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I’m new to SugarCRM, coming over in the iExtensions acquisition from iEnterprises, Inc. to become Sugar’s VP of Product Strategy, Collaboration Services. With all the recent announcements, I think it’s important to provide more details on the benefits of the acquisition that brought me to Sugar and what it means to the Sugar community, including both customers and partners. Here’s a brief summary of what Sugar has acquired:

1. iExtensions CRM: This is the leading Lotus Notes-based CRM product. It’s similar to SugarCRM in features and functions but it operates entirely inside IBM Lotus Notes. Although iEnterprises will continue to provide level-one support for iExtensions, it’s now owned and developed by SugarCRM. If you use iExtensions you’ll be pleased to know that Sugar is committing much deeper resources to the ongoing development of iExtensions CRM and you will see great product enhancements in the near future.

2. Lotus Notes Connector (plugin): The Sugar plugin for Lotus Notes has been licensed by Sugar from iEnterprises: both iEnterprises and Sugar will share ongoing development efforts. The plugin allows you to use SugarCRM from inside your Lotus Notes in-box and calendar. Its features are very similar to the Outlook plugin but it provides better enterprise mass-deployment options than the Outlook connector. If you use Lotus Notes, you’ll find this plugin a very useful add-on.

3. Offline Mobile Client: A new mobile client for BlackBerry, iPad, and iPhone is the second technology licensed from iEnterprises. This new mobile technology provides support for BlackBerry and iPad in the Sugar 6.2 release and will greatly extend the features and benefits offered by Sugar’s existing mobile technology. Perhaps the most important of these is the capability to pre-load data and work in offline mode. In offline mode, users can access account data stored locally on their mobile device, allowing them to be productive on airplanes and in areas with bad or non-existent cellular network connections. Both iEnterprises and Sugar will continue developing this technology, expanding it to Android and other platforms in the future.

Strategically, this all means that Sugar will now have deeper integration into IBM technology, thus facilitating greater adoption in the enterprise. In addition, the offline mobile client for tablets and smartphones will strengthen Sugar’s leadership in mobile CRM.

What does this mean if you’re an iExtensions CRM customer? The short answer is that Sugar will continue iExtensions development, bringing additional resources to bear to make iExtensions better than ever.

If you’re a SugarCRM customer, you’ll immediately see deeper integration into IBM technologies. In addition, the top-notch offline mobile client will allow your teams to be more productive wherever they are.

SugarCRM partners will also see tangible benefits. The new integration with IBM technologies will open doors to enterprise customers, thus allowing partners to extend their business more effectively to the high end of the marketplace. In addition, the new mobile technology will allow partners to compete on a differentiated level with SugarCRM.

What else does the future hold? It’s likely that we will innovate hybrid Lotus Notes/SugarCRM offerings and mobile technologies that have never before been seen in the marketplace, thus allowing Sugar to continue playing a leadership role in the CRM space while benefitting the entire Sugar community.

Thank You!
John Carini
VP of Product Strategy, Collaboration Services
SugarCRM
Jcarini@sugarcrm.com
+1 408.454.6930 – Office

Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

It wasn’t until college that I realized I, in fact, had an accent. Turns out, like most Chicagoans, I tend to pronounce my A’s as in the word “at” even when the preferred pronunciation called for a softer a-sound. Listening to all the different dialects of the English language really made me realize how much I took some Midwestern-isms for granted. How confusing it must have been for all the international folks trying to discern why I kept dangling prepositions when I’d ask if they “want to come with?” During my recent trip to Jamaica, however, I got a taste of what it’s like on the receiving end of grammatically questionable verbiage. Patois is an English-lexified creole language with West African influences spoken primarily in Jamaica. If you aren’t familiar, patios sounds like what would happen if the micro-machine man read your kids text messages word for word… with a Jamaican accent; it’s certainly English, yet remarkably difficult to understand.

All this variety in English vernacular left me pondering: Is there more value in a language pack than we might give credit? And for that matter, how often do companies with international markets run into roadblocks with their software because it can’t support the necessary character sets?

