“Mobile CRM” is a hot topic with my clients. The emergence of ubiquitous high-speed broadband connectivity, smartphones, and tablet devices with enormous computing power and longer battery life, along with increased employee adoption of touchscreen devices in every sphere of life, are all trends that serve to liberate IT from the desktop.

However, the state of mobile CRM solution support is fragmented. While there are platforms and solutions that cater to specific industries, no mobile CRM vendor currently offers out-of-the-box cross-industry functionality. The gap between the functionality available via desktop and mobile CRM applications is far from being bridged. And vendors sometimes adopt a single-device or single operating system (OS) strategy, limiting the range of devices and OSes available to companies.

To help define a path for navigating this complex landscape, I interviewed 25 CRM solution vendors, systems integrators, mobile solutions developers, and user compananies. My findings are summarized in a new report: Best Practices: The Right Way to Implement Mobile CRM.

A guiding principle for getting value out of “mobile” is to look for situations where you can integrate an mobile application into the normal execution of the day-to-day business processes of managers and frontline workers. Here are some additional tips:

  • Understand the opportunity to improve CRM and drive adoption. For example, will enabling workers to update the CRM system and tasks in real time throughout the day when they’re in the field — rather than doing it once they get back to their desks at the end of the day — make them more productive?
  • Define the tangible business benefits mobile CRM solutions can deliver. How will a mobile solution contribute to improved business performance? Are you looking to improve the productivity of frontline employees, streamline business processes, and/or improve customer satisfaction through more responsive customer service?
  • Define the precise use cases that you need to support. You need to not only define the general user types that you want to support through mobile CRM solutions, but also drill deep to understand the exact job activities these users perform and how having a mobile device can help.
  • Understand the data and information that mobile workers need. To provide mobile solutions that make workers more productive, you need to determine the precise set of information they need to perform their daily tasks and the key information they need to collect.
  • Understand the device types and form factors that best suit people’s day-to-day activities.Laptops, with their rich offline capabilities, may still be the best form factor for these tasks at the moment. However, newer device types like phones, smartphones, and tablets may soon become more useful than laptops.

One of the biggest pitfalls to watch out for?  Undervaluing the need for offline capabilities. In some use cases, such as field engineers working inside office buildings or factories or mobile workers covering remote geographies, connectivity may be poor or nonexistent. There are some locations, like medical facilities, that prohibit online access. And employees may not use a mobile CRM application if they have to wait for web screens to refresh or need instant access to their full data set.