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I am happy to announce a new podcast series from SugarCRM. This, among others to come, will be a series of short, but useful vignettes focused on forging a path to long-term CRM success.

The first series is titled: CRM Secrets Revealed. It outlines a lot of “secrets” (but for many of us who have deployed CRM – these are more truisms than secrets) that some CRM providers DON’T want you to know. The series represents the launch of our podcast channel: CRM Insights.

I hope you can tune in to these podcasts, and hopefully learn something new that can help your CRM evaluation or deployment. Or, simply sit back and be entertained during your commute or time on the elliptical!

Is your organization using Sugar to automate sales, marketing, support, or in some other unique way? Have you gained benefit from the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the Sugar platform?

Then it’s time for your voice to be heard.

pi

Gartner’s Peer Insights is an innovative new concept from the analysis firm. Rather than have potential decision-makers hear only from analysts, who may or may not have hands-on experience with the software they recommend, Peer Insights gives potential buyers first hand analysis from actual users.

These reviews, combined with other steps in the evaluation process, can better equip IT and line of business decision-makers with the tools they need to best address their CRM initiatives.

Want your voice heard? Simply provide a review by clicking HERE.

We look forward to reading your thoughtful reviews!

 

visionThis month, Gartner released its 2016 Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation, and SugarCRM was once again listed in the “Visionaries” quadrant, we believe because of the company’s continued improvement in our core SFA and mobile tools, among other product developments in the last year.

But what makes SugarCRM truly a CRM Visionary? We’re a company that challenges conventional CRM wisdom and offers an alternative to the status quo. Over the past year, SugarCRM has made a number of enhancements to the Sugar platform, announced new product offerings, and formed partnerships aimed at empowering organizations to go beyond simple “SFA” and truly create standout sales engagement strategies and better overall customer experiences.

This includes Sugar Intelligence, revealed at this past SugarCon in San Francisco, which leverages the company’s recent acquisitions and innovative development to build tools that deliver insight at every turn to sales reps in a variety of real life usage scenarios. In addition, SugarCRM released version 4.0 of its cutting-edge SugarCRM Mobile – which allows for more profound customization, as well as drives greater collaboration and productivity for users in mobile settings.

To further our commitment to providing the most choice available for CRM deployment options, SugarCRM announced a deeper partnership with IBM, to offer private cloud deployment options on IBM SoftLayer.

These are just a few of the truly innovative moves SugarCRM has made in the last few months. They underscore our commitment to helping our customers think and be different when it comes to CRM – helping them build uniquely strategic initiatives to win in an ever-increasing competitive marketplace.

To download your own copy of the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation, click HERE.

 

Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

 

We have just returned from a bit of a whirlwind week of events: the trio of CRM Evolution/SpeechTek/Customer Service Experience shows in Washington D.C. and thecrossrdGartner Customer Strategies & Technologies Summit in London. Throughout the week, we heard a LOT of insightful and innovative ideas from analysts, practitioners and other industry experts around the present and future of customer engagement and customer relationship management in general.

One item that stuck out in my mind was Gartner analyst Ed Thompson’s keynote, which focused on the “defining moments” that shape our personal lives as well as the world around us. Note, these are very different than “moments of truth,” those small, but far more frequent interaction points that can make or break your relationships with customers. Defining moments, as Thompson explains, are far more infrequent, think of a major breakthrough such as the market availability of the first digital camera (or even the first camera phone), and have far more profound and lasting impacts.

These moments affect not just the way individuals see the world, but also shape the way businesses (and really, the world in general) operate.

When I look at the industry in which SugarCRM operates, that of front office software, it is easy to see several defining moments. These monumental shifts have been both in the way the customer relationship has evolved, and also about the nature of the technology we create and use in business. And of course, these two are inextricably linked.

A few examples of defining moments that have shaped CRM: the introduction of email into the customer relationship, the emergence of SaaS delivery of apps (and the eventual evolution into cloud software), the iPhone making mobile CRM apps a must-have, Facebook and Twitter becoming de-facto customer conversation channels, etc.

Looking at these defining moments, a few observations become clear. One, the pace and breadth of defining moments in our world is increasing, due mainly to the insanely rapid pace of technology innovation. Second, those that refuse or simply fail to take advantage of the changes pushed forward from these moments do so at their own peril.

We talk a lot about “disruption” and “digital transformation” – but in the light of defining moments these should not be considered single “projects” or a one-time transformation endeavor. Rather, the pace of innovation and the onslaught of more customer channels, data points, and expectations means that businesses must be in a constant state of development, with total openness to change. Sure, change is hard, but you need to aggressively embrace new business models.

One great example is SugarCRM customer CitySprint (who just happened to co-present their transformation story on stage at the Gartner event). While CitySprint is a leader in its space as a last mile delivery and logistics provider in the UK, they saw the disruption curve coming – from new digital technologies like Uber, Amazon Prime, etc. Rather than risk getting left behind, CitySprint is incubating its own startup to shift its business from simple delivery into providing technology, solutions and tools for businesses across the UK to create more effective customer experiences. (CitySprint will be telling more about this story at SugarCon in June FYI.)

So, no matter what your industry, one thing is clear: disruption is coming in some form or another. And, it is going to keep coming. Those who embrace the pace of change and respond accordingly will win. Those who do not will face steeper and steeper uphill climbs in an increasingly competitive marketplace. On which side of this equation would you rather be?

As a precursor to their annual Salesforce Automation (SFA) Magic Quadrant, several Gartner analysts ran a survey polling key decision makers at enterprises around the world about what they look for in an ideal SFA/CRM system. The results were published on Gartner’s site (note: subscription required) this week, and the results are not surprising.

