Archives For August 2010

It is a common scenario – you have hours to kill on a cross-country flight. it is the perfect time to update and view some iof your most pressing opportunities, contacts and accounts in your CRM system. There’s just one problem – the plane has no wifi, and you are using an on-demand version of SugarCRM.

The issue of excellent, customized mobile and offline access has been solved by SugarCRM partner RhoLogic (a division of Logic Appeal) has developed its new RhoLogic Mobile for Sugar – a cross-platform mobile CRM extension that offers users offline access to their SugarCRM data.

The RhoLogic product works in a cloud-based manner. This means that users do not need to worry about running the technology on any hardware apart from the devices themselves. For now, RhoLogic for Sugar is available at the AppStore for iPhones and at the Android Apps Marketplace. Again, this is a cross platform tool – so firms do not have to decide on only one device for all users in order to power a company-wide mobile CRM strategy.

The offline access through the Sync server is really cool. It uses a lite local database to maintain a large data set on the use’s’ device – but does not take forever to load up. Not yet enjoying the power of Sugar 6?  That’s OK – as the RhoLogic for Sugar works with Sugar 5.5 as well.

To boot, users of Sugar’s existing Mobile Studio capabilities to streamline or customize mobile views into Sugar already know how to use RhoLogic for Sugar. The tool uses the same interface – and all Mobile Studio commands are replicated through RhoLogic – so users can quickly, easily and instantly crate and deploy mobile customizations to their Sugar deployment.

The product is available today – check out the RhoLogic web site for more info.

In the first post in this CRM Adoption Curve series, we discussed the challenges companies encounter before investing in their CRM processes and tools.  In the second post, we covered the benefits of centralizing your customer information into one system and defining repeatable processes for interacting with your customers.  The next stage in adopting your CRM strategy and driving company growth is  “Step 3: the Defined Stage”.  This is where your hard work really starts paying off.

At this stage, the customer-centric processes that you began defining in the Managed Stage are now battle-tested and you are ready to automate them via Sugar Workflow.  Leads are automatically passed to the right sales person.  Stalled inquiries are automatically identified for management review.  Hand-offs across teams are tracked and audited so that you never lose track of your customer when moving that customer from one department to another.  Your CRM professionals are collaborating within, and across, teams because they now have access to the same data.  Management has clear visibility into the processes via well-defined Sugar Reports and has begun predicting future success with accuracy.  Your company is more responsive than ever to prospects and customers and your customer acquisition and retention rates have grown.

Keep in mind, it can easily take six to twelve months to move from the Managed Stage to the Defined Stage.  Progress doesn’t just magically happen.  It takes focus and dedication.  This is where the vast network of local SugarCRM implementation partners can make a big impact on your CRM adoption success and help you accelerate your customer growth plans.

In the next post, we will describe what happens when you move from the Defined Stage to “Step 4: the Optimized Stage“.

A couple years back, Psychology Today had an article that analyzes why developers participate in open source communities.  I blogged on this topic then, but I recently had a discussion with an open source pundit on this topic and thought I’d revisit some of the lessons I’ve learned about motivating open source developers.  Simply put, I think the developers’ motivations go a bit deeper than just street cred, self-actualization and altruism … they go right to the wallet.

Let’s start with taking the “street cred” idea a bit further.

First, there’s street cred: People want to garner approval from their peers and build their reputation.

What I’ve seen in the SugarCRM community is that independent consultants and system integration firms can turn “street cred” into “business cred” (or marketability) and make some money. Simply put, companies hire you for projects if you are a credible SugarCRM community member. Also, IT developers NEED to have open source experience on their resumes these days to get the best jobs. Hiring somebody who actually contributes code to an open source project gives companies real competitive advantage for their business.

So being a prominent member of the SugarCRM community turns into actual dollars (Euros, kroners, Linden dollars, whatever). That’s a VERY powerful concept that is glossed over with the ticky tacky term “street cred”.

