Mobile CRM app helps construction firm diversify its business

Smartphones and IBM partner's software used to reach customer data

VCC, a nationwide retail construction company, was forced to diversify when the recession struck. The company found that giving project managers smartphone access to customer data was a big boost in attracting new business.

VCC, based in Little Rock, Ark., deployed an application called Mobile Edge, from IBM business partner iEnterprise, to connect about 80 project managers mostly using BlackBerry Bold smartphones to a custom-built CRM (customer resource management) application. VCC runs IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8 and also deployed iEnterprise's product for extending CRM data, called iExtensions CRM.

The Mobile Edge CRM app shown on a Blackberry Bold is being used by project managers at the VCC construction company. Some managers have switched to using the CRM app on the iPad tablet because of its larger screen.

The mobile access to CRM data is "a great force for us," said VCC Vice President Wayne Alley in a telephone interview.

While not every bit of CRM intelligence is available from a mobile device, the system has helped streamline access to customer information across six nationwide offices, Alley said.

"We can see what business has been done with a client in the past," as well as organize data for greater business intelligence, he said.

About 12 project managers switched to iPads instead of smartphones for accessing the CRM data so they could view the information on the tablet's larger, 9.7-inch screen, Alley said. "Viewing a 20-page PDF on a 4-inch [smartphone] screen is not the most friendly way of viewing that information," he said.

The Mobile Edge application has helped VCC diversify beyond its traditional role as one of the largest managers of retail construction projects to include projects for health care and other institutions, Alley said.

The application "helped us attract new clients in a field where we'd not worked before and became a useful tool," Alley said. Because employees can work more efficiently, Alley estimated the investment in the Mobile Edge software, less than $10,000, was paid off in less than a year.

"Time is money, and we were able to access information faster, organize it better and manipulate it to our benefit in more business," Alley added.

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