Jeanine Sterling's Blog

Mobile Sales Force Automation: Two Camps Face Off

31 Dec 2011 | by Jeanine Sterling
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2012 should be an interesting year for mobile sales force automation solutions in North America.  This is a category that is still finding its way. Somewhat surprisingly, an earlier Frost & Sullivan survey revealed an average 52% adoption rate among U.S. and Canadian businesses (higher in the U.S., lower in Canada). In addition, there is room for quite a bit of near-term expansion with nearly 80% of North American businesses believing Mobile SFA is either Very or Somewhat Necessary in helping to meet their company goals.
The Mobile SFA sector is being positively driven by a number of high-impact factors, including:
  • Recognition on the part of traditional CRM vendors that mobile access can increase both utilization and seats
  • Growing involvement by Sales and Marketing departments in the adoption decision
  • Clearer ROI benefits
  • More powerful networks and mobile devices
  • A stronger focus on targeting the SMB sector -- resulting in more user- and price-friendly solutions
At the same time, adoption challenges remain to be reckoned with. These include:
  • A perceived lack of business value on the part of some segments
  • Concerns regarding the security of corporate data
  • A lack of user-friendliness in the product design
  • High upfront investment requirements
  • Anticipated implementation/deployment difficulties
Customers are making their preferences known – and vendors are actually listening. Along with increased sensitivity around user-friendliness, the popularity of a variety of mobile operating systems, growing interest in tablets, and the financial advantages of SaaS (software as a service) and accompanying per-user/per-month pricing are being incorporated into Mobile SFA offers and plans.
Still, a clear dichotomy exists between two Mobile SFA vendor camps: On one hand, there are the traditional CRM vendors who view mobility as an add-on to an already established product. Then there are the mobile-centric application developers and platform providers that view mobility as the starting point in any Mobile SFA design. While the CRM vendors have the advantage in terms of captive customer bases to sell to, their more mobile-centric competitors may ultimately offer the more optimal product.
The next twelve months will witness a greater level of competition between these two stakeholder groups, as issues around pricing and feature sets continue to play out.