Now let’s take the “self-actualization” idea.

Second, there’s self-actualization: Working on these projects is enjoyable in and of itself, and it also provides the opportunities to practice your skills, collect feedback, and grow as a geek.

Yeah, coders code because they like to code. Coding is cool. Believe it or not, one of my favorite ways of relaxing is to fix bugs in Sugar. Now call me wacko (my wife calls me other things), but Sugar is my baby and I want to see her not just be good, but be friggen great! So I certainly agree with the point on “self-actualization.”

However, the ability for a company, a project manager and/or a developer implementing SugarCRM to take control of their own destiny around the Sugar app is HUGE. I’ve project managed implementations of proprietary CRM systems in past lives. There’s nothing better at blowing up your project schedule than a showstopper bug or unexpected limitation in an API.

With open source, a company can fix the problem themselves if needed or extend an API to meet their needs. Now SugarCRM works very hard as a company to respond to all of our customer’s reported issues in a timely manner, but when your go-live date is looming ahead of you and the CEO demands no delays, there is nothing better than having the ability to fix any issues yourself and not be tied to the responsiveness of your vendor. And if you are an independent consultant or system integration firm, time = money.  Again, control is a very powerful aspect which drives developers to open source that goes way beyond “self-actualization” or even “altruism”. It drives sanity for the developer and bottom-line value for the business.

Personally, I think these two ideas of marketability and control should have been included in the Psychology Today article as these are the motivations I hear about everyday from SugarCRM community members.  Marketability is about putting money in your wallet and control is about keeping money from flowing out of your wallet.

–Clint

In the last post, we explored where every company starts with their CRM efforts.  The first step, the “Manual Stage”, is typically defined by customer data locked up in spreadsheets, misplaced emails, uncertain next steps and all too often, unhappy customers.  You’re ready to pull yourself out of the chaos and get your company organized.

This is where you turn to SugarCRM and move to the second stage, “Step 2: the Managed Stage”.  After first implementing Sugar Professional, your company has taken a huge step out of the chaos and put all of your customer data into a single, managed system of record for customer information. This is the single biggest value you will realize with your first step up the CRM Adoption Curve.  Everybody now knows where to go to get customer data.  Tasks are tracked.  Emails are quickly shared.  Notes are no longer lost.

With this single view of your customer data, you are now able to start defining repeatable customer interaction processes and start training your people on a common approach to working with prospects and customers.  Your CRM processes are maturing, though many are still manual – which is OK.  Repeatable processes will lead to better automation in the next stage, even if everything is not integrated right now.

But there are still gaps in your CRM success.  You have identified customer-centric goals (e.g. responding to prospect inquiries within one hour, following up on every quote within two business days, keeping your support case backlog under a certain threshold), but measuring progress isn’t always complete or accurate.  Some of your teams are hitting their objectives, but not consistently.  You are better at being responsive to customers than in the Manual Stage, but manual process are still inconsistently executed at times.  In short, you are beginning to chart a course towards CRM success but you still have work ahead of you.

Every SugarCRM customer quickly achieves this stage.  The challenge is to not stop here.  In the next post, we will describe what happens when you move from the Managed Stage to “Step 3: the Defined Stage“.

You’re ready to focus on creating more customers for your company. But before you can set your sights on where you want to go, you have to first identify where you are at.  To help you understand where you are at today and where you are going tomorrow, I’d like to tell you about the four stages of the CRM Adoption Curve.  This is a very useful model for understanding the evolution of your CRM practices and the challenges you are looking to overcome.

Since there are four stages, I will break this description of the CRM Adoption Curve into four posts.  In this  post, we are going to look at the first stage which is what we call “Step 1: the Manual Stage”.  Many people would probably rather call this the “Chaos Stage”.  This is where every company starts.  You likely know it well.

