Archives For March 2013

Editor’s Note: As we get closer to SugarCon, we wanted to introduce all of the contestants to this year’s App Throwdown, sponsored by SugarOutfitters. Over the next 2 weeks, we’ll have interviews from each of them on what they are showing for the Throwdown, helping you learn a bit more about it.

Bio ( Yours and the Organization you are representing )

Epicom is one of Sugar’s leading North American gold partners and is located in Austin, TX. We focus on complex Sugar deployments, customizations, and integrations. I joined Epicom as a software engineer in 2011 and in January 2013 assumed my current role of Customer Advocate where I reach out to our current customers and keep them informed on best practices, perform training opportunities, help solve minor issues and offer solutions to client specific business issues.

What are you presenting at the App Throwdown?

I am presenting Epicom’s solution for integrating SugarCRM with FedEx.

What about your application do you feel brings something unique or different to the Sugar ecosystem?   

Epicom’s FedEx application allows Sugar users to maintain a handle on high volume shipping issues, in terms of product tracking, expenses and customer service.

What is the biggest takeaway you hope the audience takes away from your presentation?  

As I tell all the customers I work with, the main takeaway in dealing with Sugar is that no matter what issue you are having; YES! There is a solution with Sugar no matter what you are doing.  In this case, you can see how easy it is to now track packages and customer orders with Sugar.

What is the most exciting aspect of being a part of the Sugar App Throwdown?

I am very excited to see how I perform in a speaking engagement after spending 17 years as a computer nerd behind a keyboard.  I’ll either have an entertaining couple of minutes describing the FedEx application or I’ll freeze up, curl up in a ball and ask for my mother.  Either way, it should be very interesting.

Looking at the other App Throwdown submissions, which one looks the most interesting and why?

I’m looking forward to seeing Colosa’s ProcessMaker.  I’m always on the lookout for quality third party tools to help my customers.

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.

Editor’s Note: As we get closer to SugarCon, we wanted to introduce all of the contestants to this year’s App Throwdown, sponsored by SugarOutfitters. Over the next 2 weeks, we’ll have interviews from each of them on what they are showing for the Throwdown, helping you learn a bit more about it.

Bio ( Yours and the Organization you are representing ):

Brian Reale is the Co-founder and CEO of Colosa.  Prior to founding Colosa in 2000, Brian co-founded Unete Telecomunicaciones (, a long distance voice and data carrier in South America that Mr. Reale founded in 1997 and sold in 2000 to IFX Networks.   Brian also co-founded the company Spotless in 2006, an entertainment technology company where Mr. Reale continues as an outside Director.

Brian graduated magna cum laude from Duke University in 1993 and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in linguistics in Ecuador in 1994.

Colosa is the developer of ProcessMaker, a leading open source Workflow and BPM software suite that makes it simple for companies to automate form-based approval driven processes and interconnect existing company systems. Colosa is headquartered in New York and has a partner network spread across 30 countries and on five continents. Hundreds of commercial customers including several Fortune 100 companies rely on ProcessMaker to run their processes. ProcessMaker is available in 17 different languages and our open source version has been downloaded over 500,000 times.

What are you presenting at the App Throwdown?

At SugarCon 2013 we will be introducing Colosa’s latest solution, ProcessMaker – SugarCRM Edition.  For the SugarCRM Edition of our ProcessMaker Business Process Management software, we rebuilt our software from the ground up as a SugarCRM loadable module.   This new product functions entirely in SugarCRM and consists of a full BPMN 2.0 process designer and an ultrafast workflow engine.  It will allow companies to visually design their workflows that force users to get approvals for certain types of actions such as giving a price discount or changing a contract template.  It can also be applied to complex lead assignment and routing.

At the throwdown, we will create a workflow in less than a minute by dragging and dropping icons onto the canvas.  We will then execute the workflow by routing the request from one user to the next in order to get an approval.

What about your application do you feel brings something unique or different to the Sugar ecosystem?

BPM + CRM is a very powerful combination, and it makes SugarCRM significantly more competitive for large enterprise applications.   Large SugarCRM enterprise customers often have a requirement where they need to ensure that users perform a process the same way every time or they want to require users to get certain types of approvals before performing certain actions in SugarCRM   Imagine a scenario where a client wants a sales person to get a manager’s approval anytime the sales person wants to close an opportunity with a discount of greater than 15%.  Today, there is no way in SugarCRM to enforce this type of approval process.  With the addition of the ProcessMaker BPM Module we can now visually create this process, automatically route the record to a manager when discount > 15% and then lock the record from certain edits until it is approved by the manager. This is just one example of  the power of BPM when added to CRM.

