When Shred-it went looking for a way to mobilize its CRM application for its service representatives, it went with a smaller, niche vendor already tightly embedded within the SAP mobility architecture over competitors like the Sybase Unwired Platform.
In 2008, the company’s U.K. division saw it needed to free reps from paper documents and ensure data consistency and faster billing. Shred-it turned to Sky Technologies, an SAP mobility partner based in Palo Alto, Calif., to make it happen. The platform provider specializes in mobilizing SAP applications and processes.
“It’s very nimble, and mobility is all they do,” said Dan Snider, vice president of information technology at Shred-it, the Toronto-based company that specializes in on-site shredding of sensitive business documents for corporate customers.
Shred-it is now in the process of mobilizing its SAP CRM software using Sky Technologies for its larger, North American operations.
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Snider said the company experimented with several other service-based mobile CRM applications. It wasn’t until Snider attended a conference and asked businesses what they were using that they considered going with Sky Technologies. Knowing Sky focused on SAP applications and had SAP’s endorsement was a major factor in Shred-it’s decision, he said.
“None of the other companies were SAP-centric,” Snider said.
Other options included an application developed by the Danish company Lyngsoe Systems, as well as another vendor Snider declined to mention. Those options paled in comparison with Sky Technologies’ platform; its code is already embedded within the SAP NetWeaver stack, specifically the part of the middleware platform that enables activities like mobile computing.
“When you’re using SAP, You want all information to originate from SAP as part of its master data file,” Snider explained. “If your protocol is to start with SAP and push outward, your life is going to be that much easier.”
Having Sky Technologies embedded in the SAP stack made the integration and subsequent modifications that much easier, Snider said. “If it’s already embedded, it’s naturally going to take on the natural flow of a service order,” he said. “It’s all going to be assimilated back to the handheld naturally.”
Besides providing the ability to record service call information, scan service order bar codes and print “certificates of destruction” on the spot, Sky Technologies also gives users the option of monitoring the system from a desktop computer, including where the service order is in the queue, according to Snider. “It’s all very visual,” he said.
Snider added that his company didn’t really consider deploying the Sybase Unwired Platform. When Shred-it began evaluating vendors, Sybase had not yet been acquired by SAP, and as such didn’t have as tight of integration as it does now.
There was also the impression that Sybase -- which does other things besides mobility -- provided more functionality than Shred-it needed to mobilize its CRM processes.
“Sybase isn’t just about mobility; it’s integration and it’s Afaria for mobile device management -- and Shred-it didn’t need all of those tools,” Snider said. “We’re not a big company. To take on SAP is challenge enough.”
Param Kahlon, vice president and general manager for SAP’s enterprise mobile applications agreed that the platform has typically been used by large corporations with complex mobile computing demands in the past, but SAP has worked to change that since the acquisition.
“What we have done with the platform over the course of the year, is that we’ve simplified [the mobilization of business processes] quite a bit,” Kahlon said. Because Sybase is now owned by SAP, code for the Sybase Unwired Platform is embedded within the SAP NetWeaver stack as well.
At the same time, Sky Technologies is adapting its platform so that companies can now use the two platforms interchangeably and utilize functionalities within those two platforms. The company recently announced that it will be integrating its SkyMobile framework with the Sybase Unwired Platform, Afaria and SAP NetWeaver Gateway so that it matches SAP’s ongoing product roadmap.
The heavy lifting for mobile CRM
While integration with the Sky Technologies platform was relatively straightforward, Snider said other parts of the project, including the “pure customization” of the user interface, was a greater challenge.
“It was many replications of actually taking that script, going out on a service call with the service technicians and just reiterating every scenario, showing them the screens and asking them, ‘Does this work for you? Are we using the right language?’” Snider said. “It’s been almost a year’s worth of work just doing that.”
Care had to be taken to make sure that what the user was seeing was as simple and easy to use as possible. “To him, it’s just a drop-down menu and a click,” he said. “If the driver ever [knew] he was directly accessing SAP, he’d be shocked.”
In the end, Snider said, they were able to get the service representatives up to speed on how to use the mobile devices and the software in two days.