#MobileCRM: Living in a mobile world…

The world is becoming mobile more and more. We do everything using our mobile phones; social stuff, e-mail, banking, gathering information etc. If we follow this path, we would expect that our users are doing a lot of their CRM stuff on their mobile phones as well. In most cases exact the opposite is true. For some reason we keep on using our CRM systems in a classic way. Massive amounts of data about our customers at our fingertips. Big screens crammed with information, the more the better…

This is a big paradox compared to the world I was describing; a mobile world.

In the early 2000’s I envisioned a world in which we had our PDA’s (Personal Digital Assistant) which we carried with us all day long. Collecting information, play games, PIM (Personal Information Management) etc. At night when we came home we would dock the PDA in some sort of docking station connected to the internet, hooked up to a big screen with a full blown keyboard. I guess I was ahead of my time, as the horsepower was lacking from the devices available back then. Nowadays our SmartPhones are real powerhouses, gigabytes of memory, all sorts of connectivity and gigahertz multicore cpu’s.

It was also back in those days that I used to work for a company where we used to develop mobile applications for field service purposes. In those days we were building a system like Dynamics CRM but then focussed on mobile devices. On the PC we used to have an IDE in which we could paint our forms, attach logic to it, hook it up to workflows and an awesome scripting engine underneath it. By pressing the “Generate button” an XML definition was generated and sent to our PDA’s.

On the PDA we use to have a runtime environment, fed by XML definitions, rendering the functionality the mobile workers needed to do their jobs. The information was stored within the device, and synchronized with the backend systems as soon as a data connection was available. Back in those days chances were bigger of not having connection than to have connection.

The people using our application were field service engineers using industrial devices, working under haevy circumstances at locations without mobile coverage (think: basements, warehouses etc). The applications we designed were typical applications “on the go”. Easy to use, providing the minimum amount of information to get the job done, without the need of being connected all the time.

Mobile

Those days are gone forever… However the lessons we learned are not. In fact I think these lessons are more relevant than ever.

When I look at the world of today, I see a world more rushed than ever. Everyone is connected 24/7 to the internet, normal conversations turned into instant messaging, everyone is expecting answers within seconds instead of days or even weeks. A world of people addicted to their smartphones –  literally lost when connections are down.

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In this frantic world we need to provide the tools to our users –  the connected generation –  to do their jobs. Tools that they understand with almost no learning curve and fun to use.

Sounds like a mission impossible, but I believe this can be achieved by taking the lessons of the past. As CRM builders we need to shift our focus when designing a new CRM system. We will always have the massive desktop implementations, but we also need to design small applications fit for the job.

Applications that can be used while on the go: prepare while commuting, start actions in a meeting, have a job signed off by your customer, order a list of parts etc.  This should be possible for our users without having to sit behind their massive CRM systems.

As CRM builders we need to provide an experience for our users with is equal regardless the platform they are using; wheter it is Android, iOS or Windows Phone. An experience tailored to the device, distinguishing between smartphones and tablets. I believe the mobile CRM client of Dynamics CRM can help us in providing that experience to our users. As CRM designers we only need to focus on the content and the functionality we want to offer.

In the coming series of articles, I’ll make a journey into Mobile CRM and I hope you’ll join me. I’m aware of the fact that there are a couple of very good mobile CRM offerings out there, but I want to stick as close as possible to the offering Microsoft is making.

Will it be able to provide the user experience I’m looking for?

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