During a time in which employees need up-to-date information quickly and easily, companies are starting to look at incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their repertoire. The problem, at times, has been integrating those capabilities to CRM systems. Looking to fill this need, Cupertino, Calif.-based open source software provider SugarCRM unveils Sugar 5.2, complete with cloud services and social feeds.
Martin Schneider, director of product marketing for SugarCRM, explains the cloud connectors -- which connect via Web services to third-party data service providers including Hoover's, JigSaw, and LinkedIn -- expands on the functionality his company's CRM offering has already been offering. "Social networks already do a lot of interesting relationship and analytics mining," he says. "You can instantly take advantage of that hard work and data aggregation that other firms have done right inside your CRM system. That's a pretty powerful capability."
The cloud connectors can help end-users in two different ways:
- cloud views give users a one-click preview of information retrieved from cloud data providers; and
- data merge give the opportunity to select data from multiple providers and merge the latest information directly into SugarCRM.
According to Schneider, the cloud services lay the groundwork for the other two features highlighted in this latest release: Sugar Feeds and Portal Dashlets.
Sugar Feeds is a dashlet available right on the SugarCRM homepage, and enables a Facebook or Twitter-like exchange among employees whether it be sales, marketing, or customer service. "You can communicate with teams and send alerts when changes happen within a company like when a lead escalates," Schneider says. "Workers can simply talk to each other and not have to go outside your CRM to log into Hoover's or Twitter. It's already done for you inside the system."
Portal Dashlets also allow users to access information from external Web sites and applications, placing it directly onto the SugarCRM home page in different boxes which can be moved and configured. "It opens up so many possibilities," Schneider explains. "You can have Google Documents, blogs, anything you'd like constantly updated right in your CRM system so you don't have to log in anywhere else. The goal is making it so people want to live in the system."
For Pete Marston, analyst at Boston-based analyst and consulting firm Forrester Research, Sugar 5.2 opens up new opportunities for the company and keeps it on par with CRM heavyweights including Microsoft, Oracle, RightNow Technologies, SAP, and Salesforce.com. "SugarCRM is keeping up with who we consider the leaders," he says. "It's good news for [the company] that they are coming up and offering similar capabilities that the bigger guys have."
The fact that SugarCRM is an open-source pioneer can also be a boost for the vendor, particularly in this economic environment. "It's an opportunity for companies to explore open source a bit more as cost tends to be a…larger constraint," he explains. "It helps the [vendor] get a little bit more exposure where they may not have gotten it in the past."
The only problem SugarCRM -- and other CRM vendors who are offering Web 2.0 technologies that can help better utilize social applications -- is market adoption. Marston says while it is great that this type of functionality is available, many companies are in a mixture of technological maturity. To him, this means organizations may like the new capabilities, but some just aren't ready for them yet.
With that said, the fact that the open-source provider is willing to make this jump speaks volumes. "It's a good momentum boost for [the company] to have this type of functionality," he says. "SugarCRM is staying on track."
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