Archives For CRM

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.

A Case for cRm.

Martin Schneider —  June 6, 2013 — 3 Comments

The technology that supports the interactions between a customer and a business have gone through all sorts of changes over r-blogthe past several decades. Advancements in technology, buyer behavior, high-level phenomenon like social media, etc. have all left their mark on CRM technology.

One could argue that in different phases of its evolution, each of the three initials of C-R-M have been the focus. For example, when application software was a nascent market, the simple fact of managing the data around a sales person’s activities (the”M” in CRM) was the focus. Prior to early CRM systems, pen and paper, and early unwieldy databases were the status quo. In short, there was very little focus on the customer and the relationship – just managing and trying to standardize processes and capturing actions. And to keep the “management” conceit going, most early CRM systems benefitted managers more than actual users. Users were forced to enter data, which benefitted management reports around company performance, rather than actually helping users do their jobs better.

As the web, service oriented architectures, the cloud and social media became commonplace, CRM started to become more about customer data. The addition of “the customer” (or the “C” in CRM) sounds ironic, but it was a novel change. Most CRM systems, as noted above, focused on the sales or support agent’s activities and workflow process management, management-level reports, etc. – NOT on optimizing the insights around customer histories to create meaningful experiences at every touch point. Adding the C is a great evolutionary step.

So that brings us to the “R” in CRM. As an industry we have mastered the management of data, and have gotten much better at including rich customer insights into processes and interactions. Evolving further, I think we are starting to actually focus better on the relationships customer have with businesses. That means more of a focus on the point of engagement, not on post-call data entry, or on batch-level rollup reports that tell us nothing in true detail.

Focusing on the relationship benefits both the customer and the actual front line users of a CRM system. The customer benefits because we have the previous addition of their data in the equation, and a focus on solving their problems and generally better meeting their needs right at the point of any engagement, across any channel. That’s good stuff. And by empowering users with the tools they need to better provide that level of service not later, not through 17 screens – but in a single, intuitive user panel that is accessible on any device – sales, marketing and support professionals can do their jobs better and with less stress and manual efforts. Also good stuff.

So, I argue that we are in the era of cRm: focusing on the Relationship aspect of customer interactions. Wether it is a one-time interaction, or a lifelong bond between a buyer and a brand – SugarCRM is looking to help organizations of all sizes optimize those relationships, wherever and whenever.

To learn more about how you can enhance relationships with CRM and related tools, join us for a webinar with Aberdeen Research’s Peter Ostrow titled Amplify the “R” in your CRM on Thursday, June 13th.

We’re bringing the top Sugar highlights from the Twitterverse right here to the Sugar blog every Friday. Hear what Sugar fans tweeted this week! For more, join the conversation and follow us @sugarcrm

Kenny Ray tweeted, “@sugarcrm Looking forward to learning about your product at #tek13”
https://twitter.com/kennyray/status/331768144777588737

Jason Eggers tweeted, “I love using it. Syncs docs and more. RT @sugarcrm: Learn about Rolustech’s Gmail Plug-in…Sugar App of the Month! http://bit.ly/Zgu2wT”
https://twitter.com/eggsurplus/status/331804664104353792

Mirco Mueller tweeted, “We won again with @sugarcrm and @Share2B against http://salesforce.com and chatter :) #crm #ESN #SocialSales #SocialBiz #enterprise20”
https://twitter.com/mller_mirco/status/332396514771095554

Peter Niemeyer tweeted, “Thank you @carm_torres and the entire @IBMCCMad crew for making @sugarcrm look good! Here the winning workshop-group pic.twitter.com/vUZq0zoLlP”
https://twitter.com/NiemeyerPeter/status/332633750376689665

Have a Sweet Friday!

