarios. Your competition most likely has already deployed it. The emerging generation of professionals entering the workforce simply expects remote access to business systems. Given these realities, software publishers offering some mobile extensions within their base system pricing at no additional cost or through low-cost, web-based connected services demonstrate they understand your IT budget constraints and need for flexibility. Further, even when the cost to acquire is low, make sure administration and ongoing support is equally low.
Align with vendors actively involved in delivering your applications
As you consider various mobile application providers, take a look at their technology commitment. Do they articulate a vision for integrating front- and back-office mobile capabilities? Can they extend the usefulness of your investment with secure methods for accepting credit card payments through your mobile devices? This isn’t to say third-party or add-on products that complement a vendor’s core systems don’t have a place. In some instances these are ideal paths to follow, yet the journey to mobile business process automation requires attention to detail and must be well integrated and maintained. Ensure the pieces you use are supported by reputable providers who will be with you the entire way.
About the author: Larry Ritter is senior vice president and general manager with responsibility for Sage’s Contact Management Solutions, most notably Sage ACT!. Previously he led product strategy, product management, product marketing and user experience for the Sage CRM Solutions product family comprised of Sage ACT!, SageCRM, and Sage SalesLogix.
Mr. Ritter has 20 years of software industry experience and, prior to Sage, led product development efforts for Citrix Systems and Hewlett Packard. He joined Sage in 2004 and, as a senior executive within the company’s global CRM organization, has helped evolve the Sage ACT! product line for use by corporate customers and specific industries, guide Sage CRM and Sage ERP front- and back-office integration, and led the re-architecture of the Sage SalesLogix platform.