A Tale of Too Many Tablets: Finding the Tablet That Satisfies Marketing, Sales, and IT

As the mobile workforce continues to proliferate the workplace, sales and marketing staff are becoming the field reps with the greatest need for simplified mobility. Customer interactions are fast, the business is always moving faster, and the devices meant for remote connectivity should be the fastest of all. Creating content, collaboration and customer relationship management (CRM) software can prove exceptionally problematic, especially when attempting client interactions around a bulky laptop. Laptops can be cumbersome and prohibitive to fulfilling client requests in a timely fashion and more mobile workers are collectively demanding tablets to fulfill their professional demands.

When someone says “tablet,” most people will envision an iPad or Android. And though these have dominated the consumer market, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ideal for the business. The ideal should be a device that offers clean functionality, compatibility with existing IT infrastructure, and collaboration tools that simulate a virtual office experience. For marketing and sales reps, CRM software usability is the tipping point.

It is what defines a tablet as being conducive or hindering to productivity.

So when you’re selecting the perfect tablet for your mobile employees, consider how the available tablets will alleviate the needs of your end user. Weigh your options, analyze your desired outcome, and remember: your mobile workforce can only work as fast as the devices you facilitate.

- IT Peer Network Administrator

Sales and marketing personnel basically have three options for using CRM software on a mobile device, each with advantages and disadvantages:

• As a native installation: Full-featured software is installed on the endpoint, and data can reside on the device. This approach often provides the richest functionality and best performance because it takes advantage of capabilities for which the device was designed, especially processing power, graphics rendering, and local data or file storage. As is true with most mission-critical enterprise software, CRM software is often designed to run on Windows. This constraint could mean that your organization must deploy mobile devices running Windows with Intel architecture to provide full functionality to users.

• As a lightweight mobile app: Small-footprint apps specifically designed for mobile operating systems (typically Google Android or Apple iOS) can provide core CRM functions. The very nature of mobile apps means that some features available in a native installation are often missing from mobile apps to accommodate smaller screens, less memory, and other constraints.

CRM vendors and app developers work to make sure that the most important functions are available in mobile apps, but every sales and marketing rep has different needs. Therefore, it is likely that some employees will notice that some functionality on which they rely is lacking in mobile apps. In addition, mobile apps most likely require a stable Internet connection because of the limitations around storing data on mobile devices, especially iPads, which do not allow users to access files.

• Through a web browser: CRM users can often perform essential functions from a web browser. Like mobile apps, web apps or web browser access often entails scaled-back functionality and requires a reliable Internet connection.

These realities alone suggest that a CRM solution that runs natively on a user’s mobile device is the best choice to support productive business use. Users are more likely to have
 full functionality on a native installation and, because CRM data can be stored locally, users can be productive even when the device is not connected to a network. The nature of their work means that field sales reps will often be disconnected from a network or must interrupt their workflow to connect to a network, such as by connecting to a mobile hotspot. In either case, their productivity is impeded by the limitations inherent in many mobile apps or browser-based CRM sessions.

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The available options, and even the advantages and disadvantages, could vary considerably from vendor to vendor. Your CRM software might be available as a full installation for Windows but not as a lightweight app. Your solution might operate exclusively as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering, with nothing to install on the end point. Or your CRM vendor might have a lightweight app for iOS, but not for Android devices.

It is important to explore the offerings from your CRM vendor and how they affect the user experience for your field reps before you decide which mobile device is the best fit for your organization. For example, the top three CRM solutions vary in their deployment options and functionality. This table helps define parameters that organizations should consider as they evaluate mobile options for sales and marketing employees.

For a more comprehensive view of how employers are empowering mobile users, check out Mobile Productivity for Sales and Marketing Users.

In the comments section or on Twitter, tell us what your business looks for in a tablet and why?

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