Best,
Anshu Agarwal
VP of Marketing

I was sitting in a talk today here at the PHP NE Conference, where the presenter Fabrice Bernhard was setting the story on why it’s time to migrate that decade old PHP4 app into one leveraging a modern framework like Symfony. His key focus was the “how” to do that migration from a legacy and homegrown application structure, advocating away from the traditional methodology of a side-by-side rewrite, leaning more towards the concept of “progressive migration”, where you replace individual components over time. The former approach tends to be hampered by the additional labor of maintain two systems with no easy transition from the old system to the new. But the more important thing is that progressive migration gives a better sense of progress, giving a better sense of control in the transition

Case in point, is the story of FoxMeyer Drugs’ and their failed SAP implementation from the mid 90s. It’s an interesting tale to read, and one that’s all too common; people buying into a technology direction without thinking about the pieces and processes that can make it successful. Look at the big fails along the way, which hampered their success.

  • Communication between the warehouse staff and executives was non-existent. The warehouse staff didn’t see how they fit into the big picture, and fought against the implementation at every turn.
  • Poor scoping on performance requirements. The system implemented was drastically slower than the previous one, and had no way to deal with growth.
  • Not having the right people in place to execute the project, including leaning on a consulting firm with little experience and high turnover
  • Big change in scope and focus of the project part way thru, which caused huge cost overruns.
  • But most of all, the blind arrogance of pushing thru an aggressive timetable without room for the setbacks and adjustments that happen along the way.

So what’s the lesson here? Here are a few things I think are important to consider in any large-scale project…

  • Every user in the proposed system is a stakeholder in the implementation. Enterprise applications traditionally have been designed with management’s needs in mind, putting the end-user’s needs after that. Efficiency with technology is gained by empower users and removing barriers, and this must be accomplished with any new system rollout.
  • Keep iterations small and deliver often. This enables the organization to realize benefits along the way, enabling you to measure results and react easily. This also enables you to pivot the project along the way to deal with business need changes.
  • Good leadership is a project’s greatest asset. I was reading an article recently around why innovation fails in organizations, and the general theme was that poor leadership and short staffing ( both in headcount and skill abilities ) causes more projects to fail than anything else.

So if you are looking to implement a new technology in you organization, whether it be CRM, ERP, or something else, remember one thing: successful implementations are a healthy combination of technology and people; without both successes are difficult to achieve.

Building a company is fun.  I still remember sitting at my kitchen table with some friends and kicking around ideas on how to change the world by putting CRM on the desktop of everybody who ever works with a customer.  Then we took the plunge, quit our day jobs and focused every ounce of energy on starting a new kind of software company with nothing but a few laptops and the conviction that we could do it.  Exciting times.  Fast forward nine years and now SugarCRM is a global company with over 400 employees and hundreds of business partners helping our customers build better relationships with their customers.  Even more exciting times.

But translating a vision into a real business comes with its own challenges. It’s sounds like a simple recipe at a high level.  Step 1: Define your goals and objectives.  Step 2: Hire the right people to make it all happen. Step 3: Align those people around simple, yet effective processes to get the job done.  Now for the secret sauce.  Add in a dash of the right technology at the right point to accelerate the pace.

Voila!  Instant success!  Yeah, right.

Getting that perfect mix of operational execution is the challenge that all first time entrepreneurs as well as seasoned executives are faced with every day.  Am I building something people want to buy? How do I find great people?  How much process is too much process?  What do I automate first?

Here is what I see as the fatal flaw in that recipe I just outlined. I talked about adding in technology last after you have built your strategy, teams and processes.  That’s what most companies do today.  They graft on technology to manual processes in the hope that technology will help them accelerate a specific process, like distributing leads from marketing to salespeople or sending out invoices to customers.  But putting roller skates on your dog in order to speed up the nightly walks won’t necessarily work out the way you might have hoped.

A few months back Capgemini and MIT released a report called The Digital Advantage: How digital leaders outperform their peers in every industry that describes how successful companies today are putting digital technology, from software to smartphones, at the beginning of their business planning, rather than at the end.  These companies recognize the power of digital technology in solving old, complex problems in new, simple ways.  By building strategies and processes from the ground up around digital technology, companies will outperform those that don’t.  Little did I know that SugarCRM has been part of the “digitrati” from the beginning.

