IBM teams with Nextel for CRM, mobile e-business

Wireless service provider Nextel Communications plans to work with IBM to develop e-business applications for mobile devices, and will also outsource its customer care center operation to an IBM subcontractor in a US$1.2 billion outsourcing deal, the companies announced in a joint statement Friday.

IBM has reseller relationships with other carriers, but this is the first deal in which IBM will be jointly developing new wireless e-business applications with a wireless carrier, said Dean Douglas, IBM's general manager for wireless e-business global services.

The object of the alliance is to find new ways to push data out to workers in the field, and to draw information from those workers without having to drag them back to a desktop computer.

In a previous wireless project, IBM created a system for building inspectors to file reports from the inspection site using wireless devices, cutting the time to process a report from three days to 10 minutes, Douglas said. IBM also built a system to give public safety agents like police officers and paramedics access to municipal databases from mobile devices.

The trick is to find applications that customers want, and not merely to develop technology with interesting possibilities, Douglas said. IBM aims for more commercial applications with the Nextel alliance, targeting markets like financial services. "We hope the partnership will produce vertical applications to address specific end-user communities and their needs," Douglas said.

IBM also earned an eight-year, $1.2 billion outsourcing deal from Nextel with the alliance. IBM, through its subcontractor TeleTech Holdings Inc., will manage Nextel's six customer relationship centers, employing about 4,500 customer care workers. The call center personnel will move from Nextel to TeleTech during the first quarter of 2002.

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