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SugarCon is just around the corner – and that means it is also time for another round of the SugarCon App Throwdown! The App Throwdown – always an attendee favorite – is a showcase of some of the coolest, most useful, and most innovative extensions of the Sugar platform. The fun, sometimes manic, atmosphere of the final judging session at SugarCon not only promises to entertain, but also give Sugar users some great tools to advance their own CRM initiatives.


While App Throwdown is always a blast – we wanted to make it even better this year. How? Well, for starters, we’ve opened up the submission eligibility to EVERYONE! That’s right – anyone who wants to submit an extension, connector, custom app integrated to Sugar, etc. can apply. Simply fill out this ONLINE FORM to be part of the processes.

Submissions will be accepted until March 27! So get your submission ready – all you need is a cool app/connector/customization, a short video of your app in action, and a completed form to enter!

Also, we have created some categories to help guide your submissions, and the category winners will be the ones to battle it out for “Best in Show” on the main SugarCon stage in April.

This years categories include:

Category Description
Mobile Help your customers see i2i, wherever they are. This category will be judged on the best mobile customization, or mobile extension of Sugar in marketing, field sales, field service or other customer-facing scenarios.
Best Seamless Integration Sugar provides virtually limitless ways of integrating with virtually limitless apps and data sources. This category will focus on applications that follow the best practices of our UI/UX and show creative use of the Intelligence Panel, Dashlets, Activity Streams, and other key areas of the Sugar UX best in class user interface.
Data, Information, & Analytics Getting the right information at the right time is a critical part of creating extraordinary customer relationships. Understanding business insights is an important tool for optimizing your selling and go-to-market strategy. Entries in this category will be judged on how they help Sugar users make better decisions and execute faster based on having better information at their fingertips.
Customer Experience and Engagement This category will look at integrations and customizations that optimize the customer experience and increase levels of engagement. These can include workflow-based customizations and extensions to better align with the customer journey; embedded call center or other real-time employee-to-customer communications; or tools to help agents close more deals or resolve more cases faster.
Beyond CRM The openness of the Sugar platform means that developers and users’ only limits are their imaginations.  Entries in this category will focus on the “edge cases” of CRM. So, if your application interfaces with the real world through the “Internet of Things”, or you’ve added game mechanics to motivate the right behavior, or tied into today’s powerful social tools, this category is for you!

The judging process this year will be a bit different as well. An all-star panel of SugarCRM staff and some special industry influencers and observers will judge all submissions to determine the category winners. These will be announced here on the blog in early April.

At SugarCon, the category winners will compete on stage for the “Best in Show” award – in front of an expert panel of SugarCRM executives including CEO Larry Augustin, and some guest industry influencers. But as in past years – the audience will vote on the category winner they think deserves to be Best in Show!

So, all you Sugar partners, developers, tech-savvy customers with a cool custom module or integration – we invite you to submit ASAP and join us in making the 2015 App Throwdown the best yet!

More and more, the B2B world is talking about the “customer journey” – and how companies must re-focus on the customer. CRM can play a vital role as the technology that enables this transformation. It can give all customer-facing employees a comprehensive understanding of the customer, and coordinate all the complex interactions between many key customer and supplier stakeholders.

Integral to this increasing focus on the customer is making CRM work for the individuals who serve and interact with customers. SugarCRM is committed to delivering a completely transformed, individualized customer experience that is intelligent, immersive, engaging and affordable. We are at the center of this universal shift in CRM, the shift towards connecting individual to individual – i2i.

So, how can you be a part of this shift and enable extraordinary customer experiences?

You can start by attending SugarCon 2015

This April, a record number of attendees will gather at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square for SugarCon 2015, to share best practices for next-generation customer experience and business optimization. There’s no better place to discover the rich community of SugarCRM customers, developers and partners who are transforming business by using SugarCRM to build extraordinary customer relationships.



