Online applications provider Salesforce.com continues to push enterprise software capabilities to mobile users, despite the fact that at least one expert believes many companies view wireless CRM as an uncertain investment.
San Francisco-based Salesforce.com announced a new partnership with mobile software vendor AvantGo Inc. in Hayward, Calif., to offer users wireless CRM functionality. Under the partnership, the two firms will market AvantGo Mobile Sales to subscribers of Salesforce.com's online CRM service. With the AvantGo service, subscribers can use handheld devices to enter data into their applications from anywhere in the field, connected or disconnected, and sync up later on. AvantGo hosts and supports the service.
Salesforce.com introduced its Airforce Wireless Edition in November 2002, offering users mobile access to e-mail, sales contacts and account information via handheld computers. With Airforce, however, users must gain access to Salesforce.com using a wireless connection in order to enter data into their CRM systems.
While Salesforce.com remains bullish on its ability to stimulate adoption of wireless CRM technologies, industry watchers feel that companies remain reluctant to sink money into new deployments. Tim Scannell, senior analyst at Shoreline Research in Quincy, Mass., said that while there is strong grass-roots interest in wireless sales and field force automation, adoption remains painfully slow.
"There isn't as much happening in wireless as some vendors would like to believe," Scannell said. "In this economy, the ability to show return on investment is driving spending, and I don't know that mobile CRM has proven its value yet."
According to Scannell, even when companies decide to invest in wireless CRM tools, they tend to invest cautiously, typically with small pilot programs. Scannell said that one reason for the guarded approach is an innate fear of distracting workers responsible for driving revenues with new technology that forces them to "develop new work habits."
In the long-term, Scannell predicts that sales force and field service operations will remain among the strongest catalysts for adoption of wireless technology, but he cautioned that pushing adoption too hard in a tough economy might hurt perceptions of the tools down the road.
Salesforce.com said that mobile users with Pocket PC-enabled devices can subscribe to a free 30-day trial version of the AvantGo Mobile Sales package immediately. A subscription to the channel is available separately from AvantGo for $299 per year. The companies said support for Palm OS handheld devices would be available by the end of this month.
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