October 03, 2012
Accessing CRM from a mobile device is one one of the hottest topics in CRM today. In a previous blog post, I outlined four choices available today for using Microsoft CRM 2011 from a mobile device. I referenced three big trends in mobility that are affecting CRM mobile strategy today. A deeper dive into those trends is below.
1. CRM Users Expect More From Mobile Devices. Our information access options are growing. Since the introduction of the smartphone in the early 2000’s, we as mobile device users have rapidly increased our expectations about what we expect to be able to do away from the office computer.
- 2005: Early smartphone and mobile devices delivered texts, emails, and some awkward browsing. In 2005, your smartphone was a two-way voice communication device, but just a one-way data consumption device. Laptops were powerful and great for consuming and creating (MS Office, enterprise apps). Heavy-duty computing and analysis was still the domain of powerful desktops and servers.
- 2010: Consumer tablets take hold. Tablets, like smartphones, took off when they got really good at helping people consume data and media. EBooks were easy to read and movies easy to download. Laptops and desktops continued to get more powerful, but tablets really become the focus. iOS devices were popular for their perceived ease of use and quick startup times, but out-of-the box they were not ready for the enterprise because they were poor at helping people create the type of work product they expected. Third party app developers stepped in to fill the gap between hardware people liked and the work they needed to produce. (Currently, 4 of the top 5 business apps in the Apple App Store help people access and create MS Office compatible documents).
- 2012: Hybrids Surface. The gap between traditional consumer tablets and laptops is closing. Hybrid devices, such as the upcoming Microsoft Surface are giving users a light-weight, easy-on, and touch enabled device with the computing power of a laptop or desktop. I’m going to read the tea leaves here and predict that users will become less satisfied with trying to use a consumer tablet (and bolt-on business applications) to create work product. They tablet-laptop hybrid model should fill the gap between the devices users want the the work they need to do.
Notice the line is getting higher and flatter. We simply expect more computing power from any and every device we use.
So what does this have to do with CRM? Users today expect to be able to create from almost any device. They know they are limited by the real estate of a small, portable screen, but they expect two-way communication, mobile data entry and mobile content creation. Successful CRM solutions (those focused on productivity gains and user adoption) need to meet the consumption and creation expectations of their users.
2.User Experiences, Across All Forms, Become Unified. If user adoption is one of your key success indicators in a CRM project, then good UX design is going to be one of your best tools. Users are quick to adopt systems that look familiar and support the same conventions across channels. If CRM on my phone has different visual cues than the CRM on my desktop browser then I may be less likely to adopt. If the data architecture is different and results in different steps to access, then I may prefer one form over the other. Either way, more mental chatter is created on the way to get what I need from my system and I become further away from satisfied.
Windows 8 is a unified platform, meaning the same OS running the same apps across tablets, PCs, phones, etc. This creates a high comfort level among users who are looking for seamless experiences across devices. However, the real power of the Universal UX is not in the UI, but in the cloud. Since this new OS was built ‘from the cloud up’, you will be able to synchronize data across all devices. The things you create on your phone, and then tweak on your Surface are instantly available on your desktop system. The in-progress folder on your desktop is always available on your phone.
This approach is not being embraced by everyone. When asked about a tablet/laptop concept Apple’s Tim Cook famously quipped, “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user”.
3. The “App Effect” Creates Demand for Small, Personal Experiences. The App Effect refers to a book that was published by Sogeti Group and focuses on the revolution in business, thinking and behavior that has taken place in the post-PC era. Apps in this context refer to application software written for mobile devices. The shortened name reflects the size of target device (mobile) and the scope of the software.
To illustrate, think about the problem of wanting to know a weather forecast. If you were on your laptop, you would type “weather” in Bing, choose a weather site and then (after you close a pop-up) you would have access to literally 1000’s of options of weather data. Then you would perform another search for a location and activity and you would get what you need. With a weather app, you simply open it and based on your location and previous activity, your forecast is displayed on your mobile device. Your app experience is personal, gives you exactly what you need and it is, by design, not the entire world of weather data.
