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SugarCRM Releases "CRM Made Simple"
With the general availability of Sugar 6, the open-source vendor zeroes in on a new interface, productivity enhancements, and new partnerships.
Posted Nov 30, 2010
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After announcing new features at SugarCRM's spring event SugarCon, the open-source CRM vendor has made its latest release, Sugar6, generally available. The latest release, according to Martin Schneider, director of product marketing for SugarCRM, can be labeled as "CRM made simple." With a huge emphasis placed on user experience, Sugar 6, the company says, was designed to increase productivity for sales people.

"If you think about what you pay sales people in terms of salary, if they are actually selling and if they can do that a third faster, then you are building ROI right into the deployment," Schneider contents. He points to some of the system's productivity enhancements, which include new global search using Ajax tools and a fuss-free shortcut bar. According to Schneider, Sugar ran productivity tests on the new version and, in some instances, user increased productivity as much as 30 percent thanks to newly designed modules. "In concentrating a good deal of its energies in Sugar 6 on improving its user interface, SugarCRM's attacking an area we believe other CRM players will also look to revamp soon," says China Martens, an analyst with The 451 Group. "It's all about improving user stickiness, particularly at the SMB level."

In addition to releasing Sugar 6, the vendor has made noise on a few other fronts, including new relationships with Microsoft and other partners. "We have some great VARs and great technology partnerships," Schneider says. "One that resonates the best is Box.net." By integrating Box.net technology, users then see an icon that enables them to collaborate in the cloud. "It's a great tool for usability and empowerment and it keeps your performance strong," Schneider adds.

SugarCRM also announced the general availability of its software on the Microsoft Azure cloud. Sugar is enabling not just development of applications on Azure, but also the application consumption on the Windows cloud environment. Schneider says this move really underscores Sugar's position as an open, flexible company. "We have much more of a cloud environment than anyone with one infrastructure stuck in Silicon Valley," he says. "Sugar is growing so quickly in Europe because we can go anywhere with the open cloud model. We are able to give the ultimate promise of the cloud--portability, openness, and empowering the end user without them having to buy the infrastructure."

"SugarCRM's forging a lot more partnerships and that may be its long-term approach to adding in more functionality around areas such as marketing automation, whereas in the past, it'd been looking to expand on those capabilities in-house," Martens states. "With an estimated 70 percent of its business and rising going through indirect channels, we'd expect SugarCRM to sign more distribution deals along the same lines as the kinds of relationships it already has in place with the likes of BT, Fujitsu and Tata."

Soon after Sugar's GA of Sugar 6, there was a backlash involving the vendor's decision to not roll the Sugar 6 features out to the Sugar free Community Edition. Schneider explains that although Community Edition is free, it's still a robust solution. "We are looking to differentiate our products in a way that is easily marketable," he says. "Now there's the immediate experience difference." Martens weighs in on the issue saying that drawing lines between the free version and paid releases is a tricky move to pull off successfully. "SugarCRM frequently comments that its own community version is one of the major rivals to its paid releases," she says, adding that SugarCRM has "quietly mothballed" its entry-level paid version of Sugar Express that it launched last year. Express was designed to bridge the gap between its free release and its paid Professional and Enterprise editions. "It may revisit Express again in future, but although the version did garner a bunch of interest, the sales cycles were as long as those for the existing paid versions so didn't prove as beneficial to the company as it'd hoped," Martens notes.

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