BlackBerry gets new CRM goodies thanks to RIM-SAP alliance

SAP and Research in Motion have teamed up to bring SAP’s back-end business applications, beginning with CRM, to BlackBerry devices.

The companies Friday unveiled a co-development partnership that executives called a “game changer” for the mobile business market at a press conference at SAP’s office in New York.

They did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, in which SAP enlisted RIM to build a version of its CRM (customer relationship management) applications for the BlackBerry platform.

SAP’s CRM is the first application that will run natively on the BlackBerry, but eventually the companies plan to build mobile versions of SAP’s applications — including ERP (enterprise resource planning) and supply chain — for BlackBerry devices, said Bill McDermott, president and CEO of SAP Americas, Asia Pacific and Japan.

“This is a major win for RIM and for SAP, but much more importantly for any mobile professional that works anywhere in the world today,” he said.

McDermott said that until now, CRM has failed salespeople because of the inherent mobility of their jobs.

“They don’t want to be chained to a desktop or tethered to the wall; they want to be out on the street selling something to somebody who needs a solution,” he said.

McDermott called putting CRM on the BlackBerry platform empowering them “at the tip of the spear where the relationship happens with the customer.”

RIM was likely motivated to make the move as a way to capture more of the CRM market, which is something they’ve failed to do so far, says Robera Fox, senior partner of Mount Albert, Ont.-based Fox Consulting. SAP and RIM both stand to grow as a result of the partnership.

“Since BlackBerry has such a large enterprise market base, this might be a way to increase their marketshare in the CRM space,” she says. “Their CRM platforms haven’t had a lot of differentiators compared to Siebel or”

Their is still room for growth in the enterprise CRM sector, Fox adds. Delivering applications to mobile devices just might be the way to tap that market’s vein.

“Some of those applications, salespeople don’t like filling them out because they don’t want to turn on their laptops,” the consultant says. But with the BlackBerry, “you’ve always got it with you, and it’s always on, so there’s no excuse as to why you can’t get your sales numbers in.”

According to research firm IDC, there will be about 1 billion mobile business users by 2011, which will represent about 30 percent of the workforce. Mobile devices are increasingly becoming essential for business users who need to be connected to the Web and their e-mail and other business applications all of the time.

Through the partnership, SAP’s CRM application will be integrated natively on devices with BlackBerry’s e-mail, address book and calendar applications so information from the application will be seamlessly integrated with information that comes to users through those applications.

Other functionality available through SAP mobile CRM will be the ability to call contacts directly from within the SAP application and receive alerts about changes to information in the CRM application through e-mail.

The deal between RIM and SAP is not an exclusive partnership, though RIM Chairman and CEO Jim Balsillie said there are no similar partnerships with other application providers planned at this time. Still, his comments seemed to suggest RIM will pair with other application providers to bring their software to the Web, and that SAP, too, may bring its applications to other mobile platforms.

McDermott said SAP employees are the first customers of SAP CRM on the BlackBerry platform, and RIM’s executives and employees also are using it.

The companies plan to preview it at SAP’s Sapphire conference next week in Orlando, and should roll it out to customers in the next couple of months, he said.

— with files from Brian Jackson

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