Most of us sell primarily in one or two languages, to companies with offices using a single linguistic footprint, but how often do those same offices employ some foreign staffers? Would allowing employees to navigate Sugar in their native language save them money on training and increase the overall productivity of their staff? I’d say so!

Now I’m not suggesting you further complicate your discovery process with a deep inquiry into the heritage of each of the prospective users, but with 6.1 entering the spotlight it might be time to give language packs another look. So this week if you have cause to believe Sugar’s teed up for use in a bilingual office point out the value added by our internationalization efforts.

We’ve all received an email or document from someone that contained characters, or encoding, or some other bizarre excuse Windows assigned to why we couldn’t open it properly, and these kinds of road blocks throw a wrench in your productivity. Even if your prospects don’t see the need today, they can certainly relate to the time-suck that accompanies restrictive regional software. Remind them that should their business one day expand internationally or even inter-culturally, Sugar will accommodate their CRM needs and grow with them every step of the way.

Today at JasperWorld in San Francisco, SugarCRM and Jaspersoft are announcing an enhanced alliance that will help bring even greater business intelligence (BI) solutions to our customers around the world.

From a technology perspective, this makes a lot of sense. CRM data is some of the most critical information in any enterprise. Adding the ability to perform even deeper analysis of CRM data, and to couple that data with other business data – is a no-brainer in terms of the insight and predictability it can give a business.

But I think it is important to note how well SugarCRM and Jaspersoft are aligned in terms of how we see the business technology world evolving. I had the chance to listen to Jaspersoft CEP Brian Gentile this morning as he kicked off the JasperWorld 2011 conference. Brian outlined four basic tenets of how technology solutions at the top of the stack are evolving. He noted that modern business tools need to have the following attributes (I am paraphrasing here):

  • Ubiquitous Access
  • A Pleasing, Simple User Experience
  • Powerful Customization
  • User-Generated Collaboration

When I heard this, all of the work we put in to enhancing our partnership made even more sense. While SugarCRM is focusing on the sales, marketing, support etc. side of business users and Jaspersoft focuses on the more generic data analysis side of things – we could not be in deeper agreement or more aligned in our vision.

First off, when it comes to ubiquitous access – Sugar is all over that. With the iPhone app and upcoming tools for other mobile platforms, it is now easier to access CRM data and analysis anytime, anywhere.

I think the amazing work the Sugar engineering team put into making Sugar 6 the most intuitive and modern user interface on the market speaks volumes about the importance we place on user experience.

Also, when it comes to powerful yet simple customization and personalization – no other CRM tool comes close to matching Sugar. From powerful yet simple UI changes, to building custom purpose-built applications with Module Builder and Sugar logic – there is no better platform for application customization than Sugar.

Finally, user-generated collaboration can mean a lot of things. Sugar has worked hard to foster a collaborative environment for our users. Between the Sugar feeds, integrations with web 2.0 tools like Box.net Twitter and LinkedIn, and our new IBM Lotus Live integration that powers online meetings and real-time document sharing, Sugar users can collaborate internally and externally in ways no other CRM can accommodate.

It is great to see that there are technology providers out there that really “get it” when it comes to the knowledge worker of tomorrow. For a generation that grew up online, the tools they use at work need to be powerful yet intuitive, connected and collaborative. We are proud to be able to offer not only that ability in Sugar but also in combined solutions with some great partners.

For people marketing some CRM tools, the job is easy. Well, easier, because most of the established CRM tools were purpose built around what we thought it meant to empower sales, marketing and support agents.

In a lot of ways, this made sense. We tried to hit as many business needs out of the box, and the rest was up to expensive consulting engagements and professional services projects to make a reality.

This is, pardon my French, a really crappy way of building software.

Here at SugarCRM, we have learned from the past mistakes of the application software industry in a lot of ways. Instead of playing “feature wars” with our competitors and thus overwhelming users with a ton of bells and whistles they may (or may not) really need – we are instead creating a highly intuitive platform for building applications they way YOU want to.

This is, really, a fundamental change. Out of the box software was very feature-driven in the past. Now, we want to give businesses tools to easily and quickly morph a blank canvas into a masterpiece of automation and information for their users.