“So much information enters our brain that it becomes paralyzed, so to speak, and any kind of stimulus to take action can no longer penetrate. From combat situations, we know that an overload of new signals can paralyze the executive function,” notes the authors of The App Effect (p. 43). The answer to information overload is guided process via apps. Some of our most successful stories around mobile CRM are where we designed an app for a pre-defined, line of business process. The app displayed only relevant data from CRM and guided users through on-boarding steps. The platform was CRM, but the user experience was small, personal and exactly what they needed to get their job done.
May 25, 2012
Current access to CRM 2011 (before Update Rollup 9 a.k.a. Release 8)
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Web Client – The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Web Client is only supported using Internet Explorer (version 7 or higher). You have full access to the application. Supported platforms are Windows XP SP3 or higher. For mail merge and Export to Excel feature support, you will need Microsoft Office (version 2003 SP3 or later, 2007 SP2 or later, or any Office 2010).
Microsoft Dynamics CRM for Outlook Client – CRM for Outlook gives the user full access to CRM through the Outlook interface. The Outlook client has some features unique to it which are different from the browser. Most notably are how views function differently in the Outlook client. Internet Explorer only (version 7 or higher) is a requirement for the CRM for Outlook Client. Supported platforms are Windows XP SP3 or higher. For mail merge and Export to Excel feature support, you will need Microsoft Office (version 2003 SP3 or later, 2007 SP2 or later, or any Office 2010).
October 20, 2010
Gartner, according to BusinessWeek, forecasts that the sales of smartphones will exceed those of PCs in 2012. Despite the rapid growth of smartphones, many enterprises still have not fully realized the potential of these mobile applications in their current work environment. Regardless of a company’s size or industry, mobile CRM enablement can result in improved worker productivity, especially for traveling executives, “road warrior” sales reps, or field technicians. Benefits include faster transaction processing, enhanced collaboration with co-workers and partners, better preparation for high-profile client-facing meetings, and improved customer service. Companies can no longer ignore the widespread adoption of smartphones and the increasing demand of top producers to have real-time CRM data on their mobile devices.
One vendor to consider in the mobile CRM market is CWR Mobility, which was recently named the 2010 Microsoft Mobility Solutions Business Application Partner of the Year. Its flagship product, CWR Mobile CRM, leverages the power of the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system and works on the mobile device of your choice, including Windows Mobile, Apple iPhone, or RIM BlackBerry to meet your mobile CRM needs. CWR Mobile CRM also has an express version, which supports mobile web browsers and can run on Android, Palm Pre, or any other smartphone that is web-enabled. CWR Mobility has uniquely adapted the user experience of Dynamics CRM to each of the aforementioned mobile platforms. Having been in business for over five years, CWR Mobility is now on version 4.2 of CWR Mobile CRM, which can be utilized “in the office or on the road, even when working remote or offline” according to CEO Mark Corley. Your CRM data is available anytime and anywhere as the application adjusts accordingly based on your current network connectivity. If you are on an airplane, for instance, you can still work offline to enter new contacts, update accounts, close opportunities, or maybe reassign tasks. According to the firm’s website at www.cwrmobility.com, the firm has “thousands of users across 24 countries and 10 languages.”
Earlier this month, research firm iSuppli reported that Android phone manufacturers are growing the fastest of all smartphones. For instance, the Q2 2010 global marketshare growth for HTC and Samsung were up 63.1% and 55.6% respectively. It will be interesting to see if CWR Mobility will respond to produce a more robust smart client for the Android mobile platform. I look forward to monitoring the innovation and progress of CWR Mobility and other established mobile CRM players, including softBRIDGE Inc. and TenDigits.
Additionally, I should point out that all existing Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers also have the option of taking advantage of Mobile Express, a free server-based add-on that you can access through a web browser. Some users, though, have experienced challenges in customizing the interface and have noted that there are a few core records, such as activities, that cannot be created in Mobile Express. Others have found that some fields, including owner fields, cannot be updated in Mobile Express. Keep in mind, it is a free add-on.
