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Posted: 09.04
Taking It to the RIM
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Scoring customer wins gets even easier for a company with a reputation for doing wireless right.  

By Teresa von Fuchs




For Jim Soda, a Prudential Palms realtor in Sarasota, Fla., being able to work on the go is not just about improved efficiency but a necessary business model. Working most of the day from the road, Soda’s success rides on having real-time information at his fingertips and being available to his clients.

When Soda purchased a BlackBerry for wireless e-mail, he noticed a dramatic increase in his contact with clients. And when he found Retrieval Dynamic’s customized, multiple listing property search solution for BlackBerry, he couldn’t believe how much access he had, from anywhere. “On-the-spot responses are magic for people. They see how professional and efficient you can be with a BlackBerry and are more apt to bring their business to you,” says Soda.

At the third annual Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) in Chicago this May, industry leaders—from carriers to software developers to device manufacturers—came together to tell stories much like Jim Soda’s. Hosted by Research in Motion (RIM), WES was sponsored by over 50
partner organizations, including PalmSource, IBM, Nextel, Sun Microsystems and AT&T Wireless, and did more than just share success stories; it also discussed implementation strategies, held training sessions for application developers, showcased best products/best practices and, of course, opened networking opportunities within the enterprise wireless community.

From Mobile Enterprise magazine’s perspective, RIM is a fit host for such an event. Although not necessarily the first provider of wireless e-mail for the enterprise, “RIM was the one that seemed to have gotten it right,” says Kevin Burden, research manager for smart handheld devices from IDC. And not just in the past tense; RIM is holding strong.

“RIM’s been in the wireless data arena longer than any other device manufacturer. We’re a purpose-built company,” says Mark Guibert, VP of corporate marketing at RIM. “Our sole focus is building products and developing technologies for wireless data.” According to Burden, RIM has turned this focus into reliable branding: “ROI on wireless e-mail is hard to prove, but we know most enterprises still look at it as an investment,” states Burden, confident that enterprises are willing to make the investment because of RIM’s proven functionality. “Most companies know they’re going to expand, but when they are unsure of how to begin, they look to RIM’s reputation that says ‘we do wireless right’ and that gets a lot of interest.”

Way Back When

Field Force Automation reported in July 2002 that not only were BlackBerrys the hot, new must-have in the mobile world, but RIM was also looking to enable enterprise apps other than wireless e-mail, and it started down that path by partnering with Sun Microsystems, standardizing on Java and expanding the BlackBerry Enterprise Server. Two years later, RIM is still expanding enterprise apps through strategic partnerships, such as the PalmSource deal announced at WES.

Simply put, the terms of the partnership make BlackBerry Connect software available to Palm OS licensees. The deal includes BlackBerry infrastructure and seamless connectivity between Palm-powered devices and BlackBerry services like the Enterprise Server and Web Client.

Both sides had only glowing things to say about the deal: David Nagel, president and CEO of PalmSource, said, “BlackBerry Connect broadens the choice of wireless messaging solutions for our Palm OS licensees, creating mobile products that better meet the demands of today’s mobile professionals.” This partnership, with another device manufacturer, highlights RIM’s twofold vision—to be both a handheld device manufacturer and a wireless middleware provider.

According to RIM’s Guibert, “We’re as much a software company as we are a hardware company, and we don’t view it as a binary decision. We believe we have to be both to take advantage of the opportunity.” While the PalmSource partnership is a clear sign of the value of the BlackBerry connect software, recent sales figures point to the still viable hardware side of RIM. According to IDC, handheld sales figures jumped in the last two quarters of 2003 from 90,000 units in Q3 to 240,000 in Q4, then again to 425,000 in Q1 of 2004. RIM leaders are squeamish about making market predictions as to the sustainability of these numbers, but Guibert says, “We just passed the one million mark this year in terms of subscribers, and we’re still aiming to grow the business as aggressively as we can.”

From the beginning, partnerships have been an important part of RIM’s strategy. Particularly when you talk about extending enterprise apps out in the field. And on that side RIM has been busy signing deals with application vendors and extenders such as Semotus Solutions, Novarra, eAccess, Sendia and more.

Mobility, Not Software

Salesforce.com, an on-demand CRM application provider, has been a RIM partner since November 2003. No server installation is required, and BlackBerry users can access their live salesforce.com CRM system, eliminating local database issues, syncing hassles or data conflicts.

In May, NetScreen Technologies, now Juniper Networks, standardized its sales operations on salesforce.com and RIM, deploying salesforce.com’s Enterprise Edition to 32 international offices and giving over 200 sales reps access to real-time collaboration and improved pipeline accuracy with Airforce Wireless Edition. Managers now can more effectively manage sales processes with real-time visibility into reps’ activities.