Your sales, marketing and customer support teams are just getting started and are doing whatever it takes to just get the job done, no matter what.  You likely find that every employee approaches the job in a different way with no standardized processes or training program in place.  Is your customer data trapped in email and spreadsheets on each person’s desktop?  Are customer communications falling through the cracks with lost emails and misplaced post-it notes?  As a result, is your management challenged with poor visibility into what is going on with customers?

Spreadsheets, no basic training, little consistency, success through the efforts of a few heroes.  Sound familiar?  This usually leads to a lot of effort spent on scrambling around, but no clear path to measurable success, little confidence in hitting goals, and a lot of unhappy customers. This is where companies like yours first turn to SugarCRM for help.

In the next installment in this CRM Adoption Curve series, we will explore the “Step 2: the Managed Stage” as you work your way up the CRM Adoption Curve.

Why does a company exist?

Clint Oram —  August 5, 2010 — 1 Comment

I admit it. I love building CRM applications.  It may sound goofy, but everybody has a passion.  Software is in my DNA.  And I find the CRM software category particularly rewarding because CRM applications have such a dramatic impact on driving the top line growth of companies.  That’s what I love to do…build great apps that help build great companies.  But is that what the company SugarCRM is all about?  Is that why SugarCRM exists?  To build great software applications?  Let’s explore that idea.

As you’re thinking about growing your company and how a CRM application can help you do that, I’d like to share a simple tenet that will put you on the path to success.

It’s all about your customers.

Sounds simple, right?  But let me ask you, where do your customers fit into your company strategy?  Yes, many people immediately say their customers are at the center of their company strategy. But really, do you and every employee in your company put the customer at the center of your focus every day?

Several years back, I had the opportunity to listen to Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power magazine, talk about how CRM systems help drive sales for a company.  Gerhard is a very smart man who knows a lot about the art and science of selling.  When he started the discussion about why CRM is important, he started by posing the question to the audience, “What is the purpose of a company?”  We heard answers like “to create products” and “to make a lot of money” and “to create jobs for employees.”

Those were all the first answers that certainly came to my mind also.  After all, I enjoy building CRM products.  I enjoy making money.  I enjoy creating jobs.  That’s why I’m in business, right?  But as Gerhard pointed out, what you sell, how you make money and who you employ are byproducts of the true purpose of a company.

As Gerhard rightly said, companies exist to create customers.  It’s that simple. Without customers, companies don’t exist.  If a company listens to its customers, it will create the right products.  If a company listens to its customers, it will market and sell those products to its customers.  If a company listens to its customers, delivers the right products and markets and sells those products well, it will then make a lot of money.  And if the company is doing all that, then its certainly employing people.  So, the purpose of a company is simply to create customers…happy customers, new customers, many customers.

I bet you’re saying right now, “Wow, that’s a different way of looking at my business.”  You bet it is.  It’s all about putting the customer at the center of your thinking. However after decades of books, seminars, webinars, panels, white papers and countless hours of discourse dedicated to this topic, many companies still struggle with how to put the customer at the center of their business planning.

It’s this core concept, the purpose of a company is to create customers, which I’m going to use as the launchpad for a series of posts focused on CRM Success.  The next installment in this series will describe your roadmap for CRM Success…where you are at, where you are going and how you get there (spoiler alert!  SugarCRM is a big part of how you get there.)

–Clint

Note: This post originally appeared on CRM Outsiders. For an in-depth and insightful discussion with Larry explaining his points further, check out Larry’s NetworkWorld podcast on the topic.

Some Thoughts on Open

By Larry Augustin, CEO, SugarCRM

The announcement of General Availability of Sugar 6 this week has prompted some questions about SugarCRM’s business model and the role of Open Source at SugarCRM. (Read about it all here: [1][2][3][4])

Open Source is at the heart of SugarCRM’s business. Well over half of our engineering effort produces code that is released under an OSI approved license. We have three versions of our Sugar CRM product: Community Edition, Professional Edition, and Enterprise Edition. The Community Edition is licensed under version 3 of the AGPL, and has been licensed under some version of the GPL or AGPL since early 2007. Prior to that it was available under several variants of the MPL.

