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Hey IT Manager, We're Your Friends

You know who you are. You are the employee who ignores mandates from the IT department. You use your own devices and apps to get the job done, company policies be hanged. The IT manager might call you a problem employee, but actually you are part of the solution.

The mobile elite is what Forrester Research, in a report commissioned by Unisys, calls tech-savvy, early-adopter employees:

“Mobile elite workers are those who make the most intensive use of multiple personally acquired technologies for work and who use them for improving their work with customers and business partners. Those technologies include smartphones, tablets, home computers and non-authorized software applications and web/cloud services.” 

This elite is an outgrowth of the fact that powerful digital technology is readily available at your local consumer electronics emporium. Consumers who buy this equipment often see no reason to use something lesser just because an employer wants them to. Indeed, Forrester found that 52% of all global workers it surveyed (and 62% of Generation Y/Z) thought their personal devices were better than those provided by their company.

The Forrester report found that members of the mobile elite use three or more devices (smartphone, PC, tablet) and work from multiple locations outside the office. They do so not because they want to but rather because they feel they need to: The IT department does not provide an internal solution adequate to get their jobs done. 

Members of the mobile elite are more engaged, innovative employees. They use third-party services like mobile video conferencing, email add-ons, chat, CRM services and file sharing services. 

IT departments are more willing and able to support these types of workers than in the past. 61% of global enterprises support personal use of mobile devices, up from 27% in the same report in 2011. Yet, there is still a gap between IT and the mobile elite. For instance, about 75% of IT decision makers view an employee's use of personal applications for work as grounds for dismissal. About 63% of IT professionals surveyed believe they are the primary decision makers for bringing in new technology to the enterprise, while 63% of mobile elite believe that they play a significant role in the company’s innovation processes. This is understandable as IT departments do not want to be marginalized, but technologically savvy employees think IT is slow and not forward-thinking. 

Most IT departments are building or procuring enterprise apps for both customers and employees, yet they are not yet willing to support the bring-your-own-app phenomenon. IT departments are worried about security and compliance, which is laudable, but they are not moving as an industry to secure employees personal devices. Only about 50% of enterprises offer basic security and app help. 

The disconnect between the mobile elite and IT departments is a result of the speed at which the mobile industry moves. Mobile, as a technology platform, is rapidly iterating. After only a few years of development, it's moving toward its third cycle of innovation (from mobile WAP sites to native apps to hybrid apps and cloud integration). Whereas the Web took almost 20 years to evolve through versions 1.0 to 2.0 to the cusp of 3.0 (where it integrates with mobile). Enterprise IT departments are still somewhere between steps one and two, figuring out how to embrace the native app culture and secure company information. If they do not accomplish that, they stand to be left behind in the next wave of productivity growth.

This is where the mobile elite are valuable. Smart workers on smart devices push the boundaries of what is possible. IT departments need to structure themselves to match the efficiency of these employees, not the other way around. 

Enterprise Mobility & The Art Of The Possible

Smartphones offer tremendous potential to connect with customers, make employees more efficient and create new markets. Yet nothing is simple in the enterprise space, where security, data storage, authentication, and management issues are mission-critical. The key to enterprise mobility is getting past the quagmire to the art of the possible. 

Three Obstacles

Mobility in the enterprise is, almost by definition, transformative. It is transforming how employees work, what devices are used, how data is gathered, maintained, distributed and secured and how companies interact with customers and clients. Navigating transformation is never a simple matter.

There are two primary concerns that enterprises must contend with when developing mobile strategies: internal and external.

Internal enterprise mobile issues are, on the surface, relatively straightforward and follow the traditional concerns of IT departments: hardware deployment, software distribution, data security, communication solutions and day-to-day management. But straightforward does not necessarily mean easy. Enterprise computing is complicated by consumer choice of smartphones: the “bring your own device” problem. IT departments are forced to balance productivity and security. 

In a meeting in Boston this week, IBM’s VP of marketing for mobile, Mike Riegel, identified the three biggest hurdles that enterprises face in creating internal mobile solutions.

  • How to secure devices and data.
  • How to create solutions across multiple smartphone platforms and operating systems.
  • How to connect everything (back-end systems, cellular connections etc.).

Those three primary objections in the enterprise create a quandary for enterprise mobility. The problem is figuring out the future application of mobility as opposed to recreating traditional functionality in a mobile landscape. 

The same three issues also apply to external (customer- and client-facing) enterprise mobile strategies. This is where enterprise executives face the most anxiety. They know they need to do something on mobile, but what and where to start are pain points that often do not have a clear solution.

Resource Management

In talking to many mobile development firms that work with these large enterprises, a surprising theme emerges. Many Fortune 500 companies are woefully ignorant and understaffed to handle mobile application development and deployment.

There are large, very recognizable companies in the United States that have one mobile developer on their IT staff that handles everything, from iOS and Android apps to bug fixes and customer queries. The art of the possible is moot when one very overworked mobile developer is struggling to handle everything. Traditional IT staffs are equipped to manage problems and create solutions, not build apps. 

Most enterprises work on both internal and external solutions in predictable cycles that range between 12 and 36 months. This system is a legacy of the old client-server paradigm that evolved with the rise of personal computing through the 1990s and 2000s. This is where the transformative qualities of mobile clash head-on with existing enterprise structure. Whereas mobile is a fast-moving industry that iterates quickly, enterprises are simply not used to short cycles. Resources are deployed elsewhere from previous development cycles that did not prioritize mobile, leaving a vacuum in the enterprise infrastructure.

