April 30, 2001, 8:52 AM — Touted as the Next Big Thing in CRM (customer relationship management) for some time now, wireless technologies finally seem poised to live up to expectations, as companies for which it makes sense slowly but surely warm up to the idea of wireless CRM.
The technology promises to give employees instant access to vital customer and transaction data, improving CRM responsiveness when away from the office. However, wireless CRM still faces hurdles ranging from the technological -- sorting through WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and other standards as well as ensuring uninterrupted wireless coverage -- to the practical, such as ensuring an ROI.
"The wireless Web technology, like all great Internet breakthroughs, is surrounded by hype," wrote Sheryl Kingstone, an analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, in a recent report. "However, the reality is that the United States has a growing mobile work force that could turn the hype into solving real business issues, inasmuch as wireless creates a new paradigm that no longer restricts workers by physical boundaries or a tethered desktop PC system."
As do many companies that hope to take CRM on the road, Logicon Commercial Information Services sees wireless CRM as a way to truly make customer information available anywhere, anytime. And like a lot of companies interested in wireless and mCRM (mobile CRM), Logicon, the Bohemia, N.Y.-based information technology division of Northrop Grumman, doesn't have a wireless CRM solution up and running -- yet.
"We're looking at wireless for three reasons: productivity, responsiveness to customers, and just being on the leading edge of technology for a change," says Janet Wilson, program manager at Logicon.
After a pilot program this fall, Logicon will deploy a Siebel Systems wireless CRM solution to 300 of its field engineers in a larger test phase in January, ramping up from there until all 700 field representatives are armed with the solution.
But the process to implement wireless CRM can be a slow one: Although Logicon decided to go wireless last summer, it will take two years before the solution is fully deployed. At present, Wilson is evaluating devices to be used with the system, such as Research in Motion's BlackBerry pagers, PDAs, and cell phones. Other questions include area coverage -- the engineers are spread out over100 locations -- as well as security.
"We won't have top-secret information going back and forth, but it still must fit in with firewalls and the infrastructure," Wilson explains. "Security and coverage are questions we don't have answers to right now."
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