This is where IT typically fails for a company.  What happens too often is that a company that wasn’t built around a digital mindset gets stuck on the change management problem.  People are creatures of habit.  They are adverse to change.  How often have you heard, “But that’s not the way we’ve done it before!”  Deploying technology to accelerate a process not designed for today’s modern, digital business is not necessarily the right idea.  Even worse, designing a process that simplifies your employees’ lives and ignores today’s modern, digital customer is even worse.

For instance, should you deploy an invoicing solution that automatically puts invoices in the post?  After all, stuffing envelopes is a pain for your finance department.  Or should you rather set up a billing solution that allows your customers to set up automatic payment by credit card.  Which is better?

Another example.  Should you get your sales people to move their customer spreadsheets out of MS Excel up to Google Drive for easier sharing?  Or should you deploy a CRM solution that allows your sales department, service department and customers to collaborate together on answering the customer’s questions together?

And this is when the IT department becomes so often the enemy in the business instead of the strategic accelerator that the CEO envisioned.  Putting lipstick on a pig and automating old processes one step at a time can easily frustrate everybody, from your employees to your customers.

It’s time to rethink how you approach technology in your business.  Your employees want it, your customers are demanding it.

With all the news of Google’s continual purging of self determined ‘dead weight’ services such as Google Reader this week, I was brought back to thinking of a blog post I read late last year on the Web we’ve lost. Along came the natural response of the Web we gained, but the underlying tone was the same; the cost of innovation is a “natural selection” of sorts which sends what was once popular and cutting edge the way of the dodo.

Let’s look at the SaaS market. It’s starting to reach that sophomore phase where the solutions are becoming more mature and dependable, and people are flocking in droves to “the cloud” to get away from the headaches of dealing with self-hosted and self-managed solutions. While simplifying the road to implementing technology in an organization is a definite plus, it comes at a cost; you are putting control in someone else’s hands. Here’s the list of questions that immediately come to mind when I help determine if it’s best to leverage a SaaS service or not…

  • Where is this “cloud” at? Yes this question does seem a bit odd, but this is probably one of the most overlooked concerns. Is down the street from me, a few hundred miles away, or on an entire other continent? This can make huge impacts on performance and reliability.
  • Who has access to the SaaS application and data? What data encryption and protection policies are in place? Does the facility and application comply with some of the better privacy and security measures? Can I apply my policies cleanly to it? And it’s not just a matter of avoiding the “Mom and Pop” cloud providers; even the big guys have had their struggles.
  • Am I OK with loosing control of my upgrade cycle? SaaS based applications generally have a pretty fluid upgrade cycle, which is great for consumers wanting the “latest and greatest”, but a 5,000 person organization needing to retrain their entire team every 30 days can mean lots of lost productivity.
  • Can I get my data out of “the cloud”? What if SaaS doesn’t work out that great for your team; can you easily move out and not loose the data you’ve built up?

Let’s bring Google Reader here into full focus and run it thru this gauntlet. We know Google is good about keeping your data realitively close to you, having data centers in most regions of the world. They have recently added two-pass authentication, making your data even more secure. While there has been one major upgrade to Google Reader in the years I’ve been using it, by and large it’s a pretty constant experience. And via Google Takeout, you can get all your data out whenever you like. Seems like a winner.

But there’s one question that hasn’t been addressed which is…

  • Will I be OK if the service goes away entirely? Or, am I so wed to the SaaS application that if I lose it, I lose my business.

This concept is really now starting to hit the forefront, especially with apps that have built upon Google Reader. You have no choice on the matter; the app you know and love will be gone. And it won’t be the last one either.

You at the business level need to make sure you are comfortable with the tradeoffs that come with this territory. SaaS is changing the landscape of technology in new and exciting ways, but just like the “paperless office” it’s not the full answer either.