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Salesforce.com, Nextel Blast CRM into the Air

By Jim Wagner     Feedback

If most field sales folks use wireless e-mail devices, why not add CRM on their hip?

Salesforce.com wants to help Nextel Communications customers pull customer relationship management (CRM) tools out of thin air -- or at least off their wireless Blackberry devices.

The San Francisco based software vendor is teaming with Nextel to offer Nextel subscribers (who use the service with RIM's Blackberry wireless e-mail devices) access to their company's latest account, contact and lead information, courtesy of Salesforce.com's Airforce wireless edition CRM.

Salesforce.com has a similar partnership with AT&T Wireless.

The Nextel partnership bolsters the products from both companies as a viable solution for traveling sales people. With Nextel, the deal extends to users of the $250 Blackberry 6510 or $350 Blackberry 7510 models.

Using licensed technology from software developer Dejima, Nextel customers using the wireless CRM software can e-mail or view queries, and get the latest sales reports from their office or review tasks.

But it was unclear as to what extent Salesforce.com's CRM software would play on the Nextel wireless network. In January 2002, Nextel signed a partnership with IBM to jointly develop e-business applications on its mobile devices.

Salesforce.com officials would not comment on the IBM relationship, and Nextel officials were unavailable for comment at press time to explain the roles Salesforce.com and IBM would play at the wireless carrier.

As for the 8,400 customers and 110,000 subscribers that Salesforce.com currently counts, the latest Nextel partnership could provide them another wireless carrier to choose from if they are thinking of expanding their business software to traveling workers.

"We have two companies that have slightly different objectives, but in the end it comes down to them providing devices and services for data access," Roger Goulart, Salesforce.com vice president of alliances told internetnews.com. "What we want to do is make sure our customers get the most convenient (service) possible,"

Salesforce.com launched its Airforce wireless edition in November 2002 to capitalize on the large number of business travelers who needed easy access to CRM information without looking for a dial up or LAN port to plug into their laptop.

Goulart said its software is something many customers are looking for and haven't found from other vendors (read Siebel, SAP, PeopleSoft and Oracle) -- a CRM offering stripped of the extra features that make the program less usable and expensive to maintain.

"One of the things that we want to do is make sure we look at our users and the types of devices they're using to access their CRM systems; you don't have a lot of users who can pop into a Starbucks or even open up their laptop for that matter," he told internetnews.com. "For the past year, we've been looking at ways to extend CRM, or as we call it CRM on your hip."

Using a Blackberry, or other handheld device, travelers type in an email query that's sent back to the company's wireless application server, where the information is returned in either e-mail or Web browser format (depending on the capabilities of the mobile device). And as an added bonus to memory-constrained mobile devices, there is no software needed to run the CRM queries.

Salesforce.com is currently in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)-mandated quiet period leading up to their initial public offering (IPO). Officials filed the necessary S-1 form to the SEC on Dec. 18.

This article was originally published on January 29, 2004
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