Prior to the salesforce.com and RIM deployment, Netscreen was using Goldmine software for contact management. The system didn’t enable easy collaboration and lacked off-network access. But with end-to-end transparency into the sales process, Juniper has been able to drive up close rates and shorten the sales cycle. “Salesforce.com with BlackBerry handhelds allows us to easily manage our business from any location in real time, making us a more successful sales organization,” says Mark Smith, now VP of worldwide sales for the NetScreen product line.

Mind the Gap

Mountain View, Calif.–based Aeroprise wants to eliminate the ‘problem resolution gap,’ the issue that occurs when applications that field workers rely on exist on their desktops but not in the field. Aeroprise offers pre-packaged adapters that integrate with products from service management providers such as BMC Software and FrontRange Solutions to bring these applications to handhelds like BlackBerry. Aeroprise’s products align with RIM’s model, combining ‘push’ and ‘pull’ to support real-time, offline and sporadically connected mobile devices. While the Aeroprise Personalization Console enables end users to select only key elements of their desktop applications to port to a handheld.

Aeroprise and RIM have recently won a deployment in the healthcare sector with Nemours, one of the nation’s largest pediatric subspecialty group practices. Jeff Hoots from Nemours explains: “We’ve
standardized on Aeroprise to extend our Service Management applications to BlackBerry handhelds. We’re now able to reduce support costs while improving the level of service we provide. We deployed the whole system within a few days and the security module made it easy to comply with corporate policies.”

mDB Helps BEMA

‘Be prepared’ is more than just the Boy Scouts’ motto, it’s also a key tenet in dealing with emergency situations. Part of being prepared means having access to relevant tools and resources. mBiztech’s partnership with RIM seeks to bring that access through its mDB product. An out-of-the-box solution, mDB allows users to wirelessly access IBM Lotus Notes and other database systems from the field on BlackBerry handhelds. And it was just such a solution Broward County’s Emergency Management Agency (BEMA) was after.

The BEMA team maintains a 24/7 monitoring status for incidents such as hurricanes, hazardous spills or terrorist activities. BEMA teams contact the necessary responders and resources to deal with each emergency. “A key element to responding to emergency situations is having immediate access to time-critical information,” says Michael Verini, IT director for BEMA.

Previously, staff had to rely on notebook computers and emergency contact list manuals, as all live data is housed on several IBM Lotus Domino servers at the operations center. “But now with mDB and BlackBerrys, BEMA members are able to access and update information from the field, enabling them to be more efficient, make more informed decisions and possibly save more lives,” asserts Verini.

Crossing the Seven Seas

Another winning area of RIM’s partner program is its many carrier relationships. Chalking up relationships with over 50 carriers in more than 30 countries, and with plans to expand further into Europe, Asia and Latin America over the next six months, RIM is uniquely poised as a service provider with the relationships to make international connectivity possible.

With the slogan, “It’s not just business, it’s personal,” law firm Reed Smith prides itself on the level of support it provides to clients. But with offices in the U.K. and on each U.S. coast, attorneys were spending a lot of time keeping in touch with each other, in addition to being available to clients. “That level of service can sometimes be very taxing,” says Ryan McEnroe, director of systems and technology for Reed Smith.

In 2000, Reed Smith tested 20 BlackBerrys along with the Enterprise Server and was hooked. “We now have 10 Enterprise Servers deployed regionally and over 1,200 handhelds. It has been the most well-received piece of technology that we’ve ever offered. People can’t do without them,” enthuses McEnroe.

And when you’re talking about international relationships, that’s something to celebrate. Many wireless devices have not yet been proven internationally reliable. “People don’t believe that it will just work when they land, but BlackBerry does,” says McEnroe. “Our executive committee just flew over to London yesterday and they were ecstatic over how easily the device worked when they landed. From an international standpoint, we’re extremely pleased with the service.” Reed Smith uses BlackBerry with T-Mobile in the U.S. and Vodafone in the U.K.

The Sweet Smell

In terms of the future, Guibert is confident that BlackBerry has “plenty of runway left.” The BlackBerry Connect licensing program is just beginning and the Enterprise Server keeps expanding, increasing the number of applications and focusing on a broader array of vertical markets like healthcare, legal and finance.

“I think that the expanding utility of BlackBerry continues to broaden its appeal,” says Guibert. “We’ve proven that we can scale the business and scale the service, and customers see that we continue to be credible. Success begets success.”•






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