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CRM SaaS vendors make move to mobile

On-demand CRM vendors are extending their functionality into mobile applications, and though they can be a good fit for some, there's still a need for mobile platforms.

Mobile CRM technology -- long hailed as the solution to keeping mobile sales and field service staff connected and armed with up-to-date information, only to see disappointing returns -- is now grabbing the attention of Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors.

Last week, San Francisco-based released new mobile functionality based on its acquisition of Sendia, a one-time partner and mobile application developer. That follows last month's release of eMobile from Entellium, a Seattle-based startup that is taking on established SaaS CRM vendors such as and NetSuite. Entellium's release features a sliding menu that allows users to navigate the system with just a thumb -- similar to Apple's popular iPod.

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SaaS (or on-demand) CRM, generally praised for its intuitive user interfaces and widespread user adoption, would seem to have an advantage when it comes to winning over a mobile salesforce that can be fickle when it comes to welcoming new technology.

"Yes and no," said Sheryl Kingstone, senior program manager at Boston-based The Yankee Group. "Primarily because Salesforce acquired Sendia, they have a leg-up in embedding into a mobile architecture."

Simplicity does matter in mobile CRM, she added. Because Entellium is relatively new, "they can start fresh instead of how the traditional CRM vendors just shoved their CRM onto the device to see if it works."

First Rate Financial LLC, a Bellevue, Wash.-based mortgage lender, looked at both Entellium and when it went shopping for a new CRM system five months ago. The company selected Entellium for its 24-hour support, price and adaptability, according to Mike Colagrossi, president and CEO. First Rate Financial also adapted Entellium to fit its 10-step sales process, which is similar to a traditional loan process.

Now, the mortgage company is leveraging the deployment on eMobile, connecting its mortgage sales team members while they're on the road at open houses, CPA and real estate offices.

"From a manager's perspective, I don't bring a laptop in the field. It's just very clunky," Colagrossi said. "When we looked at Entellium and Salesforce, we had ideas of price point, versatility and customizability. When we launched the mobile application, it pulled from modifications we did."

According to research from The Yankee Group, users of mobile CRM are warming to hosted applications. In a recent survey, more than 40% of mobile CRM users said they were interested in having a service provider manage their applications, while more than 70% said they were somewhat interested.

However, companies such as Antenna Software Inc., a Jersey City, N.J.-based mobile technology platform provider that focuses on sales and service, can offer a bit more.

"If a customer has Siebel and SAP and lots of databases they want to expose, that's where Antenna has the advantage," Kingstone said. "Most of the time, unless users just want accounts and contacts, they want to get into extra databases. If you just want account management and call logging, that's where Salesforce and Entellium have the advantage."

Yankee Group recommends that companies considering mobile deployments let business process frameworks that enable best practices drive the project; that the tools span multiple systems; and that firms make the deployment part of an overall application roadmap, such as CRM, SFA or service implementation, considering business cost, form factor and connectivity.

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