Three Clicks and Go

Jeff McDowell Photo: SAP AG

When RIM’s Jeff McDowell demoed SAP CRM on the sleek new BlackBerry Bold at SAPPHIRE in Berlin it was a “wow” moment for anyone who uses mobile business tools. In just three clicks he showed how to move from a calendar to a GPS-based map with directions to a client’s office. The wow factor comes in because that type of functionality from other CRM solutions can require five, six or more clicks. That’s more time than most mobile workers have.

“A sales person typically has a briefcase in one hand and is rushing between appointments,” said McDowell, RIM’s vice president, Global Alliances. “He wants to pull out his device quickly and get all the information he needs for the next meeting. If he can’t do it fast, he will never use it,” he said.

SAP INFO online spoke with McDowell about the joint effort to SAP CRM-enable Blackberry smartphones, announced in May. He explains why it’s an exciting step forward for mobile business and how users stand to gain.

How much demand do you see for CRM on BlackBerry? Are people clamoring for it?

McDowell: Absolutely. Not long after we launched BlackBerry e-mail we started getting requests for CRM on BlackBerry. Beyond e-mail, CRM, including field services, is probably the most requested application.

Some BlackBerries have CRM functionality now. How does it work?

McDowell: What we have now has been written by our ecosystem. Many companies have written middleware and hooks into different types of CRM packages and they’ve written intelligent mobile clients for them. Some users already access SAP via their BlackBerry smartphones. For instance, if a RIM middleware partner was mobilizing SAP, that partner would write an interface to the standard set of SAP interfaces. The partner would do its best to take what was on the desktop and mobilize it.

How does this SAP-RIM partnership on CRM change things?

McDowell: The SAP-RIM co-innovation partnership marks the first time RIM is directly involved in creating a native BlackBerry client for CRM. SAP and RIM are architecting each side of the equation. SAP is architecting the server-side architecture and RIM is architecting the client-side architecture. It will be a deeply integrated, highly relevant user experience, native to BlackBerry. It will have inherent functionality like workflow and leads and other CRM processes. Without having SAP and RIM work together it wouldn’t be possible to have such deep integration. Users will benefit through better, faster, easier access, as well as more relevant CRM data.

Here’s an example. Leads are very important to a sales representative, so as soon as she gets a lead she wants to know about it. She doesn’t want to wait until she can synch her laptop up with the back-end application or until she can go back to the office to get it. With this joint SAP-RIM solution, if the marketing department loads a batch of new leads into the CRM system, they will be pushed out to BlackBerries in real time. It’s these two things – the need for real-time communication and the need for it in the field – that drive the demand for CRM on BlackBerries. With this partnership users will get those important capabilities.

Are you targeting a new set of customers?

McDowell: The first customers that adopt this are likely to be current SAP users and probably already have BlackBerry deployments. But we also hope to find customers who have either never used SAP CRM before or who have never used BlackBerry before. We also expect many people who already use SAP CRM to say, “Oh, I can get CRM mobile now. Great!” And we also expect new customers to come to the table and say, “This functionality is better than what I can get with other CRM packages and other mobile packages.” Conceivably, every customer with SAP installed will have some number of BlackBerries deployed. Just like a company wouldn’t buy an SAP license without having a PC attached to it, the hope is that a company wouldn’t buy an SAP license without a mobile application attached to it.

RIM and SAP have been partners since 2004. Why not offer CRM together earlier?

McDowell: The mobile landscape was much different then. Tools weren’t as mature as they are now. BlackBerry didn’t have the breadth of deployment that we have now, with more than 14 million subscribers. SAP’s mobile strategy was younger. A lot of conditions have changed. From a timing perspective, things have culminated so that having this CRM partnership now makes a lot of sense.

Why is the push architecture of the BlackBerry platform a good fit to mobilize enterprise applications?

McDowell: Several years ago RIM mastered the best way to securely push information from behind a firewall to a device. We have an end-to-end encrypted pipe that pushes information out to BlackBerries with no compromise to security. Our platform is already trusted by CIOs. So it’s an extremely easy decision for them to use it for enterprise applications too, because they’ve already certified it once. Their cost of ownership is lower because they don’t have to go through user acceptance testing or security audits again. CRM and other enterprise applications can piggyback on the security model that’s already inherent to the BlackBerry platform.

Also, with push architecture information is delivered in as near real-time as you can get. It’s not the way a typical mobile device works, with the handset ‘waking up’ as some predetermined interval and calling back to the server for data. In our model as soon as an event happens on the backend it gets pushed to the device.

Is there any upcoming RIM news you can share?

McDowell: We just announced the BlackBerry Bold. It’s a beautiful smartphone with powerful technology. It has WiFi, GPS, 3-G capability, Bluetooth, expandable memory and 1 gigabyte of memory on board. It’s a high-tech, futuristic phone.

What do you see in the future for SAP and RIM?

McDowell: While we’ve been focusing on CRM as the first step, all the pieces of the architecture we’re building will be reusable in extending ERP, Business Intelligence, Human Resources and other applications. Basically the entire SAP Business Suite, at some point, will be enabled on BlackBerry smartphones in that same sort of deeply integrated, native application that CRM will be in.