In the market for wireless phones with computer-enabled features – or smartphones – there are essentially only two players: the BlackBerry and the iPhone. And this is truer than ever when innovative functions such as mobile data synchronization with the company server are what’s called for. The iPhone, which entered the consumer segment two years ago, is now going from strength to strength in the business world. And let’s not forget the mobile Internet, which has transformed itself from a passive information medium to a useful helper.
It’s no longer just about e-mails, calendar entries, notes, and contact details that need to be permanently updated and synchronized. The world of mobile CRM now involves accessing a company’s retailing system, checking delivery stock, prices, and deadlines, and monitoring the status of projects, customers, and complaints. Unsurprisingly, the target group is those who are rarely in the office – sales reps, field service employees, and top managers. At the CRM-expo 2009, the overriding consensus was that sales representatives are now assuming the role of customer manager.
Not so long ago, the first mobile CRM features were only available on the BlackBerry, but now more and more solutions are emerging for the popular iPhone. For example, CRM-expo visitors had the opportunity to see a fully fledged version of Sybase’s CRM mobility solution connected to the SAP Customer Relationship Management application (SAP CRM) in a protected area. And it became evident that this CRM solution runs much faster on the iPhone than it currently does on the BlackBerry Storm.
iPhone faster than BlackBerry
The reason for this is simple: Apple currently offers higher-performance hardware with the iPhone 3GS because the processor clock speed is slightly faster than with the BlackBerry Bold or Storm. What’s more, since SDK 3.x, developers have had full access to the OpenGL graphical user interface, which is supported by the graphics processor PowerVR MBX. The BlackBerry developers don’t have access to such an interface, which means that the graphics calculations cannot be optimized to the same extent.
If you directly compare the BlackBerry Storm with the iPhone 3GS, it becomes immediately obvious that Research In Motion (RIM) was inspired by the Apple concept: The BlackBerry Storm has a large touchscreen with a screen resolution of 480 x 360 pixels, and there’s no physical keyboard. However, in terms of screen display and practical use, BlackBerry is a step behind the leader of the pack – because even inexperienced users soon get to grips with the iPhone, and the minimalist appearance makes a refreshing and modern impression. But how do the two compare in a day-to-day business context – and particularly with regard to access to CRM functions?
Mobile CRM with Sybase: accessing SAP data
Through the Sybase solution, the differences between the two phones become apparent, with interesting results. While everything looks rather text-heavy and old-school on the BlackBerry (Bold), the iPhone graphics are much more appealing. At least, that’s what most visitors said who spoke with the SAP.info team during the two-day event in Nuremberg. Attendees had the chance to watch a demo in which an iPhone equipped with the Sybase mobile CRM solution was used to access data records in an SAP CRM database. The processing and display speed was much faster than with the BlackBerry equivalent.
However, the Sybase mobile CRM solution is not yet available for the iPhone, which means that prospective customers can for the time being only access databases using the BlackBerry.
julitecCRM mobile: BlackBerry and iPhone
One of the companies to present its wares at the CRM-expo was julitec, which is headquartered in Erlangen, Germany and specializes in service and helpdesks. Managing director Dominik Wever used practical examples to show the benefits of having mobile access to systems. According to Wever, julitec provides easy-to-use software that is available for both the BlackBerry and the iPhone. The mobile application for the iPhone is based on the ebf.connector, which is already offered by the Cologne, Germany-based company ebf.
Thanks to this application, the iPhone can connect with data sources such as SAP, SAP CRM, SAP workflows, Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Dynamics NAV, and Siebel CRM.
The advantages of the solution lie in decentralized data entry, easy administration, and integration with many business processes. One of the key functions is the grouped calendar display. Back at company base, the IT team in charge can centrally administrate the system and configure the users. At the end of the day, this can also be seen as integration with service-oriented architecture (SOA).