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Are SAP CRM mobile apps designed all that differently?

How are SAP CRM mobile apps different from other mobile apps? And what makes for well-designed mobile CRM software, anyway? One SAP exec explains.

How are today's CRM applications -- especially those designed for cloud and mobile technologies -- driving the sales landscape? And what makes a well-designed CRM mobile application, anyway?

SearchSAP spoke to Jamie Anderson, global vice president of CRM marketing at SAP, about how today's SAP CRM mobile apps are designed for a new generation of users. Anderson has more than 15 years' experience in customer-facing applications and has worked with numerous banks to define and implement customer experiences. He can be found on Twitter under the handle @collsdad.

SearchSAP: How have today's CRM applications evolved?

Jamie Anderson: If you look at some of the early CRM systems, they were designed, in my opinion, in a very inside-out kind of way. You didn't give much thought to the way people interacted with the information. They were designed as systems of record, for customer information. It's kind of like the system was a slave to the database construct.

Nowadays, the way in which information manifests itself, the user experience, it's all designed in a very modular way, so that it's presented in a way that's easy to consume, for one.

Are mobile CRM apps designed differently from most other apps in general, compared with other mobile apps?

Anderson: I'm not sure CRM software has to follow a different way, in terms of design, and how people come to the information.

SAP loves to talk about its "mobile first" approach to application design. Give me an example of how that's manifested itself with SAP's CRM mobile apps?

Anderson: With mobile devices [that] salespeople and service guys in the field are using today, everybody has a mobile device of some sort with them. These devices require connectivity to get information. We looked at that, like with a customer like Nespresso. [Its] sales reps were going out, having site visits and traveling long distances. So one of the things we built into it was an offline capability. We knew that people would need to go into stores [where cell phone reception might be poor]. We designed the solution around the way their sales reps worked.

OK, so that's specific to Nespresso, but what about more generally? What examples can we find in CRM apps more broadly?

Anderson: When you're working from a mobile first perspective, your immediate focus is on what you present, how you present it and how you enable people to [access] that information. The idea is to keep it simple, focused and relevant to the [goal] the individual is trying to achieve. That's one of the major design principles behind SAP Fiori as well.

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What makes a well-designed mobile CRM app, whether it's from SAP or another vendor?

Anderson: Simplicity. Ease of use. Companies today just have so much information.

How have CRM mobile apps been driven by how people see consumer apps? Does this make your job harder?

Anderson: It's challenging when you're a company that needs to change. With companies springing up all over the place, you don't have that [luxury]. If companies like Oracle, IBM [and SAP] want to remain relevant, we've got to embrace that change.

Do users even know what they want? Divining that must be a challenge.

Anderson: I think they're looking for guidance. Nobody asked for an iPad. Nobody expressed a need for that particular kind of advice. Someone came along, someone very smart, and brought it to market.

What's the difference between having a natively mobile CRM application and a CRM application that's been converted to mobile?

Anderson: When you put a mobile overlay on top of those applications, they inherently are still beholden to a style and architecture based on the old system. You're basically retrofitting. I think that's the main difference. It's not quite as clean.

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