Insightful keynotes, informative general sessions and interactive panels from the world’s leading experts on business transformation and CRM will offer great opportunities to learn how to drive dramatic improvements in business performance.


Multiple breakout session options allow you to customize your schedule to fit your needs. Topics range from best practices and proven success stories to product updates, training, emerging trends… and more!


Share best practices with industry colleagues, thought leaders, partners and trend spotters from around the world.


Learn how to optimize the Sugar products you’re already using, test-drive demos of our other solutions and get an exclusive sneak peak of upcoming enhancements.


Meet with SugarCRM executives and product development teams and provide feedback to help shape product and service direction.

SugarCon is the premier event for SugarCRM customers, users and partners to experience a glimpse into the future of CRM and witness the universal shift in CRM, the shift towards connecting individual to individual – i2i.

If you are looking to excel at creating extraordinary customer relationships and connecting with your customers through the entire customer lifecycle, then look no more. SugarCon 2015 will be three full days dedicated to helping you do just that.

What are you waiting for? Check out the agenda here and register today.

How should marketing automation and sales automation come together in the future? What is the difference between CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, and customer experience management?

Find out by listening to this exciting podcast series with

  • Clint Oram, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, SugarCRM
  • Chris Wong, Vice President, Strategy and Product Management, IBM ExperienceOne
  • moderated by Laurence Leong, Senior Director, IBM Alliance from SugarCRM

Clint_Oram_HR Chris Wong pictureBio Picture

In parts 1 & 2 of this podcast series, Chris talked about the SugarCRM and IBM partnership, and how IBM is not only a partner but also a customer. Chris also talked about how he deployed and managed the marketing automation system within IBM, and his views on how to use the marketing automation and CRM system to build relationships with customers. Clint discussed the evolution of the CRM market and how it has grown to be not only sales force automation, but also include marketing automation and all technologies that interface with customers in all stages of their sales cycle.

In part 3, the discussion turns to how marketing and sales can come together more cohesively – not just limited to marketing passing leads to sales, but how sales can leverage the marketing department through the entire process of selling to an individual prospect. Tune in to learn how companies can improve productivity for their sales teams and also be more relevant to the customer. You’ll also hear about some of the integrations available today with Sugar and IBM ExperienceOne.

Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity):

Chris Wong:

  • “It’s now about sales-driven-marketing vs marketing simply passing leads to sales: how do marketing and sales come together more cohesively?”
  • “There is an opportunity to improve productivity for the sales team and also to be more relevant to the customer. Nothing trumps the data more than a sales person sitting down with a customer and understanding what their needs are. What marketing needs is to bring that intelligence back into the marketing systems to make sure that it’s putting the right next content in front of that customer. Done properly – that can help both improve productivity and actually shorten the sales cycle.”

Clint Oram:

  • “Organizations want tighter integration with marketing automation software so the sales person can leverage the marketing department through the process of selling to an individual prospect.”
  • “Sugar is an application for sales people as well as customer service agents that sits in front of literally tens of thousands of customer service agents. Sugar can integrate with IBM ExperienceOne and make real time recommendations to put the right next content in front of the customer.”

Click here to listen to part 3.

In part 4, you’ll hear how technology can be a catalyst for a different relationship that a company can have with their customer and that inside sales reps can have with their marketers. You’ll hear about the rise of the Chief Customer Officer. Finally, you’ll hear how this applies to drive lifetime value of a customer- not just a single customer transaction.

Clint Oram:

  • “The prevalence of Chief Customer Officer / Chief Customer Experience Officer roles is growing. Analyst firms are talking about how the idea of a Chief Customer Officer is now in vogue and is the new way thinking about managing your business and engaging with your customers. What’s driving the rise of the Chief Customer Officer is the move to a digital way of doing business and is why people need to look at that role now.”

Chris Wong:

  • “Technology is a catalyst for a different relationship that a company can have with their customer, and that inside sales can have with the marketer. Many companies are still putting in marketing automation systems for the marketers and sales automation systems for the sales teams. Companies need to step back and look at the whole relationship management process across the organizations.”

