Sugar Announces Its Latest Plum
SugarCRM on Monday unveiled a major upgrade of its namesake CRM platform, adding new customization and on-demand capabilities and an AJAX email client. Sugar 5.0 was made available following three rounds of beta testing
by more than 30,000 users, according to the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. The release comes amid a flurry of vendor activity, as competitors try to get their latest and greatest to market before the close of 2007.
More than just adding some new features, Sugar 5.0 represents a significant change in the software's platform, says Tim Hickernell, associate senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, noting a new module builder that enables users to build custom modules from scratch or combine existing objects into a new module. "The module builder to me is the key thing in this release," Hickernell says. "It's not just changing colors or the tag fields, it's real functional customization, and the module builder is really key to that."
According to the Sugar, the module builder was designed in response to feedback from users who sought a version of that feature geared to non-tech users. However, Hickernell cautions that since the module builder feature is a relatively new capability for CRM software aimed at small businesses, it may present some implementation challenges. "For small businesses, it may be the first time they encounter the capability for user-generated functional modules," he says. "It could be the driver for corporate clients to create procedures to manage the process. But that's not a bad thing."
Another new customization feature of Sugar 5.0 is multiple dashboards that are available on the homepage, allowing users to access pre-built or custom dashboards, and edit, share or rearrange them with a few clicks, without the need to rely on IT staff for revision. Sugar 5.0 also has a new multi-instance, on-demand architecture, which allows for a hosted SaaS option for deploying the software. In practical terms, the upgrade allows for automatic upgrades to new versions and the ability to develop new functionality on test serves before moving into production. Users can also toggle between the on-site and on-demand versions.
Among the more granular upgrades is a new AJAX email client that allows small businesses without a corporate email standard to manage contacts online. Improved charting capabilities include support for funnel, pie charts, and bar graphs, and improved access control offers better support for team hierarchies. Finally, a metadata-driven user interface stores customizations so that they can be easily incorporated into new versions, which the company anticipates will focus on further enhancement of the program's on-demand capabilities.
In its evaluation of the product, Info Tech Research group recommends that in order to reduce the number of IT upgrade projects, companies that have previously used on-premise, rather than on-demand, versions of SugarCRM wait until the next update, or take the opportunity to switch to on-demand with Sugar 5.0.
Other industry analysts agree with Hickernell's assessment of Sugar 5.0's potential impact. "With a thriving on-demand business already in place, SugarCRM could become a force in the emerging market where users will want their CRM to have both on-site and SaaS offerings," the 451 Group wrote in a recent research report.
"SugarCRM is a solid suite of small enterprise CRM tools that provide value to buyers at an affordable price," Info-Tech's report concludes. "With the release of Version 5.0, SugarCRM remains a good choice for small enterprises looking to implement CRM."
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