Cloud-computing and CRM pioneer Salesforce.com has just introduced its new Salesforce Platform Mobile Services, which promise to accelerate mobile app development with new tools, programs and events. Salesforce says the new services help pave the way for enterprises to tap into real-time customer data using powerful mobile apps.
Discussing the need for a suite of services like this, Salesforce explains that many businesses have been struggling with efforts to produce better mobile apps for their sales, marketing and customer service departments. Development teams are often forced to make trade-offs between a great user experience, secure access to business data, and development speed.
To overcome the hurdles, enterprises frequently resort to hiring specialized developers, with all the associated extra costs. But even then, the teams and technologies for building modern apps can't always connect to relevant business data unless they tie-in to slow, cumbersome legacy app development environments that can hamper the user experience.
Fast Tracking Development
We caught up with Scott Holden, VP of platform marketing at Salesforce.com, to learn more about how the new services will help the mobile-app development process. As he sees it, two factors are most important: speed and customer data.
The Salesforce Platform, he explained, "delivers the fastest path from idea to mobile app because it provides pre-built and pre-coded services -- such as authentication, user access, testing, reporting and analytics." Traditionally, developers have had to code for these services themselves using legacy platforms, Holden said.
Using the Salesforce code and tools can help eliminate "weeks or even months from the development cycle, and allows the developer to really hone in on what makes the app truly engaging -- the user experience." Holden predicts that with Salesforce.com's new Mobile Services, "developers can deliver amazing mobile apps in just days."
Software Development Kits
The Salesforce Mobile SDK 2.0 caters to developers. The open source project lets enterprise developers securely connect enterprise data to any mobile app -- native, hybrid or HTML5 -- on any iOS or Android device. The SDK also makes it possible for HTML5-based apps to leverage device features like the camera and geolocation, and it provides additional libraries for key enterprise requirements such as authentication and secure offline storage.
Instant Mobile Access
One example of how Salesforce.com's customers are already realizing the benefits of the new mobile-app development platform is the Zimmer company, which sells medical devices through a team of field reps.
"In just 12 weeks, Zimmer launched a custom iPad app to share the latest details on new surgical techniques and how Zimmer's medical devices function within the human body," said Don Lamping, associate director of Sales Operations at Zimmer.
"Helping patients regain mobility is our top priority, and now surgeons can be supported by Zimmer's field reps, and have instant access to all the information they need to make the best medical decisions possible for every patient, anywhere and anytime... even in the operating room."
Lamping said that, "Leveraging the Salesforce Platform saved time and resources in the development process, and transformed our relationship with doctors and patients."
Apps for the Enterprise
Holden offered a few other related examples of how customized mobile apps can help businesses operate more efficiently:
Before, a medical-device sales rep would have to travel with numerous catalogs and devices to show how products work. Today, they can travel light with an interactive tablet app that shows customized demonstrations based on each doctor's needs, even personalized to reflect individual patient's conditions and specific procedures.
Previously, field technicians had to travel to a job site to diagnose a problem. Today, they can monitor equipment in real-time from anywhere, and preventatively flag any issues needing further attention.
Whereas companies used to resort to impersonal "spray and pray" marketing techniques, they can now instantly deliver product offers to customers right as they are walking toward their storefronts, using geolocation and customer preference data.
Calling All Developers
"Now any Web developer can be an enterprise mobile developer," Holden said.