‘Office on the hip’ will be a hit with sales persons – Interview with Vinay Nair of IDC

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What’s significant about this deal between SAP and RIM?

Being a former sales person myself, it certainly made a lot of sense to me, mainly because of some of the points they made.

For instance, e-mail is the native function of the BlackBerry. Every sales person uses it for e-mail and voice. The next natural level up from there would be customer relationship management (CRM), and actually logging and reviewing interactions with customers.

If you track that over time you would really be able to understand how your relationship develops with particular customers, how frequently you contact them, the level of interaction for each of the calls and so on. This stuff is often very painful for sales guys to track after the fact.

One main hurdle to the success of CRM within companies is that users themselves do not contribute to the system effectively enough to be able to derive the benefits from it.

So while many companies invest heavily in CRM, the hardest part is actually getting the users to [relate] the application to the way they work and operate.

The SAP-RIM offering brings the CRM system closer to users. It allows them to interact with the system directly – not do that manually after the fact.

There are a lot of benefits from a productivity perspective and I believe [it will lead to] greater adoption of the system.

Would it make sense for RIM, down the line, to offer the same capabilities for those using non-SAP CRM systems, such as Siebel or PeopleSoft?

Absolutely, and I believe other applications – outside of SAP – are already available on the BlackBerry. It’s in their eco-system but perhaps not being pushed as aggressively [by RIM].

Right now if a business wanted to offer its Siebel CRM system on the BlackBerry it would be able to do that, but would need to create the APIs, do the development itself, and bring it to the organization.

SAP and RIM seem to have made this task much easier. SAP CRM will be baked into the actual code. So no further development work has to be done by customers, which is of real value. That onus has been taken on by SAP and RIM. There’s also a lot of overlap in their customer base. They’re trying to hit the low hanging fruit first – their own customer base – and make sure all the kinks are ironed out before they go into a mass release.

So you see this alliance as further growing the customer base of SAP and RIM?

Sure. RIM has acknowledged it isn’t a business process player, as SAP acknowledges it isn’t a mobility expert. Both bring their own expertise to the table. CRM is often the first entry point when companies get into ERP from a line of business perspective.

Perhaps because of this deal you’ll see some adoption of SAP CRM by companies who just want this functionality.

I was at the booth when they were demoing it and people weren’t asking so much about this and that feature – but when it will be available.

Do you think other business software makers will enter into similar alliances with mobile phone companies?

It’s inevitable that all these players will mobilizie their applications over the next few years. But the SAP-RIM deal – because there’s so much overlap in their user base – made a lot of sense right away. We’re likely to see Oracle doing something similar somewhere down the road.  Also, SAP CRM won’t be exclusive to RIM and vise-versa.

With the imminent arrival of the iPhone in Canada and chances that it will be adopted by sales people do you think SAP will make a move in this direction – and woo Apple as well?

Right now the iPhone is stronger on the consumer side. It goes back to my comment about the installed base. You see a higher penetration of BlackBerries in the installed base here than any other device. It would take some time before the iPhone gets widely as adopted in the enterprise. When the time comes, I’m sure SAP will consider partnering with other providers – like Apple.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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