I’ve been a salesforce.com user and advocate for the last 8 years.  While there are cheaper CRM solutions on the market today, salesforce.com allows users with basic technical skills (like me) to completely customize the look and feel of screens, as well as define the relational structure of the database objects as well as the properties of individual records and fields.

Most CRM applications like salesforce.com allow companies to manage key business data that relates to your customers, prospects, contacts, opportunities, communications, marketing campaign effectiveness, and more.  As a hosted “cloud” application, your business data that resides in salesforce.com can be easily accessed from any computer with an Internet connection.  Krengeltech has been using salesforce.com to manage our own customers and prospects effectively for years.

Recently I had the option to “upgrade” my company smartphone from a Blackberry Storm to Apple iPhone.  After having my new iPhone for a period of about 1 day, I was convinced this new device had relegated my old Blackberry to feeling nothing more than an old typewriter.  After seeing how easy it was to download and install new “Apps” to the iPhone I was intrigued to see how well the salesforce.com iPhone app would allow me to view and update data relating to the customers and prospects I communicate with regularly at Krengeltech.

The purpose of the remainder of this article is to review the core features of salesforce.com’s iPhone application and show you how easy and powerful a similar iPhone app can be created to communicate with your IBM i using the open source framework www.openrpgui.com.   First, let’s look at some core features of the salesforce.com iPhone app that nearly every company could understand and receive benefit from.

Viewing and Managing Customer Data (Accounts)

Salesforce.com defines customers as “accounts”.  To the right is a screen shot of the initial “Accounts” screen on the iPhone showing my accounts, (or customers).  All of my customers are available to scroll through A-Z simply by scrolling up and down.  Or, you can simply tap a letter within the list on the right hand column to go to all accounts that start with a specific letter.  Note the application tells you when the data was last synced with the server at the top of the screen.  There is also a handy search box at the top to enter the name of the account you’re specifically looking for.  The “+” sign at the top right of the screen allows you to easily “Add” and “Save” a new account to the database from your iPhone.

The openRPGUI.com development framework would allow you to build a similar iPhone application – only communicating directly with data that resides on your IBM i, rather than salesforce.com.  With a single tap to launch the application from the iPhone home menu, your company management team and employees could have all customer or account data at their “mobile” fingertips!

Added bonus:  The screen does not have look green (unless you prefer green, of course)!

Account Detail Screen

To the right is the screen that appears after selecting the first Account record in the list named “ACS/Affiliated Computer Services”.

At the top right of the screen you are able to “Edit” the account record to change any of the values or attributes relating to the account.  You’ll see a few of the attributes that are important to me pertaining to this specific account record:

1) The type – Krengeltech sells software to companies running on various platforms.  In this case I know the account ACS is an iSeries Direct Sale account.

2) Status – tells me this company is still a prospect, not a customer.

3) Lead Source – important feedback for the marketing team to know how this company initially heard about Krengeltech.  In this case ACS was a company we met through IBM’s Common Technical Conference for IBM i users.

Above the account name towards the top of the screen is the ability to “Log a Call”.  Tapping this icon allows me to enter some brief notes after having a mobile phone conversation with a contact from ACS.  The notes get date/time stamped so I have a log of communication history I can reference for any necessary follow up or action items.  These notes are viewable both on the iPhone device AND by logging into salesforce.com via a traditional desktop PC.

The bottom line: every company has attributes they track and update regularly regarding the prospects and customers they do business with.  IBM i shops have the tools available today via www.openrpgui.com to develop customized mobile applications to support viewing and editing data directly stored in DB2 tables on the IBM i.

Related Database Objects

As I continue to scroll down the account detail screen (shown at the right), I see the account shipping address detail and a list of related database objects to this specific account record:

  • Contacts
  • Opportunities
  • Tasks
  • Events
  • Cases

Each of these are separate objects in the salesforce.com database but all relate to the main ACS account record object.  Contacts contain all individual business contacts that anyone at Krengeltech has communicated with in the past at ACS.  Opportunities define sales opportunities that exist with prospects who have specifically shown interest in Krengeltech software solutions or services.  Tasks include all phone notes logged with specific contacts AND a full email history repository that is synced with Krengeltech’s corporate email server managed via Google Apps.  Cases provide the ability to log and track support tickets or customer service concerns an individual contact or account has communicated.

Tapping on the contacts menu on the screen brings up all contacts available under the specific account of “ACS”.

Contact Detail Screen

In this case “Douglas Eid” is the only contact I have stored within salesforce.com under the account of ACS.  Here we are viewing all of the detail relating to the specific contact record, rather than the higher level account record of ACS.  Within your business, maybe your sales and marketing team likes to track the birthday of individual contacts to send them a special gift. Maybe you need to keep track of a contact’s primary choice of communication (email, mobile phone, business phone, etc).  Or, maybe you simply want to know the date a specific contact last bought an item from your company and what specific item was purchased.  The layout of this screen has been developed very similarly to the account detail screen – only the attributes are different.

While this article has focused on viewing and editing data on the iPhone specifically relating to accounts and contacts in your business, the possibilities are endless.  The open source framework found at www.openrpgui.com can can be utilized with your IBM i in the same fashion salesforce.com has developed this powerful mobile app to communicate with data hosted on their servers.

What business data are your company executives, management team, remote sales staff, or others asking be available on demand on their mobile device today?  If the data exists within your IBM i, it can be leveraged on iPhone, Android, iPad, and Blackberry via the openRPGUI development framwork!

I welcome your thoughts, comments, and ideas!  If you aren’t sure where to start, the Krengeltech IBM i mobile development team can provide any training or initial consultation you may need to get started.  Many times a simple application can be developed and put to use within your business in a matter of days.

Look for a sample iPhone customer app on a future blog post shortly showing real time access with dummy customer data on Krengeltech‘s IBM i.

Call 612-216-1808 to discuss your specific mobile development needs or email me with questions at jskistad@krengeltech.com!