With handheld vendors racing for space in enterprise market, Research In Motion Ltd. is pitching its BlackBerry as a natural wireless component of customer relationship management endeavours.

Addressing a SAP Canada breakfast series audience Thursday, Heath Everett said the BlackBerry was better suited to customer relationship management (CRM) than its handheld rivals. He stressed the utility of BlackBerry’s battery life of more than a week and always-connected modem for mobile sales staff and field workers.

“There’s others who tried to simulate it, but nobody does what BlackBerry does today,” said Everett, RIM’s senior business development manager for independent software vendor alliances.

Everett said RIM’s new emphasis on CRM is the results of demand from its customers, though he stressed the Waterloo, Ont.-based company was not morphing into a CRM outfit.

“Our role in the CRM world is to be an enabler,” he said. “We’re not a CRM company. We’re not an ISV (independent software vendor).”

Warren Chaisastien, an analyst with Toronto-based IDC Canada, said RIM is smart to hitch itself to the CRM bandwagon.

“We feel the most urgent application after wireless e-mail and e-mail attachments would be the customer database and that means CRM,” he said.

Chaisastien said handheld players, including RIM, Palm Inc., and Microsoft Corp. and its Pocket PC partners, have all heightened their focus on potential corporate customers now that the consumer market has softened. “And in the corporate market all these players realize they have to focus on three fronts: wireless capability, back-end applications, and front-end Microsoft Office integration.”

Chaisastien said RIM’s push technology makes it the leader when it comes to wireless e-mail. He added, however, there is no clear front-runner with CRM due to the newness of the application and because all the handheld players have relationships with CRM heavyweights SAP AG and Siebel Systems Inc.

“Corporations in Canada do not (yet) have a clear set of rules as to what to what to choose when it comes to handheld devices,” Chaisastien said. However, he also said “RIM can make a case that because we’re leading in wireless that will pace us to lead in corporate applications.”

Everett hinted Thursday that RIM is looking to leverage that lead. “Our strategy is really to partner,” he said. “We have about 10,000 companies that have deployed the BlackBerry enterprise server.”

He said RIM looks at a successful CRM implementation as one that impacts every element of an organization and said CRM vendors have to look at all businesses as potential customers.

“You can’t be exclusive to telecom and financial services because we all do business and we all interact with customers to some degree.”

He also said it was crucial for CRM companies to hold a customer-centric view. “To me, (CRM) is how well and effectively you communicate with your clients.”

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