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SugarCRM is participating in the BoxWorks conference this week in San Francisco, the Imageannual event for collaboration and cloud file storage provider Box. During CEO Aaron Levie’s keynote – he cited some impressive growth numbers for the company. Box now has 180,000 companies using its offerings, with about 20 million individuals in that mix.

20 million. Think about that.

A lot of very successful business software providers, and I mean BIG companies with billions in revenue, only serve about 3-5 million users, tops.

Why is that?

The answer, in my opinion, is that tradition business software providers – the old guard of CRM, ERP, etc. – have typically been either too inflexible, too expensive, or a combination of both, which restricts the amount of employees in a company that can actually use the software.

Think about it. If you really map out a customer-facing process in a CRM usage scenario, for example, there are all kinds of potential touch points internally that get locked out of a typical CRM deployment. Product experts, fulfillment personnel, receptionists…anyone who might either interact with a customer, or have information that can help enhance the customer experience. But instead, CRM deployments are usually limited to quota carrying sales reps, managers, and support agents – in short, a limited set.

I believe Box is painting a picture of how businesses should be looking at technology and how they empower their employees to do their jobs better, and in turn serve customer better. And Box is showing how technology providers should be looking at their business models in fresh new angles. For users, Box’s technology both promotes collaboration and is super simple to use. On the business side, Box used freemium and openness to quickly get entrenched inside the largest and smallest companies – it did not rely only on expensive and inefficient enterprise sales models. Box’s technology quickly and easily proved its value to the USER, and management’s buy-in naturally followed.

We are in a new era of user empowerment in business software in my opinion. Powered by the convergence of consumer technology experiences, evolved distribution and business models, and an overall approach (hopefully) that favors getting the software into the hands of users versus simply “selling the expensive seat license” to decision-makers. The future is bright, and Box is proving that the right technology, with the right approach to distribution, can lead to great things…

SugarCRM is all over the news these days. We have seen lots of great coverage of our strong momentum and our recent financing news. The great news has resulted in SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin appearing on Fox Business News, telling the story of how SugarCRM creates customer experts and is changing the CRM industry for the better.

Larry is beginning to be a cable news fixture, it seems. Following on the Fox appearance, Larry appeared today on Money Moves on Bloomberg TV. Larry talked about our recent funding from Goldman Sachs and how our customers across multiple industries are leveraging Sugar to improve their customer relationships. He also explained how SugarCRM is more nimble and agile in reacting to the changing needs of our customers versus all of the other rigid and non-innovative providers of CRM software in the market.

In case you missed it, here’s the clip.

We just hope Larry continues to focus on continuing to expand SugarCRM’s global business and not on a new television career.

Using social collaboration tools? Want your opinions heard? Then take a few minutes to take a new survey by Aberdeen 500px-Collaboration-handsGroup  focused on social collaboration.

The enterprise social collaboration concept has been around for a few years, evolving from IM and other chat tools into activity streams, document sharing, web meeting, and other combined technologies to better enable cooperation in all kinds of workplaces.

We’d like to hear how Sugar users are connecting distributed workers, and those in the same campus, via enterprise collaboration tools. The more we learn, the more we can shape our product and integration strategy to best fit the true needs of the Sugar user.

Take the survey HERE.

Wow…that’s about all I can say. As I gather my bearings after what can only be called a whirlwind week on the east coast, I am reflecting on all the great moments with SugarCRM customers, industry influencers and media.

In all, we met with dozens of reporters, analysts and customers – and all of them were excited about our vision for where we see the CRM market going in the next year and beyond. We announced great news about our $40m funding from Goldman Sachs, which followed continued strong momentum.

Early in the week, both SugarCRM Clint Oram and CEO Larry Augustin presented on our vision for the call center and CRM in general, respectively, at the CRM Evolution conference in NYC. I also sat on a panel discussing “best practices for global CRM deployments” at the event. The incredible global adoption of Sugar and the global deployments performed by SugarCRM and our partners gave me great fodder for the event.