Click here to listen to part 4.

How do you see marketing and sales automation coming together? Add your comments below and share your views on twitter by referencing @SugarIBM.

How do marketing automation and sales automation systems come together, both today and in the future? What is the difference between CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, and customer experience management?

Find out by listening to this 4-part fireside chat with

  • Clint Oram, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, SugarCRM
  • Chris Wong, Vice President, Strategy and Product Management, IBM ExperienceOne
  • moderated by Laurence Leong, Senior Director, IBM Alliance from SugarCRM

Clint_Oram_HR Chris Wong pictureBio Picture

In part 1, hear Chris talk about the SugarCRM and IBM partnership, and how IBM is not only a partner but also a customer. Chris talks about how he deployed and managed the marketing automation system within IBM, and his views on how to use the marketing automation and CRM system to build relationships with customers. Clint discusses the evolution of the CRM market and how it has grown to be not only sales force automation, but also include marketing automation and all technologies that interface with customers in all stages of their sales cycle.

Here are a few highlights (edited for clarity):

Chris Wong:

  • “IBM is not only a partner but also a user of Sugar.  Sugar is an extremely impressive product. I deployed and managed the marketing automation system within IBM. [In IBM’s deployment], we have an opportunity to think about how we can use marketing automation systems in IBM together with this very powerful CRM capability that SugarCRM has.”
  • “The future of marketing automation and CRM linkage is not just in the traditional way of marketing developing campaigns, and creating leads. Those are table stakes. The next level – the future of marketing and sales – is how we use these two systems to build relationships with customers. How do we help a company’s sales team stay on top of the customer? How do we help them as they go in for that critical moment-of-truth meeting with their customer? How do we make sure they know what’s happening and are well informed? That’s the power of marketing automation and sales automation: How do we bring that all together so that it’s really designed around the customer.”

Clint Oram:

  • “Chris and I share a lot of similar views on the customer relationship management industry and where it’s going. SugarCRM has been partnering with IBM for several years around our integrated customer relationship management technologies. We’ve been working together on a series of customers around the world.”
  • “A lot of people still think of CRM as sales force automation. Some people still call the tools that they put in the hands of their sales people CRM. But now, CRM spans across all technologies that interface with customers in all stages of the sales cycle.”

Click here to listen to part 1.

In part 2, you’ll learn how companies can get started towards the aspirational, ideal goal of tightly integrated marketing and sales systems when many companies are still challenged with the basics, and focused on deploying digital systems in place for sales and marketing. Chris and Clint also share their views on B2B vs B2C, and something Chris calls “B2P”.

Clint Oram:

  • “The view of a company that can truly digitally manage a relationship using digital tools and across digital channels with customers in a fully integrated lockstep cycle no matter which department a customer is engaging with – that’s still in the aspirational realm for most companies. Most companies are just trying to get digital technologies deployed in the sales department for the first time, and digital technologies deployed in the marketing department for the first time. Many of them are just challenged with the basics. When it comes to CRM vision: let’s focus on simple metrics, which could be: raise revenue, decrease costs, improve lead flow, improve time to close, get quotes out more quickly. Many companies start with a departmental siloed view and over time they spread to different departments.”
  • “Driving lifetime value of customers instead of single transactions, is something I call the subscription economy.”

Chris Wong:

  • “Historically the main point of contact has been with the sales team; now there’s so many points of contact that need to come together in a much more integrated way. It’s a maturity model. Organizations have to start with just getting those digital systems in place , first with sales, then with marketing, then across all the different engagement points that can happen – customer service, web, mobile, email. Customers want to integrate that around the experience. Step 1 is to get those systems in place, then step 2 is how do I bring that together. “
  • “Even though you may be marketing to companies, at the end of the day you’re marketing to individuals. How do you engage with them on a one to one basis? Inside IBM , we call it “B2P” : business to person. It’s no longer about engaging with customers as a transactional moment – it’s moving to engage with them over time, with continuous engagement driving lifetime value.”

