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8/20/2013
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SugarCRM Goal: Better Sales Tools

SugarCRM says competitors have fallen short in helping salespeople sell, but new Sugar 7 features will fill that gap.

CRM hasn't well-served the needs of salespeople because it's too focused on rolling up forecasts for sales management and the CFO while doing too little to help salespeople sell. That's the assessment of Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM, who spoke at a conference in New York on Tuesday about the future of the company's open source CRM system.

The big news this week is that SugarCRM has raised $40 million in venture capital from Goldman Sachs Group to speed expansion as the company takes on big CRM rivals. On the product front, the fourth quarter will bring the general release of Sugar 7, a significant version upgrade that will fill the sales-support gap in a number of ways, according to Augustin. First off, release 7 has been substantially rewritten in Javascript and HTML5 to better support Web and mobile delivery. That basically translates into faster Web and mobile performance, Augustin told InformationWeek in a phone interview, and the application has also been souped up with built-in tools for salespeople and intelligence in the form of "dashlets" that serve up customer insight.

"We've built tools to help salespeople with their own pipeline management, showing them what they need to do to meet their quotas," Augustin said. "We've also added an intelligence panel where we deliver information that helps the seller as they're engaged with the customer, whether that's cross-sell and up-sell recommendations, or insight on who else in the company knows the contact and what interactions they've had."

The intelligence panel also surfaces examples of other deals that match the profile of sales opportunities in progress, and other deals in similar industries, Augustin said.

[ Want more on customer experience management? Read 5 Steps To Superior Customer Experience. ]

Sugar is available in many flavors starting with Sugar Community Edition, the core open source product actively used by more than 50,000 companies and 1.2 million end users, according to Augustin. SugarCRM offers commercial support for Professional, Corporate, Enterprise and Ultimate versions of Sugar, and these are used by 6,500 paying customers with more than 200,000 user seats as of the end of the second quarter.

SugarCRM supports multiple deployment modes, with various flavors of "cloud" accounting for two-thirds of paying customers. There's a SugarCRM multi-tenant service (a.k.a. SaaS), and a private-cloud service and hosting (a.k.a. managed service). The private-cloud option was added last year with the introduction of Sugar 6. SugarCRM manages the private-cloud services, but it uses IBM or Amazon Web Services to provide the cloud computing capacity, depending on the customer's choice of infrastructure providers.

"Multitenant gives you the lowest cost option, but it has the least flexibility," Augustin explained. "With SaaS, everybody is kept up to date on the latest release, which is good, but you don't have control over the timing of upgrades. Private-cloud gives the customer options."

The competition to SugarCRM is pretty obvious -- Salesforce.com, Oracle Siebel, Microsoft Dynamics CRM -- even if you don't spot the "Switch to Sugar From ..." options detailed on the company's website. A head-to-head comparison, as portrayed by the company, shows Sugar costing $90,000 per year versus $285,000 for Salesforce.com. Siebel is artfully depicted as "last-century CRM." And the appeal versus Microsoft is not getting "locked up."

SugarCRM isn't the only competitor talking about CRM that starts with the sales challenge, not revenue forecasting. SAP has taken the same focus with SAP Sales OnDemand, which was introduced last year. And certainly most other CRM vendors are talking this talk, even if the more popular spin these days is around "customer experience management."

From "the customer company" (Salesforce.com) and Oracle to Pegasystems and Kana, the hottest CRM topic these days in many ways seems as old as the maxim "the customer always comes first." Now it applies in a multi-channel sense, and consistency across those channels is crucial.

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D. Henschen
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D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
8/21/2013 | 3:28:39 PM
re: SugarCRM Goal: Better Sales Tools
That $40 million should go a long way toward building out SugarCRM as a global player. IBM's role as best-buddy integrator, cloud host and extended software sales force also helps.

This in one area where IBM's old aversion to enterprise applications is breaking down. Oracle and SAP are now competitors, so IBM simply can't ignore CRM. IBM has also gotten cozier with Infor in the ERP realm. I've even seen white papers about IBM as integrator for Microsoft Dynamics applications. The competitive landscape is cha, cha, cha changing -- big time!
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