Three Megatrends Affecting Today's Mobile CRM Environment

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Accessing CRM from a mobile device is one one of the hottest topics in CRM today.  In a previous blog post, I outlined four choices available today for using Microsoft CRM 2011 from a mobile device.  I referenced three big trends in mobility that are affecting CRM mobile strategy today.  A deeper dive into those trends is below.

1. CRM Users Expect More From Mobile Devices.  Our information access options are growing.  Since the introduction of the smartphone in the early 2000’s, we as mobile device users have rapidly increased our expectations about what we expect to be able to do away from the office computer.

imageHere’s a brief refresher of recent history:

  • 2005:  Early smartphone and mobile devices delivered texts, emails, and some awkward browsing.  In 2005, your smartphone was a two-way voice communication device, but just a one-way data consumption device.  Laptops were powerful and great for consuming and creating (MS Office, enterprise apps).  Heavy-duty computing and analysis was still the domain of powerful desktops and servers.
  • 2010:  Consumer tablets take hold.  Tablets, like smartphones, took off when they got really good at helping people consume data and media. EBooks were easy to read and movies easy to download.  Laptops and desktops continued to get more powerful, but tablets really become the focus.  iOS devices were popular for their perceived ease of use and quick startup times, but out-of-the box they were not ready for the enterprise because they were poor at helping people create the type of work product they expected.  Third party app developers stepped in to fill the gap between hardware people liked and the work they needed to produce.  (Currently, 4 of the top 5 business apps in the Apple App Store help people access and create MS Office compatible documents).
  • 2012:  Hybrids Surface.  The gap between traditional consumer tablets and laptops is closing.  Hybrid devices, such as the upcoming Microsoft Surface are giving users a light-weight, easy-on, and touch enabled device with the computing power of a laptop or desktop.  I’m going to read the tea leaves here and predict that users will become less satisfied with trying to use a consumer tablet (and bolt-on business applications) to create work product.  The tablet-laptop hybrid model should fill the gap between the devices users want and the work they need to do.

Notice the line is getting higher and flatter.  We simply expect more computing power from any and every device we use.

So what does this have to do with CRM?  Users today expect to be able to create from almost any device.  They know they are limited by the real estate of a small, portable screen, but they expect two-way communication, mobile data entry and mobile content creation.  Successful CRM solutions (those focused on productivity gains and user adoption) need to meet the consumption and creation expectations of their users.

 2.User Experiences, Across All Forms, Become Unified.  If user adoption is one of your key success indicators in a CRM project, then good UX design is going to be one of your best tools.  Users are quick to adopt systems that look familiar and support the same conventions across channels.  If CRM on my phone has different visual cues than the CRM on my desktop browser then I may be less likely to adopt.  If the data architecture is different and results in different steps to access, then I may prefer one form over the other.   Either way, more mental chatter is created on the way to get what I need from my system and I become further away from satisfied.

imageWindows 8 is a unified platform, meaning the same OS running the same apps across tablets, PCs, phones, etc. This creates a high comfort level among users who are looking for seamless experiences across devices.  However, the real power of the Universal UX is not in the UI, but in the cloud.  Since this new OS was built ‘from the cloud up’, you will be able to synchronize data across all devices.  The things you create on your phone, and then tweak on your Surface are instantly available on your desktop system.  The in-progress folder on your desktop is always available on your phone.

This approach is not being embraced by everyone.  When asked about a tablet/laptop concept Apple’s Tim Cook famously quipped, “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user”.


 3.  The “App Effect” Creates Demand for Small, Personal Experiences. The App Effect refers to a book that was published by Sogeti Group and focuses on the revolution in business, thinking and behavior that has taken place in the post-PC era.  Apps in this context refer to application software written for mobile devices.   The shortened name reflects the size of target device (mobile) and the scope of the software.

Timageo illustrate, think about the problem of wanting to know a weather forecast.  If you were on your laptop, you would type “weather” in Bing, choose a weather site and then (after you close a pop-up) you would have access to literally 1000’s of options of weather data.  Then you would perform another search for a location and activity and you would get what you need.  With a weather app, you simply open it and based on your location and previous activity, your forecast is displayed on your mobile device.  Your app experience is personal, gives you exactly what you need and it is, by design, not the entire world of weather data.

“So much information enters our brain that it becomes paralyzed, so to speak, and any kind of stimulus to take action can no longer penetrate. From combat situations, we know that an overload of new signals can paralyze the executive function,” notes the authors of The App Effect (p. 43).  The answer to information overload is guided process via apps.  Some of our most successful stories around mobile CRM are where we designed an app for a pre-defined, line of business process.  The app displayed only relevant data from CRM and guided users through on-boarding steps.  The platform was CRM, but the user experience was small, personal and exactly what they needed to get their job done.

by Customer Effective, Florida, Georgia Microsoft Dynamics Partner

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