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12/8/2005
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SugarCRM Expands Open-Source CRM Capabilities

Features enhanced by the developer community include workflow management, campaign management, and the ability to convert E-mails into leads.

There's a reason SugarCRM Inc. is fast becoming a serious option on the customer-relationship-management front: constant innovation. And because it's an open-source vendor, SugarCRM doesn't have to innovate alone--it's getting plenty of help from its customers.

Hence, the release next week of Sugar 4.0, the most collaboratively produced offering from SugarCRM since it first brought its product to market in July 2004. And like Microsoft Dynamics CRM 3.0, which debuted this week, SugarCRM has its sights set on big companies with a release that offers broad functionality to match the most mature products in the market.

Working with its developer community, SugarCRM's newest release--its seventh overall--brings workflow-management and the ability to automatically convert E-mails into leads into the mix, and offers substantially enhanced capabilities in areas such as campaign management, reporting, executive dashboards, and lead-sharing.

"This industry has been predicated on a lot of artificial restrictions," says CEO John Roberts, one of several former Epiphany executives who left the CRM vendor to start SugarCRM. "Software doesn't have to be designed behind closed doors. In fact, we think it's a poor way to develop innovative software. Writing software in public using developers around the world is a much better way to develop innovative software."

Rob Lackey agrees. The 25-year-old chief technology officer of BZ Results, a 100-employee provider of Web-based digital marketing services, chose Sugar's CRM app to replace a system that was doomed by a clunky interface and a botched deployment. It also didn't hurt that the old software was going to cost $60,000 for a one-year renewal, while the first year of SugarCRM cost the company $50,000, with anticipated annual renewal costs of about $33,000. BZ currently is running Sugar 3.5, but its joint efforts with SugarCRM to build an automated workflow engine resulted in the workflow module that's part of the 4.0 enterprise release, providing the company with motivation to upgrade to the new version.

Lackey discovered further motivation after a preview version of 4.0 was opened up to SugarCRM's SugarForge open-source project, and the collective expertise of a 3,000-developer community kicked in. "We ended up getting more than we wanted, which is a unique vendor situation," he says. Among the added capabilities that emerged from the community was the campaign management module that's part of 4.0. Lackey's hoping he can leverage the open-source code underlying SugarCRM to integrate it with a recently developed open-source telephony architecture. "That would be absolutely huge," he says.

As with past releases, Sugar 4.0 is available in three versions: an enterprise edition runs $449 a year per user, a professional edition runs $239 a year per user, and the core SugarCRM offering--which doesn't include some of the advanced features, such as the workflow module--is available as a free download. An on-demand version also is available for $40 a month per user. The core product has been downloaded 300,000 times and translated into 25 languages.

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