After the event, we yo-yoed up and down New England for some great meetings. And of course, in true Sugar fashion, we always like to make our presence known:

As news of our funding broke, major media outlets covered the story, including Fox Business News:

All told, between the CRM Evolution event, all of the great news coverage, and simply having our message validated by nearly all of the leading CRM influencers during our analyst tour, it has been an amazing week to be part of what we are trying to do here at SugarCRM. We are changing the CRM landscape, for the better in my opinion. And even with all this great momentum and validation, we are only just getting started.

CRM as a concept has been around for decades. The technology has changed with the times, and we have learned valuablel&l lessons from the successes and failures of past deployments. Today for example, cloud-based and mobile software developments have sped the time to deploy CRM, and lowered the cost to entry. On the user front, more intuitive, user-focused tools have made CRM initiatives increasingly more successful.

But it doesn’t stop there. There are many ways SugarCRM users can benefit from the lessons learned from previous CRM adopters.

Want to learn more about pitfalls to avoid with your CRM initiative? Are you in the SF bay area? Then join SugarCRM and Gold Partner Faye Business Systems for a live lunch-and-learn session at SugarCRM headquarters in Cupertino on Tuesday July 30.

We will talk about some common reasons for CRM failures, and how to avoid them in creating customized, cost-effective CRM your users will love.

We hope you can join us. Register today HERE as space is limited!

I had a great talk this week with the always enlightening Esteban Kolsky. I was briefing him about Sugar’s latest and greatest,101007_curve_sign and our evolving messaging, and he brought up a really nice point: SugarCRM acts as a “change agent” inside our customer companies.

So, what does this mean?

To explain, let’s assume that the majority of organizations out there have constant goals: acquiring customers, supporting customers, retaining customers, driving revenue, controlling costs, etc.  However, the path to those goals changes constantly. Macro-level trends, such as the economy, the explosion of social as a channel, the emergence of mobile as a preferred communication channel, etc. affect how your organization reaches its goals. On a more micro-level, executive management changes, enhancements to internal processes, reactions to customer demands, etc. also force change inside your organization.

The question becomes, then, how do we remain focused on our goals and work towards meeting them – without being either bewildered or bogged down amidst such rapid change at all levels? Many organizations rely on internal “change agents” to help see the proverbial curve in the upcoming road. These individuals are visionaries and usually go above and beyond in helping companies adapt to changes.

But – can a change agent be a thing, and not a person?

Esteban and I outlined how SugarCRM has been a change agent for a lot of our customers. Their goals, as stated above, were constant and solid. But the method for attaining them became more and more difficult. However, rather than get “stuck” trying to achieve their sales, marketing and support goals, many were able to adapt because their CRM technology was forward thinking, “future proof,” or in other words ultimately flexible.

Now, other products might offer “modern” CRM tools (think: social, mobile, cloud) – but very few offer the strategic advantage of being so deeply flexible and channel-agnostic that companies can adapt to the changing tide BEFORE the vendor releases packaged features to address these issues. Our customers, in a lot of areas, are adapting faster than our roadmap – because that’s the luxury deploying Sugar affords them.

And when you combine that flexibility with the kind of strong TCO Sugar provides – the combination makes Sugar an even more attractive change agent. Sure, many products can be customized or altered to fit changing needs, but at what cost? And on whose terms? Adapting to change is one thing, doing so in a strategic and cost-effective manner is another.

So, when thinking about deploying or upgrading your CRM, think about the state of change. And think about how you can adapt to changes with the tools you have, or are thinking to deploy. Again, goals stay the same, the path constantly changes. Is your CRM going to be a change agent seeing the curves far ahead in the road, or a road block on the path to CRM success?

Earlier this month, I was joined by Aberdeen Group’s Peter Ostrow for a discussion around “Amplifying the R in CRM.” Peter discussed how best-in-class sales & marketing organizations leveraged CRM and related technologies to create stickier customer relationships.

We discussed some best practices, outlined some of the ancillary tools and integrations that augment a core CRM deployment, and went over SugarCRM’s vision for helping organizations better market to, sell to and support customers and prospects.

Specifically, Peter and I outlined:

  • What Best-in-Class companies do differently
  • Pitfalls they avoid
  • Why they achieve greater success
  • Technologies and services they leverage to succeed

The webcast was one of the most highly attended we’ve ever done. If you missed it, or would like to hear the discussion again – Click Here.