• April 22, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmarCustomerService.com

SugarCRM Introduces Sugar 7.6, Bringing Process Management into CRM

SAN FRANCISCO (SugarCon 2015) — SugarCRM today gave a preview of Sugar 7.6, the latest version of its CRM software, which is due for release next month. Sugar 7.6 combines business process management with several mobility and user experience enhancements to automate complex business processes.

Sugar 7.6 is the next step forward in the fulfillment of SugarCRM’s vision to make every customer relationship extraordinary, Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM, told 1,200 attendees during the conference’s opening keynote on Tuesday.

“Business transformation takes place when well-informed individuals act in concert to deliver great customer experiences,” Augustin said. “Sugar 7.6 … delivers customer insight at a glance to users wherever they are, and with advanced workflow, we choreograph complex interactions so customers feel well-known and well-served."

New functionality in Sugar 7.6 includes business process management features such as a visual designer; enhanced time-based alerts, escalations, and approval workflows; support for parallel and complex workflows; and the Business Rules Builder, which enables ordinary users to create complex workflow rules to manage their own complex processes.

SugarCRM is also fusing customer journey mapping with CRM to close the gap between understanding customers and the actions that lead to better customer relationships.

In the Sugar UX intelligence panel, a new customer journey chart type displays the customer’s progress through the decision stages. Underneath the chart is a list of tasks the user needs to complete to help him or her advance to the next decision stage.

SugarCRM executives challenged organizations to transform their businesses, changing their perspective to the customer’s point of view and developing a comprehensive map of the customer journey—from awareness and consideration, to purchase, satisfaction, retention, and advocacy.

Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, says SugarCRM “is going all-in on customer journey mapping” and notes that this is “a good area for them to get into.”

The advanced workflow in Sugar 7.6 operates behind the scenes to manage key points of engagement, coordinating the actions of individuals and empowering them with the right information and tools at the right time. From marketing to sales, to onboarding and renewal, every individual can see who he needs to reach out to, what information that person needs, how he wants to receive it, and what to do next.

With these capabilities embedded directly in the CRM, Sugar clients can automate complex business processes—like case routing and escalation, contract approval, customer and employee onboarding, and payment workflow and escalation—that involve all customer-facing employees across the entire customer journey.

Samir Khosla, vice president of product management and user experience at SugarCRM, called version 7.6 “a very important release for us.”

The product, Khosla said, “reduces clicks, automatically surfacing the information you are looking for and making it available right in Sugar CRM.” CRM, he adds, should pull in much more data.

Version 7.6 will also offer additional mobile capabilities, including new dashboards, activity streams, charts, and views optimized for tablets, and it will enable users to customize their mobile dashboard and dashlets. Users can view dashboards from the main menu of their mobile devices, engage in social collaboration through the activity stream, and see all their favorite charts on mobile devices.

New plug-ins available in version 7.6 will include a side panel to bring relevant SugarCRM system data to other applications, like email clients.

Sugar 7.6 also provides new integrations with IBM Silverpop for campaign management; Dun & Bradstreet data services to pull in more corporate data for sales and marketing prospects; and Microsoft SQL and Oracle databases.

“We are continuing to drive integrations in 2015,” Khosla said, “to provide a complete CRM solution and unify the customer experience across the front and back office.”

“As the only leading CRM vendor solely focused on customer relationship management, we’re articulating a bold new vision for CRM,” Augustin said. “What matters most is customer engagement. A solid CRM platform needs to function as the engine that drives and orchestrates that engagement.”

SugarCRM executives also used the conference to introduce Sugar 7.7, to come out later this year. Chief among the features, discussed as part of a product-roadmap session later in the afternoon, are new knowledge-base search, tagging, and global-search functions.

Beyond Sugar 7.7, SugarCRM is looking to incorporate a quotes module, inline reporting and dashboards, email data acquisition, and a sales development engine. "There are a lot of neat features on the horizon for our core CRM applications," Khosla said.

Version 7.6 and subsequent releases will also take advantage of technology SugarCRM gained in its acquisition of Stitch, a provider of virtual assistant technology for salespeople, an email client, and big data analytics.

“I’m really happy about this acquisition,” Bill Hunt, chief product officer at SugarCRM, said.

“We’ve spent a lot of effort in the past year to make sure our products are robust and stable, with investments in improving quality, security, and performance."

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