Companies that want to get on must be mobile. Thanks to new technologies, business mobility is increasingly becoming a factor for success. Whether in sales, customer service, or logistics, mobile solutions that provide users with information regardless of their location give many processes a helping hand. Equipped with a laptop or PDA (personal digital assistant), field sales employees, for example, can call up customer data from the business software, and enter new orders while they are on business trips. This can be done both online, that is, with a direct connection to the company, and offline.
Practically all industries and companies of all sizes benefit from the opportunities offered by mobile business. The field sales forces of midsize companies in the building industry, too, can be supported by mobile solutions. One such tool is mobile building project management, which can be used to record and manage the sales potential of certain products in various building initiatives. In view of the ongoing economic crisis in the building industry, and the correspondingly tight budgets, companies need mobile solutions that are as cost-effective as possible, and that quickly bring the desired benefits.
The right balance
An analysis of business processes must come at the start of every IT project, and the same is true for a new mobile solution too. The most important question that needs to be answered is which tasks the field sales employees require support for, and which can they carry out in a central CRM solution in the company or in the office at home. The guiding principles should be to implement as much as possible in the central system and as little as necessary in the mobile environment. In this way, the complexity, implementation effort, technical risks, and costs of the mobile application can be kept as low as possible.
In a project executed by the IT service provider movento for a midsize supplier in the building industry, for example, the main focus was on providing the internal and field sales teams with a powerful CRM solution. The required application needed to provide support both for mobile devices without a permanent connection to the company, and for offices in the company and at home with a permanent connection to the company’s network. During the analysis of the business processes, a handful of functions were determined that were absolutely essential for the mobile devices. They are typical for many companies in the building industry:
- The management of building projects, in order to analyze sales opportunities in the quotation phase.
- Activities and contact management, which makes it possible to plan, monitor, and document schedules and contacts for a building project or with a business partner.
- Business partner management, in order to manage information about contact people, prospects, customers, and competitors.
- The option of entering additional information and marketing characteristics, in order to classify business partners more accurately, for example, the buying and decision-making behavior of a customer, or whether a customer has received a Christmas card or gift.
Many companies in the building industry use SAP R/3 to control and execute their business processes. They therefore need a mobile solution that is integrated with the ERP software, because this is the only way to make the relevant information from the business software, such as customer data, available to the field sales employees when they are on the road. The data integrity between the mobile solution, the central CRM application, and SAP R/3 must be guaranteed here.
Analyzing sales opportunities
One solution that meets these requirements is mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM) combined with the mobile component SAP Mobile Sales or SAP Mobile Sales for Handhelds. With the Opportunities Management function in mySAP CRM, companies can map building project management that makes the sales opportunities of building projects transparent. The field sales force thus has a comprehensive and structured basis for its work.
Employees enter the building project’s potential in the mobile CRM application classified by product groups, and can make accurate predictions on the sale of individual projects. At the same time, the function increases sales transparency, because the different interests in a building project and the decision-makers involved can be mapped using links. The overview makes it easier for employees to direct their sales activities at the right people, for example, architects, building contractors, or installation engineers. Functions such as resubmission or activity documentation support the management of building projects.
Saving costs with PDAs
With the mobile components for mySAP CRM, companies can choose between the comprehensive SAP Mobile Sales solution, which is installed on the laptop, or the “leaner” SAP Mobile Sales for Handhelds. This solution for offline operation has a more restricted scope of functions, and is used in connection with SAP Mobile Infrastructure (SAP MI). SAP MI is an integral part of SAP NetWeaver, the technical basis of the SAP Solutions for Mobile Business solution offering. SAP MI is based on open standards such as Java, XML, SOAP or Web Services and is platform-independent, so customers are not tied to particular hardware.
Companies that only want to support certain processes on mobile devices and whose field sales force does not need a direct connection to the company network while on business trips are well served by SAP Mobile Sales for Handhelds combined with mySAP CRM. This means that not only is the hardware for the mobile application more cost-effective, the technical requirements, which are more modest than those of the more complex laptop application, also help to keep the overall costs down.
Data integrity between the mobile solution, the central mySAP CRM application, and SAP R/3 is guaranteed with SAP Mobile Infrastructure. It controls the synchronization of master data and movement/transaction data.
SAP Mobile Sales for Handhelds supports field sales employees offline in their core processes such as building project management, activity and contact management, or business partner management. Employees carry out all other tasks at their company work stations in mySAP CRM. This means that they have access to the full functionality of the CRM solution that the internal sales department also works with.
Simple lessons for great success
Midsize companies in particular, which want to achieve the expected benefits with their mobile application as quickly as possible, should follow a few central rules during implementation. These include the “strategy for certain success”: The project should concentrate on the most important business processes and map these in appropriate systems. One decisive factor for success is user acceptance, which must be at the forefront of the project. After all, the field sales employees are the company’s contact with the customer and they provide the information that a company needs for sales and customer management. The new solution should therefore be implemented in steps, so that users are not overwhelmed by too many functions at the start. For this reason, it makes sense to provide a useful, basic functionality initially, and gradually to add further functions for additional CRM goals.
The simpler the mobile solution is, the easier it will be to implement. It is therefore worth only providing the absolutely essential processes and data on mobile devices, and mapping all the other processes in the central CRM system. The costs for implementation, operation, and maintenance of the solution can also be reduced if the standard software is used as far as possible.
In order to guarantee the security of the mobile solution, it is possible to conclude VPN (virtual private network) agreements with a telecommunications company. Alternatively, dial-in procedures can be used, for example via GPRS (general packet radio service) or UMTS (universal mobile telecommunications system) with authorization in the form of user name and password or device ID. Here, too, suitable security packages guarantee secure access to the company network.