Mobile CRM: Why Less Is More

CIOs struggle when they try to mobilize enterprise applications. Dow Corning thinks its sales force now has a competitive advantage with its SAP CRM rollout. Here's how the company did it.

Chip Reeves knows all about the life of a sales guy. That's because during his nearly 20 years at Dow Corning, a global manufacturer of silicon-based products, he was one. He knows all too well that salespeople ignore any new administrative process or technology unless it allows them to make more sales or use their time more efficiently.

Now, as Dow Corning's director of marketing and sales processes, Reeves is leading the company's convergence of its CRM and e-business efforts, as well as streamlining its compliance and reporting functions. The goal, naturally, is to provide excellent customer service-and to make it easy for Dow Corning sales and marketing staff to use the expansive CRM system. Real easy.

Reeves also served as the chairman for the Americas SAP User Group's customer management group, so he knows both the power and limitations of enterprise technologies and the reality of how salespeople use CRM tools on mobile devices such as laptops and smart phones.

Both topics are important, if you're to bring mobility to corporate applications Many companies and CIOs are struggling to determine exactly how best to mobilize critical applications that can bring a measurable payback to the company but also limit the disruption to and administrative headaches in their users' lives. "Salespeople don't want to get on their devices for 30 minutes after a sales call," says Christopher Fletcher, a research director who specializes in mobile applications at AMR Research. "Salespeople by nature are independent, autonomous and don't always play by corporate rules. It's sometimes tough to get them to use what seems like administrative functions so that management can have better control."

Reeves says he is always balancing the pushback from the sales folks with the CRM demands of the business. "Heavy involvement with the salespeople has been key, and we're trying to be responsive to them," he notes. "But by no means do we have that balance perfected yet."

A huge part of Reeves' task during the past two years has been ensuring that Dow Corning's core enterprise applications, which rest on SAP's suite of products, is intact and can be used by all users in Dow Corning's sales and marketing group. "A lot of what we've done in the CRM space has been putting a foundation in to help our people work more effectively and give them more access to information," Reeves says. Currently, that foundation encompasses the MySAP CRM 2005 package, and the SAP Portal and Business Information Warehouse 3.5 BI applications that extend the capabilities of salespeople's mobile devices (which are primarily BlackBerrys).

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