Archives For SaaS

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?

A few things got me thinking this morning about how we at SugarCRM define ourselves, and how we fit in the broader market in general. Yesterday analyst and all around instigator Esteban Kolsky made some interesting points in scrutinizing a leading analyst firm’s increasingly broad definition of what vendors fit into the CRM landscape.

In my days an an analyst I covered call center tools, sales automation software, marketing and demand generation technology, analytics, e-commerce and even ERP – all in the name of “customer facing/touching technology.” And these are, in all fairness, all part of a customer acquisition or retention strategy.

But while some companies offer a lot of these components (and I am sure a few might argue they offer them all) – no single PRODUCT covers all of these bases in a seamless and unified manner. They just don’t.

And this is a good thing. More and more, consumers of these technology components are taking a “best of breed” approach, in order to get the best features, benefits and the most attractive return on invested dollars. On the vendor side, a diverse market of providers fosters innovation and healthy competition that benefits the customer.

So, where does SugarCRM fit in? Well, for one we believe in the best of breed approach to CRM and the adjacent technologies that support a successful CRM initiative. For example, we work with lots of great demand generation providers like Act-On, Hubspot and Marketo to enable seamless lead flow into our core CRM system. Second, all we focus on is that “core CRM” and not infrastructure or business intelligence or other technology. In a world where M&A and other drivers has made nearly every CRM player also a seller of other IT stuff – we remain the CRM specialists. These may be valuable tools (and lucrative to sell) but they are not our focus.

Our focus, then, is what I’ve been calling the “Nexus of Engagement:” that point where an internal person/employee/user, etc. interacts with a customer/lead/partner, etc. (Akin to what I talked about a while back in bringing the “R” back into CRM.) We are the system that supports the user in delivering the right information, at the right time. We help sales, marketing and support professionals see the “next best step” in a process, or the best person to interact with next. We are the home base, as it were – supporting the process of turing “CRM users” into “Customer Experts.”

Don’t get me wrong – we don’t do it alone. Like I noted above in the demand generation ecosystem we support – there are lots of potential data inputs, integrated tools, apps, widgets, etc. – that make for the most successful creations of this “Nexus of Engagement.” But I would argue that the unlimited flexibility of Sugar’s architecture, it’s easily customized user-first design, and the broad pre-existing technology and data ecosystem around Sugar – makes us unique in our ability to support any user in becoming a customer expert.

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.

By Andy Monshaw, General Manager, IBM Midmarket

Customer is king. Seems like a simple premise, but for most businesses, managing customer relationships is a means to an end – a way to reduce costs while increasing profitability. Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, allows businesses to solidify customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. Today’s challenge is how fast the right information can be put into the hands of those who need to know and know right now.

Today, cloud computing is creating new business opportunities in the world of CRM.  In fact, AMI Partners forecasts that in the U.S. alone, the SMB Cloud CRM market is set to triple by 2015.  Additionally, the global CRM applications market is expected to continue on this trajectory in 2011 with revenue approaching $18 billion on 7.6 percent year-over-year growth.

Through IBM SmartCloud, SugarCRM is making CRM on the cloud a reality for businesses of all sizes so clients can readily take advantage of these advanced capabilities in a matter of minutes and bring new efficiencies into their businesses.

True CRM brings together information from numerous data sources to give one, holistic view of customers. Also, methods for reaching customers are changing as social media channels are becoming more widely used by consumers. With the emergence of social business, consumers are empowered in more ways than ever before to access information that helps them make informed decisions on the products and services they choose to buy. As a result, organizations are rethinking the way they approach CRM and looking to the cloud to gain faster access to sales reports and data, as well as analytical tools to evaluate sales performance that would help deliver better consumer insight.

For any business looking to improve its customer relationship management, implementing a CRM system through the cloud is both efficient and cost effective. A CRM running in the cloud helps a company track data, such as orders, discounts, references, competitors and much more, without having to worry about any potential limitations of the underlying technology. The sky’s the limit!

Today’s small and medium-sized businesses are looking to the cloud to find answers about their customers. CRM running in the cloud makes it that much easier because at the end of the day, clients want innovative yet affordable technologies to make their business hum.