I was reminded of this vision by a great example of how Sugar can be used for virtually anything. Barrett Powell uses Sugar to manage his Real Estate business – not his sales agents or contact center reps. Powell has flexed the Sugar platform to meet his unique processes, and integrated data and features from other systems, creating a very specialized deployment of Sugar that fits his needs perfectly.

For some users, straight SFA features will be perfect. For others, taking the tools we provide and quickly creating a new interaction platform is what makes sense. The best part is that regardless of the project – Sugar offers real value and benefits for the most simple, to the most sophisticated application deployment.

Note – for co-founder Clint Oram’s take on our awesome year in 2010 – read below this post.

One of the great things about being with a company for more than half of its existence – you get to experience the growth in such a profound way. When I first came to SugarCRM, we were an upstart company with a vision – and making bets that people wanted to make the open choice for their CRM and their IT future in general.

Man, has it paid off. We closed 2010 with another record year in terms of billings, and the company has proven that a business model dedicated to providing open, flexible solutions can be a winner – as the company turned cash flow positive in the year.

Below are the details of the great year – grabbed from a press announcement we released today. I am happiest about the amazing customer momentum – the 50%+ billings growth is just icing on the cake. Really, our amazing community of developers, customers and partners makes this success happen every day – we couldn’t do it without you – THANK YOU.

The company increased total billings 56 percent in the quarter versus the year ago quarter, and saw a 13 percent growth in total billings versus the third quarter of 2010. For the fiscal year, billings increased 52 percent compared to fiscal 2009. In addition, the company turned cash flow positive in 2010, capping off a milestone year of growth in all areas.

“Simply put, 2010 was an amazing year for SugarCRM and its partners,” said Larry Augustin, chief executive officer of SugarCRM. “Our record growth is clear proof that organizations of all shapes and sizes are tired of proprietary, restrictive CRM solutions and are now demanding flexible, intuitive and open solutions delivered via a trusted source.”

Partner Momentum Fuels Growth

SugarCRM’s record growth is due in large part to its expansive channel sales network. In 2010, SugarCRM added more than 100 new channel and consulting partners, including leading firms like AmziQSource, Bezier, BTM Solutions, Capgemini, CRM International, CRMADDON Factory, OpusVL, and Walpole.

In addition, SugarCRM Gold Partner Levementum delivered more than $1 million in annual billings to SugarCRM in 2010. “Our success with Sugar is a true partnership. Working together globally, SugarCRM and Levementum provide powerful, flexible, open solutions for our customers,” said Doug Guilbeau, managing director at Levementum. “Levementum and SugarCRM are dedicated to helping customers successfully implement both traditional and inventive approaches to relationship management.”

Continued Customer Momentum

SugarCRM’s impressive growth in 2010 was highlighted by continued record adoption of Sugar solutions by leading companies around the world. SugarCRM added nearly 600 customers in the fourth quarter, and more than 2,200 new customers in 2010. These new customer wins include engagements with leading organizations like All-Guard Alarm Systems, Inc.; BioExpress; Brugg Kabel AG; DotLoop; Douglas Pharmaceuticals Ltd.; GEEP (Global Electric Electronic Processing); Griffin Chapman; GSH Group; Mintec Inc.; Monarch HealthCare; Solara Medical Supplies; Verticality; and Wanger Investment Management, Inc.

“We chose SugarCRM because it is a great tool to allow our company to collaborate and share information worldwide,” said Bev Brisebois, SugarCRM administrator at GEEP Global. “From an IT perspective, SugarCRM is not only easy to manage but also easy to customize. Sugar provides numerous resources for assisting and training users and provides convenience by offering a mobile version for those travelling employees. Sugar 6 is a simple and seamless transition from any CRM.”

Sugar 6 Makes CRM Simple

The company’s record 2010 was highlighted by the release of Sugar 6, a milestone release for SugarCRM. Sugar 6 is winning rave reviews from customers and technology observers for its industry-leading user experience, social CRM capabilities and user-friendly customization and personalization tools.

In addition, SugarCRM also expanded its leadership position in mobile CRM with the release of Sugar Mobile for iPhone. The first of a series of native applications for mobile devices, Sugar Mobile raises the bar for user experience, ease of use and robust features in a mobile CRM offering.

