The B2B App Party: CRM, in the field apps & order management

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It happens ten minutes into every after-party at every convention center where attendees and vendors gather. First one small group starts and then, suddenly, everyone’s doing it. It’s the great app comparison conversation and it’s a feature of B2B community culture.

To compile our list of the current most popular B2B applications, B2B News Network based its judgment on industry participant input and software analyst expertise across six categories. Yesterday, we looked at a presentation add-on, the rise of AI and electronic signatures. Today we’ll examine CRM solutions, the use of mobile apps in the field and at order management tools.

They see some CRM

The customer relationship management (CRM) category is crowded and competitive for good reason. Any business—B2B or B2C—with growth ambitions needs a CRM tool. These systems enable organizations to manage every customer interaction across the customer lifecycle, according to industry analysts.

One industry analyst firm, Software Advice, a Gartner company, has developed a methodology for ranking CRM systems. It takes into account adoption levels, search traffic and social presence, according to Justin Guinn, market research associate, Software Advice.

“There’s no doubt Salesforce is the dominant name in CRM,” Guinn says. “However, it’s important to keep in mind that Salesforce isn’t just one thing. In fact, Salesforce has numerous offerings that specialize in core CRM functionalities. These include salesforce automation, marketing automation, lead management, contact management and reporting and analytics.”

With its methodology in hand, Software Advice finds that Microsoft Dynamics CRM has the second-most popularity boosted by its easy integration with other Microsoft products. But it’s best for larger organizations whereas Salesforce has offerings for SMBs that can scale as they grow, according to Guinn. Outside Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, Software Advice’s top-rated alternative CRM remains Insightly, which offers essential CRM capabilities plus built-in project management functions.

“Insightly is an easy-to-use and (intelligent) platform that gives small businesses the opportunity to build and track relationships with clients,” says James Jedow, owner, Jedow Interactive, LLC, an online and offline B2B marketing agency. “Integration with multiple partners makes it a powerful platform.”

Meeting B2B customers where it counts: in the field

For B2B businesses that have field service and field sales personnel, mobile software apps prove really valuable. Many mobile B2B applications and other technologies locate, track, automate and optimize workers and their tasks.

For example, in its annual survey of North American businesses, industry analyst firm Frost & Sullivan reveals that over one-third of companies already have from one to 10 of these apps. Another 26 percent identify as heavy users, with 20 or more apps available for workers to use on their mobile devices, the survey says.

“Businesses aren’t shy about listing the benefits they’re experiencing with these solutions,” says Jeanine Sterling, industry director, mobile & wireless communications, Frost & Sullivan, “from happier customers to quicker response rates, increased sales and reduced paperwork.”

According to its research, ClickSoftware provides two of the top 10 B2B apps for mobile workforces: ClickButler and ShiftExpert. ClickButler is an AI tool included in ClickSoftware mobile field management solutions and designed to give employees a heads-up—along with alternative solutions—if parameters around safety, efficiency, service punctuality and others are in danger of violation. According to Sterling, as one of the first field service apps for wearables, ShiftExpert is designed for field employees to clock in and out of activities and manage shifts on smartwatches.

Other mobile workforce apps remaining in Frost’s top 10 include AT&T Workforce Manager, a modular “build your own app” that lets B2B mix and match 80-plus field personnel smartwatch modules—from timekeeping to job dispatching; and SAP Cloud for Sales, which Frost calls an early leader in using predictive analytics to identify top influencers in the selling process and scoring probability for successful deals.

Bringing order to order management

The subject of omnichannel customer experience has gained momentum since 2015. And as industry research shows, it’s important for B2B companies to provide an integrated, seamless environment for customers to optimize order management. In its latest report Forrester finds three application providers currently lead in this vertical: IBM, SAP Hybris, Apttus.

“Omnichannel is a hot topic, but it is an unrealizable dream for many AD&D (application development and delivery) leaders within complex B2B enterprises,” write Duncan Jones and other Forrester researchers. “A key foundation of omnichannel is B2B order management—an emerging software category enabling visionary B2B enterprises to meet their customers’ new, more demanding expectations.”

According to Duncan, IBM, SAP Hybris and Apttus lead in overall functionality. All three met most requirements across all Forrester criteria and have a strong B2B order management vision and strategy. IBM has been delivering B2B order management the longest and has the broadest capabilities and largest installed base. SAP Hybris Commerce is a leading solution for B2B companies that are most like B2C contemporaries. Apttus is a good fit for enterprises with complex pricing, high service content and where integration with Salesforce CRM is more important than with e-commerce.

If you missed yesterday’s installment, check out the first B2B app party here.

Photo credit: Jon Evans

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).