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Current The How and Why Departments - The How &Why 02/01/06

KISS Up to Improved ROI

Deployments are increasing, but many organizations still aren’t buying or aren’t happy with what they’ve bought because productivity increases don’t deliver what customers hoped for. Maybe the problem isn’t a failure of the application to perform as advertised, but trying to get the application to perform everything that’s advertised.
An analogy someone gave me is to consider the application data you can view on your desktop as projecting 100 points of light. On a mobile device this needs to drop down to 10 points of light. Apply this 90 percent reduction concept to many aspects of your mobile application and you might achieve greater ROI, faster.

Vendors who enable you to extend desktop applications to mobile devices sell the idea of putting much of the functionality into traveling salespeople’s hands, so your company makes more money. Your salespeople, however, focus pretty narrowly on how they make money. Any application that stands in the way of them making more money (in perception or reality) gets little or no use. Either way, ROI is low.

To get the ROI you want, try this: Spend time in the field watching your salespeople work. Determine two or three common inefficient tasks most people do that one software feature, one drop-down check-box, could eliminate so they close more sales. Then isolate one task people aren’t doing that will help them close more sales if the software lets them do it with one, maybe two, features. Go back to the office and have IT deploy just these features.

What? Forget all of that cool functionality in the brochure? Yep. KISS it off. Would you rather have all of your people using one software feature and showing a 15 percent increase in closed sales, or 30 percent of your salespeople not using the app and the rest using it poorly? Remember, ROI is job security, feature-heavy software isn’t.
E-mail is the most pervasive, end-user–addictive mobile application because it’s simple, in concept and in practice. I get e-mail wherever I am, I respond to it from wherever I am (often while doing other tasks) and I move on. I get more profitable work done because I do little work using the software.

Here are some additional tasks where you can wield the 90 percent reduction concept:
If UI modification is easy, have IT reduce screen pages to the least amount of detail needed for the user to perform a task. Make all key features three clicks from everything else. Do this based on what your people will actually use, not what you think they need.

According to Forrester Research, the three main reasons people hesitate to deploy mobile apps are security, cost and device management. KISS some of these issues away, too.

Some companies don’t fret security much because they limit the amount of data accessed from servers, collected in the field, stored on the device and sent. The data that is moved around is so minimal that someone couldn’t put it into any kind of context if they did manage to steal it. Insist that IT create a simplified wizard-type interface that people can use to evoke all the necessary network security procedures.

If you buy fewer features, minimize functionality on devices and streamline data usage, you’ll probably significantly cut purchasing, deployment and wireless data traffic costs, too.

As for device management, buy a good management application that automates most of these tasks. With the previous suggestions collectively producing ROI benefits, the cost for device management can be less of a consideration in the overall scheme of things. •

-Business Expert, CRAIG SETTLES - President, Successful.com

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Considering the Alternatives
The top dogs in CRM software aren’t the only ones with bite.

Benny P. is an executive with an up-and-coming management consulting company and readily admits that he is a Salesforce.com junky, having previously used the popular CRM software while working as a global sales manager for a very large and well-known wireless solutions company.

He uses the software now on an almost daily basis, but has started looking around for other less-expensive alternatives that may not offer all the features of what many consider to be the Rolls Royce of CRM software but provide enough flexibility to be an effective tool for the demands of a small to midsize company. Also, he doesn’t have the time or the interest to take part in the numerous training courses and classes offered by Salesforce, which promise to help him take full advantage of the software’s power and potential.

Obviously, Benny is not alone in his predicament. Interest in Web-based and on-demand CRM software has increased over the past year or so, which has been a boon for Salesforce.com; its subscriber base has risen to more than 351,000 subscribers, and its software has been developed in 11 languages. Internal research claims a 97 percent satisfaction rate among enterprise users of the software, which include such heavyweight companies as Yamaha, ADP and America Online.

Market researcher International Data Corp. reports that the on-demand CRM market generated more than $300 million in revenue last year, the majority of which comes from top player Salesforce.com and four other CRM application providers, including Siebel Systems, which entered the market in early 2004. However, this revenue figure and the market picture may change substantially over the next few years as newer companies enter the market and many software providers latch onto the on-demand model. These newcomers are also taking advantage of reports of companies in the industry that have failed to successfully implement and use feature-heavy CRM programs.

Wishing Upon a CRM Star
One rising star on the CRM stage is SugarCRM, a company founded in April 2004 and based in California that developed an open-source version of the software that is quickly creating some serious competition for the more well-known leaders in the industry. The basic version of the software can support up to 20 users and comes with an open-source MySQL database. This version is also available for download free from the company’s Web site.

Since it is open source, the company encourages suggestions and engineering tweaks from its user community and incorporates these into updates and improvements in the software. The company makes its money by selling more advanced subscriptions of its SugarSuite application, as well as plug-ins to various enterprise standards such as Microsoft Outlook and the Oracle database.

Apparently, the open-source campaign is working, since more than a few important companies and government agencies—such as NASA, the Athena Health network and Avid Technology—have adopted the software as a replacement for Salesforce.com.

NetSuite has been around since 1998, but it got its start in enterprise resource planning (ERP), which really is just a stone’s throw from CRM in the grand supply-chain scheme of things. Since it has its roots in ERP, NetSuite takes a more global approach to CRM and provides a peek at what is happening through a well-designed console. This application can get complicated, although the modular approach allows users to only install what they need.

In fact, the modular approach may be the best bet for small to midsize companies, since it allows them to ease into what could quickly turn out to be hot water, without a little guidance. Larger enterprises would also do well to investigate lesser-known alternatives, to avoid taking a bath when it comes to squeezing out the full potential of these products and services. •

Technology Expert
TIM SCANNELL
Founder and Chief Analyst
Shoreline Research
www.shorelineresearch.com