Now just think of SugarCRM partners and customers today that are building major platforms such as Call Centers, Automotive Management Applications, Medical Records Management Systems, E-Government platforms and more on SugarCRM.  All of these applications today require lots of programming of complex workflow rules and logic hooks.  With a visual BPM designer and workflow engine inside Sugar, this work becomes orders of magnitude easier.

What is the biggest takeaway you hope the audience takes away from your presentation?

The ProcessMaker BPM designer and engine that we are offering for SugarCRM opens up a world of new Enterprise opportunities for SugarCRM.  With ProcessMaker SugarCRM now has a full BPMN designer and engine which puts SugarCRM ahead of other CRMs that have historically beat Sugar when it comes to better process power such as Pegasystems, BPMOnline, and SalesForce – all of which have BPM engines and designers in their products.

What is the most exciting aspect of being a part of the Sugar App Throwdown?

SugarCRM is riding a great wave of success these days.  You’ve got some great top leadership, lots of momentum, and lots of buzz.  The Throwdownn is a way for us to both help generate more excitement and be part of the excitement.  We are specifically interested in showing that with our application SugarCRM can pick up more and bigger wins in enterprise applications.

Looking at the other App Throwdown submissions, which one looks the most interesting and why?

I like Callinize from  Alertus Technologies because it looked easy to understand and certainly seems to be useful for sales people that spend a lot of time on the road and on their cellphones.

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.

Editor’s Note: As we get closer to SugarCon, we wanted to introduce all of the contestants to this year’s App Throwdown, sponsored by SugarOutfitters. Over the next 2 weeks, we’ll have interviews from each of them on what they are showing for the Throwdown, helping you learn a bit more about it.

Bio ( Yours and the Organization you are representing ):

W-Systems is a SugarCRM Gold Partner covering the metro New York market space.    We have a strong development practice and enjoy the freedom offered to us to create solutions for our customers using the SugarCRM open source toolkit.  We have subject matter expertise in Financial Services, Real Estate, Publishing, Professional Services and Manufacturing industries.

Christian Wettre is the president of W-Systems and will be presenting the solution with Ionut Tonita who is a lead developer.

What are you presenting at the App Throwdown?

We are presenting a module for SugarCRM that allows any user to quickly communicate unique or templated messages to selections of Contacts, Leads or Targets.  We automate the creation of fully trackable email campaigns in SugarCRM.

Our solution makes sending a mass communication message as easy as sending an individual email.  Our application works in the background to do all the work of setting up a campaign, organizing target lists, creating tracking URL’s, saving email templates and queuing up email.

The user gets a full email marketing package with delivery and interaction tracking that is easy to use and requires minimal training.

What about your application do you feel brings something unique or different to the Sugar ecosystem?

Our application for Sugar extends out powerful communication capabilities to every Sugar user where otherwise marketing campaign execution has required the skills of trained marketers.   We take a fairly complex workflow in SugarCRM and simplify it to the extreme.   We open up email campaign management to the general user population without the need for third party toolsets.

What is the biggest takeaway you hope the audience takes away from your presentation?

We hope that the audience will see that a partner and professional developer can take the SugarCRM package and add new functionality that fits seamlessly into the platform.  This is the promise of SugarCRM and it is the reward to those who invest in it.

What is the most exciting aspect of being a part of the Sugar App Throwdown?

The exposure to a large audience is rewarding.  We all take pride in what we are doing and is exciting to present it to the community and to our peers.  A little friendly competition and idea sharing is motivating to all of us.

Most of our solutions are only known by ourselves and to our customers. It is fun to showcase our work to a broader audience.. We look forward to receive feedback and critique.  With an open ecosystem such as SugarCRM we are looking to contribute our ideas and code to the community.  Sharing is good for the SugarCRM product, customers and partners.

Looking at the other App Throwdown submissions, which one looks the most interesting and why?

We are admirers of Epicom’s work.  They put out very elegant solutions for SugarCRM so we look forward to seeing their FedEx integration. Blake Robertson’s Callinize application looks like a universally useful mobile application that I would like to use myself.

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.

Do you have an opinion on where you see open source software going in the next year and beyond? Then share your thoughts and predictions with SugarCRM and the rest of the collaborators in our annual “Future of Open Source” survey.

Analyst firm (and my former employer) 451 Research is a collaborator again this year, along with Revolution Analytics, Red Hat, Hortonworks, and several other open-source software firms. If you work for an open source provider, or are a decision-maker deploying open source – take the survey today.

The survey is open until March 28th; results will be announced during a live webinar on April 17.

Here’s a slideshare preso around last year’s findings: