How do sales and marketing get mobile if their IT departments do not support the devices they want to use? We are supporters of bringing more smart mobile devices into the field because accessing the right information at the right time increases sales and business productivity. However, getting enterprise support for sales and marketing mobile devices can be a challenge these days.

I had lunch with a general manager of a mid-size technology firm that sells and supports computer and media systems for large companies and has a lot of interaction with corporate IT departments. One of the issues these companies face, including his, is the explosion of different smart mobile devices that his clients were having to deal with – the iPhones, Blackberrys, iPads, Android devices, Windows 7 Mobile, and on and on.

Understandably, it’s difficult to support all of these different devices and platforms. How many times have you heard that IT won’t support an iPhone or Android phone so you can’t use it? Or, the IT department is evaluating the system and planning for implementation – in 2012.

These responses are frustrating to those in the field that see that these mobile devices actually help them do their jobs. And, even worse, they see their competition using these productivity enhancers. Can you blame them for thinking, “that company figured it out, why can’t we?”

Security and costs are two understandable reasons for hesitation. However, in the case of the iPhone and iPad, Apple has made significant strides in the security area. In the case of costs, there is another side to the equation- that of increased productivity. The reasons start to sound more like excuses rather than business challenges that need to addressed and conquered.

Bring Your Own Technology

If you aren’t familiar with the “bring your own technology” trend in the corporate environment, you should be. Mike Schaffner, in his excellent blog post, says that IT leaders need to start thinking in terms of users making their own technology choices based on what meets their needs and preferences.

Three trends are driving this concept, says Mr. Schaffner.

  • Consumerization of technology – whereas it used to be that only corporations could afford the best technology, virtually everyone has access to sophisticated technology devices today.
  • Cloud applications – Data no longer is tied to the corporate data center., Google apps, Roambi (and I’ll plug FatStax for iPad here) do not require information consumers to plug into the company’s computers for vital information.
  • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)– it enables companies to be platform-agnostic for important corporate applications.

These trends are not going away. In fact, they will intensify as the technology gets better and better.

Field Sales Issues

Let me add a couple of more applicable to Field Sales:

  • Tangled Business and Personal Time How many people take personal time to deal with business issues? Concern about one’s job and competition can easily intrude into off-work time. Why isn’t this fact recognized by some companies? Instead, you might still have a phone for work and one for personal. You have a computer that you can’t do anything personal on. That is simply not workable for the future.
  • Mobile Sales Productivity – Field sales is being asked to be smarter, sell more, know everything about their customers, be in 3 different places at one time and input information into these CRM systems. Think about all the time in the field during the day that is wasted because you don’t have the information or the right device to access these system. Information that can be accessed in real time is much more valuable than searching for it later not just in the extra time it takes the rep but it doesn’t match what impatient customers need. Not only that but follow-up time intrudes on personal time.
  • Job Satisfaction – Yes, they unemployment rate is high so maybe its easier to hire better candidates for open positions. But the best sales people will always be in demand. What better way to enhance your retention rate by investing in tools that help them do their job and improve their chances with their customers by supporting the best mobile tools in the marketplace? Sales reps interpret that support as an indication that companies will do what they need to to support their field sales force. As more is demanded, that is an important factor.

 Ideas for Easing the Transition

Sales and Marketing execs that we have talked in the past few months to feel like they are getting squeezed. They don’t have the support for these new devices or they have to go through mounds of justification paperwork and mind-numbing meetings to get a small program started. Yet, they feel, these devices have the ability to greatly increase productivity and job satisfaction for their teams.

Here are some ideas from companies we have been working with and how they are approaching the challenge:

  • Pilot program – Starting out small is something that many can buy into. It keeps the risk and investment low while enabling a company to capture information on the value that you can extrapolate to a larger rollout. Invest in 3-5 iPads for customer-facing situations such as field sales or trade shows and track the results.
  • Volunteer Contributors – take advantage of the fact that many people already have iPads at home. Ask for volunteers that would like to try them in business tasks. Most sales people want to increase their chances for success and make their lives a little simpler. You will find some willing takers in your group. Maybe even providing a small payment ($50-$100) for the “business use” of these personal devices would help.
  • Bring Your Own Technology – come up with a list of smart devices your company can support and let sales reps buy what they want on that list. Give them a $1000 allowance every 3 years to purchase what they want. Then, its theirs. They are responsible for if it breaks or is lost. If they want to switch out every year, they can, but it’s on their dime. This will only work if the “list” indicates that the trend is toward accepting more of these devices and platforms.

Are you able to use the mobile devices you want to in your position? What other tactics are you seeing in the field to enhance company adoption of smart mobile devices?