SugarCRM Looks to Tackle CRM Usage Hurdles

SugarCRM has plans to roll out a "more flexible, powerful, and highly scalable" open-source CRM application powered by HTML5 technology by summer's end. The application will be known as Sugar 7.

"It was very important to us that it was contextual to the customer, as well as the user," Lorna Heynike, vice president of product management, told CRM. "It had to be really relevant in design principles and look at, 'How do we let users deal with the amount of [data captured in] activity feeds, the Web, social media, communities, and the CRM itself?'"

One new feature, the personalized Intelligence Panel, provides a graphical visualization of the sales forecast, so that when a sales rep logs an opportunity, makes a change to the contact record, or uses flexible tagging, for instance, it's mapped out in real time. A user can take a company or customer's history and online and social presence and distill it in a snapshot within the Intelligence Panel.

Also built into Sugar 7 are social collaboration features, functionality that permeates across the entire system, according to Lila Tretikov, chief product officer. "Activity streams for activity streams' sake is not interesting," Tretikov acknowledged in an interview. "There's just so much data now and so much noise…we wanted to [give users access to] what's important to them. Maybe it's Twitter. Maybe it's an aggregation of all of the case management information if I'm using my system for that."

With the collaboration stream, enterprises can keep apprised any time an object changes in a workflow as opposed to mere comments and conversation, Tretikov said. "It's a really easy and visual way to say, 'My deal is changing'" without sending email or leaving the CRM system.

To ramp up user adoption of Sugar 7, there is built-in functionality for companies to "bubble up the influencers within the CRM system," Heynike notes, whether those users are in customer-facing roles or work in operations, pricing, or product management and development.

"When you pull up a deal, it says who is the most active on the deal," she says. "We show that as a way of social influence reward to encourage [users to] use the CRM when they're logging their work to keep it stored centrally." That drives adoption, but also builds rich intelligence and knowledge inside of the application itself, she said.

Driving adoption will be critical to Sugar's success, says Carter Lusher, research fellow and chief analyst of enterprise applications at Ovum. As Sugar eyes "every customer, every user, every time" in its messaging and development goals, "I think part of it is, 'How do you get the marketplace to be aware that everybody [in an enterprise] is a customer contact?'" he notes. One strategy will be to come up with innovative licensing models and ensure the application itself relates to roles and job functions to increase usage.

Sugar also continues to build out its partner program, and currently has more than 400 companies that have built custom integrations to its system. E-signature solutions company DocuSign, for instance, just extended its DocuSign Cloud Partner Program and e-signature transaction management capabilities to SugarCRM users to expedite contracts within Sugar and partner apps.

An early integrator with Sugar 7, social analytics company NextPrinciples expanded its Insight-To-Action platform with Sugar to gauge the impact of social interactions with core CRM processes like lead generation and customer support. "Like many other folks, I'm really happy with what I've seen so far with Sugar 7," comments Ted Sapountzis, head of marketing and product management at NextPrinciples. "We're also very happy with Sugar's increasing focus on the enterprise because that has been our bread-and-butter market from day one."

SugarCRM announced a number of other product updates at its users' conference, which included a new SugarCRM Mobile Application and Sugar Private Cloud to give clients access to dedicated databases and more control over their information.

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