A cottage industry has developed over the past several years to fill that vacuum. Companies that are creating mobile solutions for enterprises come from every segment of the technology industry, from independent developers and consultants to startups to established mid-market companies to billion dollar behemoths looking to create new market verticals for themselves. There are boutique developers that specialize in making apps for enterprises on a contract-by-contract basis to companies like Brightcove that provide integrated development and cloud services solutions. Companies like SAP, Microsoft, Google and IBM specialize in both providing tools and resources to enterprises while also acting as consultants. Startups like StackMob or Kinvey can handle backend mobile infrastructures while wholesalers like Apptopia buy and sell apps from developers to enterprises. Almost anything that an enterprise needs to jump into the deep end of the mobile pool can be found with off-the-shelf third-party services. 

In the near term future, these third-party services will be essential for enterprises. The reason for this is fairly simple: scarcity. If I am a mobile app developer (working on either front or back end systems), the last place I am really going to look for work is a non-tech related Fortune 500 company. The technology industry is rife with talent wars for top developers with startups battling billion dollar companies like Google for a finite amount of qualified developers. Enterprises are then forced to work with those companies as opposed to employing the developers themselves. 

Assessing Possible

In a meeting with forward-looking mobile thinkers in Boston, it was IBM’s Riegel that posed the question: what is the art of the possible? 

In this context, the possible is not the current landscape that enterprises find themselves but rather the next step where companies fully harness the capabilities that smartphones can offer. As it stands right now, most enterprises are just trying to catch up to the transformation that mobility has brought. The companies that can quickly iterate through the current obstacles and move onto creating dynamic new functions will be the ones that will reap the benefits.

The question then becomes, what are the types of dynamic new functions? The near-term future will be less about repurposing CRM systems for mobile (or something similar) and moving to features that harness contextualized data, persistent location and authentication, human behavior and social awareness. Features that not only know where you are, but who you are and what you are doing. There is extreme power in that notion, but it cannot yet be harvested by most enterprises while they still search for solutions to basic problems.

The Cost of CRM, Part 3

It is important to keep in mind that while a lot of the functionality imparted by CRM systems may be used directly from a pre-packaged software solution, in other words - right out of the box, many companies find that in order to maximize the usefulness of the applications some stage of customization is always required.

CRM Software

The Cost of CRM, Part 3

Companies may elect to modify the system to support a specific sales methodology, produce a number of reports unique to its business, or have the CRM program interface with other applications the company is by now utilizing. So, the price of a CRM project will be affected by how much ‘out of the box' software functionality is ready to use and the level of system configuration required.

In addition, the sophistication of the reporting requirement will impact system design, while the number of staff, their existing skills, and the system complexity will decide how much training will be necessary. Whether or not the existing IT infrastructure calls for buying additional hardware and software is another variable, as well as the degree of change to currently operating customer impacting procedures will also influence overall costs.

Data is also an indispensable consideration when determining the cost of professional services in a CRM project. As well, the handling and transference of data can take up significant internal resources. Almost always, company staff represents the best people to work with previously collected data because they have seen it being used day in and day out. In thinking about the value of existing data, it is true that beginning a new CRM project is the ideal time to clean up and delete now useless data. However, the amount of work involved in accomplishing this task should not be underestimated. To be truly useful, ‘fixing’ the information that has been collected over the years and converting it into new formats have to be valued against the time of the skilled labor needed to assess, cleanse, and prepare it.

In the end, the total cost of a CRM Software System will depend on a business’ requirements –what the business wants to accomplish. Companies seriously considering entering or resurrecting this phase of marketing, should guarantee that key staff from marketing, sales, customer service, IT, and finance are involved in the project. It is never a bad idea to discuss such projects with independent CRM specialists. An information gathering meeting can often save companies significant time at the beginning and then extra expense at the end by making sure all factors with any possible bearing have been considered. In addition to cost, CRM specialists can advise companies about which are the best CRM software systems for their business needs by ordering the importance of what a company wants to achieve versus customer requirements versus how the new system will fit into the existing operating procedures and processes.



The Cost of CRM, Part 2

The second main area of cost is the price of professional services which are needed to get the CRM system installed and operating. This includes scoping the project, software configuration, hardware, and training as well as the internal cost of moving staff to other areas.

CRM Software

The Cost of CRM, Part 2

Professional service costs in CRM projects can be the largest expense because they encompass such a wide variety of different tasks. Unlike software licenses which consist of clearly identifiable unit prices, professional service costs are not directly user-based. They also vary due to installation type, degree of customization, business, solutions provider, level of integration with other office systems and so on.

The third cost to be considered is the price of support which usually includes the price of technical support, administrator support, and user support, such as access to a help desk. Other CRM support costs to consider are system administration, additional user training, on-site visits, system developments, and additional license installs.

Many businesses erroneously assume that the best CRM Software is the most expensive system in the marketplace, but this is not necessarily so. Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for example, equals or tops many competing vendors with its CRM software system and does it for less cost.

Today, is one of the leading vendors of CRM. Salesforce has been strongly promoting their cloud support lately. This is a very smart move since it appears that the future of CRM strategy, just like the majority of business computing, lies in the cloud. Still, Salesforce falls behind Microsoft in this effort. With Dynamics CRM Online, Microsoft is setting innovative standards in support and affordability with cloud computing. Salesforce has also marketed its integration to Microsoft Outlook with the fittingly named “Salesforce for Outlook.” However,

CRM Software put out by Oracle also includes some features that it advertizes heavily. Social CRM was a hallmark for the software back in 2008, allowing users to integrate CRM functionality with social networking websites. Microsoft, on the other hand, released their first social CRM tool in 2003. With five more years of experience in social CRM, Microsoft has been able to realize more robust and easy-to-use tools. Oracle also supports “CRM gadgets” that permit users to find atomized modules in order to add specific functionality to solve problems. Dynamics CRM is similarly changeable. The Microsoft modules are called “solutions” and these can be found with no trouble at all on the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace, making it very easy to solve problems that may come up.

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