With today’s demanding customers having such high expectations and often requiring immediate responses, technological advances in the mobile CRM space are definitely needed and will be widely welcomed. While mobile CRM may not be ideal for all of your CRM users, it certainly can benefit your reps out in the field. If you are considering a mobile Microsoft Dynamics CRM deployment as a key initiative of your firm’s CRM strategy, Customer Effective can help you evaluate your options.
April 07, 2010
After implementing Mobile Express in our Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 environment, we found that some users with Blackberry smartphones could not open the Mobile Express site. We knew it was not a bug with Mobile Express, as these same phones could successfully launch Mobile Express in some of our client’s environments, just not ours.
Through the process of elimination, we found that the issue was Blackberry Browser related. The Blackberry actually has two browsers—the Blackberry Browser and the Internet Browser. When you launch the web browser on the Blackberry, if you go to options, General Options, you will see a dropdown for Browser. The default setting is Blackberry Browser, but you can change that setting to Internet Browser. The issue we found was that the Blackberry browser does not correctly interpret security certificates from some providers—that explained why these phones could correctly load the Mobile Express site from some environments but not from others.
After changing the setting to “Internet Browser,” Mobile Express loaded correctly for these users. Until the next phone upgrade.
Some of our Blackberry users recently upgraded to the latest version of the Blackberry Tour or Curve. We changed the browser settings on these phones to “Internet Browser,” but they still could not access Mobile Express. We found that on these new phones, after changing and saving the browser settings, it would reset back to “Blackberry Browser.”
We were able to fix this issue using the process outlined on Blackberry.com to configure an IT Policy on the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to allow only the Internet Browser on the BlackBerry smartphone. Following the change, we re-registered the policies on the phones by going to option->advanced options->host routing table->register now.
Now the Blackberries use the Internet Browser, and Mobile Express works great for them.
March 16, 2010
I have found myself using Dynamics CRM Mobile Express fairly frequently lately. I’ve been away from the office and had to address cases or look up company addresses, and it has come in really handy. If you are not familiar with Mobile Express, it is the free mobile-friendly interface for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. If you have Microsoft CRM (post update rollup 5), you have Mobile Express.
I’ve been impressed with how simple the interface is, yet how much functionality is there. You can do most of the things that you can do through the full CRM interface through Mobile Express—look up records, create records, edit records, or delete records, if your permissions allow.
There are some limitations—screen size naturally limits the number of fields you can realistically display in a user-friendly way, and some functionality, such as reassigning records is not available. You can see who the owner is, but you cannot edit the record owner field. In most cases, I don’t think this is an issue, as you would probably want to manage assignments through the full interface anyway.
However, we recently had a use case that made reassignment of records via Mobile Express necessary. We use CRM to manage our support cases. We also travel around frequently so Mobile Express is a great tool to help us view/update support tickets while not in front of a computer.
In managing cases, it is sometimes necessary to escalate the case or reassign it to another user. Since assignment of records is not available in Mobile Express, you can’t do this with the default configuration, but you can with the help of some workflow.
1. Create a new N:1 relationship between the Case and User entities. I called the field “Reassign Case Owner” and set the Navigation Item Icon to not display.
2. Do not add the new User lookup to the form, but add it to the Mobile Express form.
3. Create a workflow that fires upon update of the Reassign Case Owner field. Have the workflow check to verify that the Reassign Case Owner field contains data, and if so, assign the case record to the user referenced in the Reassign Case Owner field. I also had my workflow update the case and clear the Reassign Case Owner field after the case is reassigned.
The result is that we can now reassign/escalate Cases while on the go via Mobile Express. Since the Reassign Case Owner field is not on the Case form, CRM users won’t see or be confused with that field, but Mobile Express users will see it when they edit the record in Mobile Express. Mobile Express only displays fields that contain data when you view a record, so since we are clearing the field out after reassigning the record, Mobile Express users won’t be confused by that field when they read the record, but it will be available to them when they edit the record.