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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!

I have always told prospects that it pays to deploy and open, flexible CRM solution…

Now, for businesses in Singapore it really PAYS!

The country has a long history of fostering the creation of well-run small businesses. The latest installment of Singapore’s benevolent attitude towards growing local businesses: SugarCRM is now listed as a certified solution under iSPRINT (Packaged Solutions).

So – what does this mean?

Simply put – any Singapore business that deploys SugarCRM is eligible for a credit of up to 50 percent of the qualifying costs, capped at S$10,000 of an initial subscription of a listed solution. So, that means deploying a best-in-class CRM system at half the cost. That is, seriously, pretty darn cool.

Imagine adding the ability to better manage your contacts, opportunities, activities etc. across your sales, marketing and support teams. Imagine having access to a full reporting suite to guide your business and gain predictability. Imagine empowering sales and support agents with their critical data on the go with mobile CRM access. Imagine identifying, converting and delighting more customers with social CRM tools.

Oh yeah, and all that comes at half the normal cost.

To take advantage of this insanely awesome offer – contact SugarCRM APAC partner iZeno today.