SugarCRM does not release 100% of the code we develop under an Open Source license; Sugar Professional Edition and Enterprise Edition are distributed under a commercial license. This mix of Open Source and commercially licensed software offerings has allowed us to build a successful business while creating an innovative, award winning, affordable, and open CRM solution. From the beginning SugarCRM has always had this mixed model. We benefit from this model, and, as Marten Mickos says, believe that the world of Free and Open Source Software benefits as well.

SugarCRM always makes available full source code to all of our customers. In all cases (Community, Professional, or Enterprise), our customers receive full source code to our products. In all cases our customers have the right to run our products anywhere: in their own datacenters, in our datacenters, or at any of a variety of cloud service providers. In all cases our customers own their data and have full access to their complete database. We care deeply about those rights. They are at the heart of our differentiation as a company.

Open Source code is just part of that. “Open” to us means more than source code. It’s an entire philosophy about how we do business and how we empower our customers.

To riff on an analogy I originally heard from Red Hat founder Bob Young, would you buy a car with the hood locked shut and where only the dealer who sold you that car had the key? Imagine for a minute what that would mean. Only the dealer could perform regularly scheduled maintenance. You couldn’t modify the engine in any way, such as tuning for higher performance or modifying it to run on alternative fuels. Imagine you were on a trip and the car broke down. While you might have the skills to fix it, or might find a local mechanic who could fix it, you wouldn’t have those options. Only the dealer has the key, and only the dealer has the right to touch that engine. Imagine how frustrating that lack of control would be.

Why then would you run your business on software where you have no control? Where you are entirely at the mercy of the vendor? Where you did not control your own destiny?

At SugarCRM we are passionate about giving our customers that control. With full access to Sugar’s source code, customers can take control of their own destiny. If they so choose, they can make enhancements specific to their business needs. If something breaks, they can open the hood themselves, or have a “mechanic” of their own choosing open the hood for them.

But empowering customers means not just sharing with them our source code (under either an Open Source or commercial license), but also making sure that they have the keys to the hood so they can control their own destiny. How is this different? Consider a ‘traditional’ hosted (Software as a Service, or SaaS) CRM provider. Your data resides on their servers, under their control. If their systems go down, you go down. If it doesn’t operate the way you want it to, you’re out of luck. Even if they were to give you access to their source code, you are still not in control of your own destiny, because you wouldn’t be allowed to modify it, or even run it, if you wanted to. You might have the blueprints, but you still can’t get under the hood. Tim O’Reilly has been preaching this challenge to Free and Open Source Software for many years. Marten Mickos makes the same observation about closed web services in his recent Computer World UK article.

At SugarCRM our customers have not only full access to their data, but they have that access in the original database form so that they can truly control their own destiny. They can move that database to another cloud service provider or to servers on their own private cloud or in their own data center. As a SugarCRM customer that choice is in your control.

Further, our open model has created a vibrant partner network that allows our customers to select the level of service they want, while at the same time giving them full control and options for the future. For example, you may be the hands-on person who likes to open the hood and change your own oil. Or you may prefer to buy a complete service agreement with your car, where everything is included and the dealer takes care of everything. Our open model has enabled a network of partners that offer whatever level of service you need, from do-it-yourself to full service. As a SugarCRM customer that choice is in your control.

Our open, ”run anywhere”, model enables similar choice and control in where your data resides and your applications runs. That may mean you choose to let us run Sugar for you out of our datacenters. Or you may choose to run it on cloud services such as Amazon, Rackspace, or Windows Azure. Or you may choose to run it on your own servers on your own private cloud. As a SugarCRM customer that choice is in your control.

Bottom line: Open is a core value for us a SugarCRM. That manifests itself in part through our commitment to our Open Source Community Edition, but is pervasive in our entire company philosophy in which our customers receive full source code to our products, have the right to run our products anywhere, and own their own data. Open is at the heart of our business.