Click here to listen to part 2.

Click here for parts 3 & 4 of this thought-provoking discussion from two true leaders and visionaries in the industry.

How do you see marketing and sales automation coming together? Add your comments below.

Is your CRM strategy and vision aligned with the modern customer? Does your CRM system support the full customer life cycle? Is your organization reaping the benefits of having a modern, forward thinking CRM? Regardless of the answer, there is always room for improvement when it comes to delighting your customers and improving the productivity of all of your customer-facing employees.

On November 5, Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett and myself will be sitting down to discuss what modern organizations need to match their CRM initiatives with today’s more engaged, informed, and connected customer. We will outline some of the core tenets of a “modern CRM” initiative, and cite several successful examples of modern CRM in action.

Join us Wednesday, November 5 and learn:

  • The six critical building blocks of modern CRM
  • How organizations are shifting from systems of transactions into systems of engagement to support the entire customer lifecycle
  • Tips on how any organization can begin modernizing their CRM initiative in the age of the customer

This promises to be an engaging and informative session for any business that is looking at the customer experience in the new the age of the customer. Join Kate and me on Wednesday and we will be happy to address any CRM and customer related questions you might have.

Registration is limited, so click HERE to register today. We hope you can join us!

By Clint Oram, Co-founder and CTO at SugarCRM

Think you know who in your organization is part of your customer service team? Think again. The fact is that almost every employee is potentially customer facing in today’s social era, compliments of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, to name a few.

Fifteen years ago the customer relationship management dynamic was entirely different and much more finite. Back then employees in just a handful of departments engaged with customers through traditional channels — email, phone, chat or face to face. But the landscape evolved and direct lines of communication to customers have been extended to everyone in an organization — even back-office or “invisible” employees — via social channels. (Here at SugarCRM, for example, several of our engineers might blog for us, and these blogs are read and commented on by our customers.) This practice is not unique to SugarCRM. Many companies encourage their employees to responsibly engage with customers via Google+, Twitter or other social channels.

Unfettered access to a range of employees is a major benefit to customers who want to consocial-customer-care-1nect with company representatives apart from those in the marketing, sales or customer service departments. Today’s customers want to make a human connection with “regular people,” and know, like and trust those they do business with. Social media facilitates this type of connection. But the challenge is ensuring customer engagement is consistent and effective across the company regardless of which communication channel is used. It’s also important to provide value to the customer in each interaction, so having critical, up-to-date customer information at hand is critical throughout the customer journey.

In a recent article on ZDNet, best-selling author, Paul Greenberg, argues that customer’s voices, amplified by social media these days, makes them feel entitled to an amazing customer experience at the speed of light and woe to companies that don’t give it to them. He also goes on to say that if companies want to provide an amazing experience, they really need to understand, and be in close contact with, their customers. They need to be engaged with their customers. What a concept!

So, how do you stay ahead of this challenge and create a customer-centric culture at your company? Here’s a start:

  • Choose a CRM system that extends across the organization to all employees. With traditional CRM systems, we see that they are typically relegated to users in marketing, sales and support. If CRM was extended to everyone in the organization, imagine the customer relationships that could be nurtured and imagine the level of customer satisfaction that could be achieved.
  • Pick a CRM that is social-ready with an advanced user experience. Sugar helps you manage all social interactions with collaboration tools and contextual intelligence within a single dashboard.  This turns every individual into a customer expert by uniquely personalizing their interactions, creating a 360-degree customer view and driving true customer loyalty.
  • Recognize that great customer service is not solved by technology, but rather supported by it. Truly becoming customer-centric may require significant cultural changes inside an organization. Invest in this initiative. By getting every potential customer-facing employee to understand the value that they bring to the organization as a brand ambassador, and equipping them with the tools and information to facilitate superior customer experiences, the results will be overwhelmingly positive.