If you have a Google alert on SugarCRM, you likely caught our announcement today that 2010 was a fantastic year for SugarCRM and our partners. From delivering an exciting new look to CRM in Sugar 6, to breaking 700,000 Sugar users worldwide, to 52% year-to-year growth, to hitting that all important milestone for start-ups, cash flow positive, this past year broke records quarter after quarter.  In addition, over 100 new partners joined the SugarCRM value added reseller (VAR) program and 2010 was the first year that one of our channel partners, Levementum, drove over $1M in SugarCRM subscriptions alone.

I’ve got to tell you, it’s truly exciting to see SugarCRM develop into the world’s fastest growing CRM company.  When we started the company just seven short years ago, I didn’t think we would so quickly become the largest company in the marketplace focused exclusively on solving CRM problems.  The growth in the CRM market as a whole has been as exciting to be part of as the growth here at SugarCRM.  It’s never been a better time to help companies gain and retain customers.

Now with growth comes change.  SugarCRM is going through another transition right now that is also exciting to see happen.  Because SugarCRM works with our customers through channel partners, our business grows as our partners’ businesses grow.  Following our vision of “CRM Made Open”, we have put several new people and programs in place to streamline working with our channel partners and accelerate their growth.

Near the end of last year we launched a new approach to working with our channel partners on developing the Sugar technology.  We invited a few of our Gold partners to participate in a developer code sprint.  About 20 developers from our partners sat side-by-side with developers from SugarCRM, learned our development methods and contributed code directly to our next releases.

Developers who completed training at the sprint also now have direct access to our entire source code management system and can see exactly the state of our latest development branches.  They have a level of visibility into our development cycle they could never have with one of our closed competitors.

In a similar spirit, we applied the same concept to sales at the beginning of this year at our annual Sales Kickoff.  This is where we bring our entire global sales team to Cupertino for a week and invited over a dozen of our North American Gold partners to join in.  It was wonderful to have everyone working  side-by-side  and learning from one another.

The next event coming ahead of us all is SugarCon 2011 in San Francisco on April 5-6.  This time everybody gets to come and join in the fun.  We’re expecting another fantastic event with a thousand attendees projected to come.  Come learn more about Sugar, meet your local VAR and chart a path to CRM success.  You’re going to get quite the “Sugar Buzz” spending time with the Sugar team and our partners.  The energy is electrifying!

There has been a lot of buzz around the announcement this past week that SugarCRM will now feature a tight integration to IBM’s LotusLive product series.

The integration makes so much sense on a lot of levels, and is a great way to kick off SugarCRM joining IBM’s Global Alliance Portfolio as a cloud services provider. As one of the most scalable, flexible, open (oh, and one of the few truly cloud-based CRM platforms) – we are excited to work together with IBM to bring “smarter” CRM to enterprises around the world.

The first step? Making CRM even more fluid, social and a benefit for end users. We are so far past the days where CRM was a hinderance in the eyes of sales, marketing and support professionals. Now, we truly are an enabling tool – not just a way for management to keep tabs on employees or a point of entry for simple data dumps.

The possibilities with the SugarCRM and LotusLive integration are myriad: sales reps can launch meetings to better explain a product offering, while leveraging document sharing to negotiate contract terms in real time. Support professionals can get closer to the customer, sharing screens to solve problems. Marketing can launch personalized web meetings to the hottest prospects. Companies leveraging the power, flexibility and intuitiveness of IBM and Sugar are limited only by their imaginations. Really.

Interested in making your CRM more social?  Looking to connect in more meaningful ways with prospects and customers? Looking to add even more value and user-benefits into your CRM? Then check out the free trial of the Sugar and LotusLive integration HERE.

This is just the beginning of IBM and SugarCRM working together to make CRM smarter.

Implementing a CRM system will turn your sales organization into a smooth-running sales machine, jump start your marketing campaigns and help you drive down your customer support backlog.  But achieving CRM success takes organizational focus and an understanding of what to expect while putting your company on the path to that success.

