Mobile business apps improve as smartphones get smarter

Applications and tools for mobile workers such as sales personnel and technicians continue to grow in number and complexity as the number of new smart phones and other handhelds grows.

Several recent announcements show the trend in what some analysts refer to as a second generation for mobile applications.

This week, Siemens Enterprise Communications in Munich, Germany, touted the availability of OpenScape Mobility, which provides a mobile unified communications client that will work on BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices.

OpenScape Mobility relies on the new OpenScape Enterprise Mobile Client and revisions to Siemens’ HiPath Wireless and HiPath Mobile Connect products announced last year.

For Siemens, unified communications means the integration of voice, video and related functions and the ability to use a single handheld for both in-office and mobile communications. Conference calling and presence functions are also integrated.

With the new client capability, Siemens is the first single vendor to offer end-to-end mobile unified communications products, Luc Roy, Siemens vice president of product planning for mobile enterprise, said in an interview.

About 1,000 enterprises in North America use Siemens mobility software, he said, although Siemens did not release names of any customers testing the new client. Pricing was not announced.

Maximizer boosts its mobile CRM
In another announcement this week, Maximizer Software Inc. in Vancouver, British Columbia, announced a new version of its mobile CRM software, Maximizer CRM 10.5.

Maximizer claimed in a statement that it had the most options for real-time access to customer information on multiple smart phone platforms, including the new BlackBerry Bold and the Apple iPhone. The upcoming touch-screen BlackBerry Storm will also be supported, company officials said.

Maximizer’s new version stores a subset of customer data directly on the smart phone, which links back to the corporate CRM system, but having some of the data on the client makes it useful in the event of a network outage or gap in service, Maximizer said.

One user, Kwik Kerb, a Vancouver provider of concrete curbs and landscape edging, said it has 11 user licenses on a prior version of the Maximizer CRM software.

Sales personnel use the software to extend their working hours and stay in touch with customers they couldn’t reach during the day, said sales manager Al Rusk in an e-mail.

The company has spent about $4,500 on the software in recent years, which Rusk said has been cost-effective because it allows him to monitor sales activities and hot leads.

He was unfamiliar with the new features of the 10.5 version, which Maximizer described as allowing for one-click access to maps and driving directions, greater storage capacity for customer data and the ability to access an online document library for sales materials.

Peter Marston, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Maximizer is one of the oldest vendors in mobile CRM. The mobile CRM market makes up only one per cent to three per cent of all CRM sales, which are estimated to reach about $9 billion globally this year, he said.

Maximizer is often viewed as a less expensive alternative for mobile CRM, especially when compared with Saleforce.com and Microsoft Dynamic CRM, which have tools that dig deeper into CRM data and sell to larger businesses, Marston added.

In another recent announcement, Aeroprise Inc. in Mountain View, Calif., announced that its mobility software is being used by Holcim Inc., a cement maker with an IT support center in Dundee, Mich.

Holcim connects more than 20 IT administrators who carry BlackBerry devices to its BMC Remedy Service Desk 7 software via Aeroprise, said Preston Abadie, manager of technical architecture at Abadie.

By getting instant notification of a trouble ticket via the BlackBerry, an administrator can reduce the response time from 30 minutes to five minutes, he said. In the past, they would use a laptop to log in a response on a trouble ticket, which added more time to the job, he said.

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