In our hyper-connected world, it’s imperative that all employees have the same access to customer information to deliver a consistent experience and avoid appearing fragmented and siloed. In essence, all employees can/should evolve into “customer experts.” This is how you ensure customer experience integrity is maintained in the 21st century.

This mission has guided SugarCRM throughout its decade-long history — well before the social media wave hit our shores. The company was, after all, founded on the idea that customer relationship management is more than marketing, sales or customer support automation. We have always inherently championed the individual, and emphasized that each customer-facing employee (these days that means everyone with a Twitter handle or Facebook profile) should be empowered to create extraordinary customer relationships.

By Laurence Leong, Senior Director, IBM Alliance, SugarCRM

Both Analytics and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) have been around for a long time, and provide value on their own. But organizations can gain more value when analytics is embedded into, and presented in context of, CRM.

In fact, at SugarCRM, our view is that CRM is not just about tracking sales opportunities or service cases for management; our view is that a CRM system should make every customer-facing individual, such as a sales or service agent, more effective and productive. SugarCRM CTO and Co-founder, Clint Oram, said it best when he said “A CRM system should tell sellers and service people something they don’t already know.” Analytics, embedded directly into CRM, are a big piece of this.

Imagine a sales person going into their CRM system and not only seeing their list of opportunities – but seeing which opportunities have highest propensity to buy, and which opportunities have highest propensity to close.

One SugarCRM customer – who happens to be IBM – does exactly this. By now you’ve probably heard the story and read the Ovum analyst report of how IBM uses Sugar for IBM’s 45,000+ sales people worldwide. What you may not know is that IBM also uses a set of rich predictive analytics tools – including its own analytics offerings – along with two years’ worth of account and industry information – to provide its sellers with an indication of the opportunities’ likelihood to both make a purchase, and to close a pending deal. This is not a simple lead score, but advanced predictive modeling. For IBM sellers are thus more effective and productive because their CRM system tells them something they don’t already know.

At the IBM Insight 2014 conference, I will be speaking on this topic along with Mike Padilla from the IBM CIO office – see details and materials here.

SugarCRM also partners extensively with IBM in a number of other analytics areas.

  • Sugar includes built-in reporting that provides Sugar uses with the ability to report on a wide variety of CRM data.
  • For customers that need more powerful analytics capabilities, Sugar has the ability to seamlessly integrate IBM Cognos Business Intelligence function directly, through a Sugar Connector for IBM Cognos BI. You can see a screenshot of Cognos reports embedded directly into the Sugar UI below. Picture1
  • SugarCRM was also one of only three partners on stage at IBM’s September launch of Watson Analytics. We’re excited about the new capabilities of Watson Analytics including the built-in predictive model, the very compelling new user interface, the ability to ask questions in a natural language, and the freemium cloud pricing model. Look for more between Sugar and IBM Watson Analytics soon.
  • Speaking of Watson – how would you like to take advantage of the power of the supercomputer that won the game show Jeopardy! and combine that with your CRM? Findability Sciences, an IBM Watson Ecosystem partner as well as a SugarCRM partner, has done just that, with a solution called “Impact Measurement and Analysis” (IMA). 70% of non profits say at least half their funders demand impact measurements. Yet, determining that impact often involves time-consuming human perusal of thousands of pages of grant proposals and other lengthy reports. The IMA solution integrates Watson along with SugarCRM to provide a revolutionary way to measure and analyze impact for non-profits. See it in action here or see the screenshot below (note the “Ask Watson” button on the Sugar screen).
  • IMA

At SugarCRM, we’re excited about the possibilities of providing analysis and insight for customer-facing individuals like sales and service representatives, and we’re partnering with IBM to do so. Learn more at

What are your thoughts on analytics and CRM? Contact the author at, or on @laurenceleong.