We’ve covered previously the first three steps in the CRM Adoption Curve. The first step in your CRM journey is to recognize the chaos and lack of visibility that happens in your business when you don’t invest in CRM processes and tools.  The second step is all about centralizing your customer information into one system and defining repeatable processes for interacting with your customers.  The third step is where you really start getting leverage from automated customer processes and better collaboration across your different customer-facing teams.CRM Adoption Curve

The fourth, and not-so-final, stage is the “Optimized Stage”.  I say “not-so-final” because this stage is all about continuous process improvement.  This is the ultimate goal of a customer-centric company. You now have a dedicated team focused on continuous CRM improvement which is driving marked growth in the company.

Your customer processes are now highly efficient and set you apart from your competition in a unique way.  Your teams understand how to quickly adjust the way they communicate with customers and work with each other. The systems required by your CRM professionals are fully integrated for both data and process.  Management not only has visibility into the current efforts, but can predict future success based on the accuracy and consistency of the data. Your CRM solution is agile and able to easily meet the evolving business needs.

Achieving the “Optimized Stage” usually requires at least one year of continuous process refinement from when a company first adopts SugarCRM at Stage 2, the Managed Stage.  Again, your local SugarCRM implementation partners can help you chart a path to the “Optimized Stage”.

I hope this gives you a good view of where you are starting from and where you are going with your CRM solution.  Remember, there is no good or bad place to be on this adoption curve.  Some very large companies are in the manual stage and some very small companies are in the optimized stage.  The more important questions are around how you organize your customer-facing activities to create more and happier customers.  In other words, how do you wrap these stages, this evolutionary process of managing your customers, around the needs of your customers?

And this is where SugarCRM and its partners can help you.  We will work with you on defining and planning a strategy to move you along this adoption curve so that your company can optimize its processes to drive the best differentiation possible in the market place.  In the next installment of this blog series, I will share with you some lessons I’ve learned on planning a CRM strategy.

Many of you may have taken part, or at least seen the results of our recent Social Media Survey.

Some of the highlights of the survey were interesting, but not all that surprising.  Among them, these points stand out to me:

  • Only 26 percent of respondents said they currently integrate their customers’ social networking information with their existing CRM data.
  • 72 percent of respondents said they plan to integrate their customers’ social networking information into their existing CRM data within the next year.

When you put these two together – it would seem that ideally EVERYONE would be undergoing social CRM initiatives in the coming months. That is a huge opportunity, but also a bit scary. There is an amazing propensity for people to overpay “gurus” and point vendors with no real solution in place, and thus not see results because they did not properly align business goals with the IT work underneath. (Really, there is not much difference between the potential social CRM miscues we could see and the high-level “CRM failures” of the Siebel era.)

The plus side?  A lot of the tools needed to “get social” can be accessed (albeit in a more ad hoc or manual manner) for free. This certainly lessens a lot of the financial risk associated with a new IT initiative.

I had an online chat with InformationWeek’s Dana Blankenhorn and he gets it. In his write up on the survey, Dana points out that this need not be an expensive undertaking.

Overall, I think we can safely say that Social is here to stay…now, the real question is – how will you leverage social in your organization to better your business in 2011?

Ok, I know spreadhseets will always have a place in most small businesses. For finance and other teams, the spreadsheet is THE place to hold information.

But for sales and other departments (and yes, even finance in many cases) the spreadsheet is a breeder of inefficiency and a dark cloud where good ideas and information goes to die…

If you have one New Year’s Resolution for your business – make it to try to make the leap away from spreadsheets and into real CRM. By either making the first step in purchasing a CRM tool, or actually using the tools you’re already paying for – I guarantee* you will see a positive return before 2012 comes around. (Guarantee subject to many, many restrictions ;)…)

Not convinced? Take a look at these business cases – especially the case of the Utah Flash – where organizations ditched spreadsheets and saw their businesses bloom.

Also – SugarCRM is hosting a webinar with partner Loaded Technologies and joint customer Mastersoft  discussing how they were able to make the leap from spreadsheets to full service CRM in no time.

There is no time like the present to get started optimizing your operations and evolving past the dreaded spreadsheet!