Well, not surprising to us over here at SugarCRM. That is because the key areas that IT decision makers saw as important focus areas are the exact areas where we have built out the Sugar product and platform the most over the past few years.

So, according to the survey, what is most valued by IT leaders?

  • Intuitive Mobile Solutions
  • Mastery of Core Functionality
  • Ease of Integration

On the topic of mobility – I think we as an industry are finally coming to understand that mobile CRM does not mean “shrinking a CRM system down to a phone screen UI.” Rather, we are building more device and purpose-driven applications of CRM – and it is great that IT Decision makers also get this, meaning they are looking to optimize the real-life mobile usage scenarios customer-facing employees require every day. I am excited about the direction our mobile team is going, and we will have lots of cool announcements as 2016 unfolds.

When it comes to “core functionality” – we at SugarCRM have seen more and more companies select Sugar not by our “latest and greatest” or “edge functionality” but rather by Sugar providing absolutely mature and intuitive core SFA features on top of the most solid, extensible and scalable platform. In today’s world, IT leaders know they can develop and build features on a platform, but a solid and well-designed user experience must be there in order to start off on the right foot.

While Integration has certainly come a long way in the age of the cloud, we often forget than many of the large enterprises out there are still stifled by legacy applications. These products have older, proprietary back ends – making integration challenging. Sugar offers a wider range of integration options making it easier to integrate legacy enterprise applications with Sugar than with other CRM systems out there. And as integration becomes easier and easier, we are seeing even more innovative combinations of enterprise and Web data merged with Sugar data to create more highly informed users.

Again, these survey results are not surprising when you consider where we are at in terms of CRM trends. Large enterprises are moving away from legacy systems and the large giant incumbent software vendors, and midsize companies are entering the “strategic” phase of their CRM journeys. It all combines for what we see as an exciting era in CRM history, one that bodes very well for SugarCRM and our vision for the market.

I just read a recent blog post on Cloud CRM deployments by Gartner’s Michael Maoz and I think he hits on a very important point – while also missing a very important point.

Michael is absolutely correct that many of what he calls enterprise “cloud CRM” deploymeappsorangsnts have failed to handle the kind of complexity that even the Siebel Systems-era, on-premise deployments managed. However, I think he is not using the right terminology here. When he says “cloud CRM” in terms of these limited scope deployments – I believe a better term is “SaaS CRM.”

To be clear, when I talk about “SaaS CRM,” I mean a CRM tool or set of apps delivered ONLY via the Internet. And, that app is being hosted ONLY by the vendor that develops that software. Now, “cloud CRM” means a set of CRM tools or a platform that can be run in multiple cloud permutations: hosted and managed by the user on a public cloud like Amazon, hosted by a reseller or VAR partner, managed by the user on a private cloud stack, etc. In short, “cloud CRM” has a far more flexible definition – and provides the user far greater levels of ownership and power of choice.

A truly cloud-based deployment can, and does, offer the kind of flexibility and ownership of code and runtime that allows for the management of complex problems a la Siebel circa 2000. However, limited multi-tenant SaaS products (and even some SaaS platforms) must, by nature, limit individual deployments to insure performance and availability for the masses.

Every day, we see more companies with complex, cross departmental process-oriented approaches to CRM look at us because we offer that level of ownership, flexibility, scale, etc. – while also being “in the cloud.” When you look at large organizations like IBM, or even mid-market companies like Sennheiser – they are not simply using Sugar for case or opportunity management, they are looking to transform their business, their approach to IT and and their application development. We are helping companies take on agile, and devOps IT models. This is a concept that is limited with the SaaS model where the vendor absolutely owns the delivery of software.

Michael asked people to prove him wrong, but I think it is less about being wrong in his assumptions, and instead more accurate in his description of the types of CRM deployments and the level of complexity each deployment offers.

It’s that time again. In addition to shopping for gifts and attending holiday parties, December is also prediction season. Here are five CRM predictions that we think we’ll see in 2016.

Do you have a prediction of your own? We’d love to hear it. Please post in the comments section below.

1. UX will be big in 2016: Companies that focus on differentiating themselves by providing a fantastic customer experience will thrive. While the “improving customer experience” concept has been a major initiative in the CRM space for some time, what really drives great customer experiences is customer-facing employees having the right information and tools to best serve the customer at exactly the right time. Traditional CRM has fallen short in this area. In 2016, CRM users will have access to enhanced, modern interfaces that incorporate social and mobile customer data to empower the employee to drive extraordinary customer relationships. A fantastic user experience will mean more intelligent CRM practices, which will make it much easier to execute a seamless customer journey from awareness and purchase to retention and advocacy.

2. Personalized Analytics: Predictive analytics will be the next big data trend, and soon salespeople and marketers will use predictive analytics to forecast the impact of their activity and provide more personalized pitches or content to individual customers. Modern CRM applications are beginning to provide greater analytics for the individual user. Nimble, and consumable tools will be embedded into CRM and provide sales, marketing and support professionals with customer preferences and history, helping them engage throughout the customer journey. CRM is moving toward “systems of engagement” that use predictive analytics to cut through the big data noise to uncover actionable customer insights.

3. Data Privacy Concerns will Affect SaaS CRM Deployments: Today’s online privacy concerns and dispersed data landscape have sparked legislation mandating how and where companies store customer data. A well-designed and tightly-integrated CRM is imperative to any organization’s security and compliance efforts. However, the “cookie cutter” model of multi-tenant, proprietary public cloud offerings is not always sufficient for global business. Companies in highly regulated industries, and those who operate globally must address data privacy laws and mandates. In 2016, more companies will opt to deploy CRM with cloud agility, meaning they can maintain security and control of customer data, choose the best public, private or hybrid cloud deployment model (as well as on-premise) for their business, and ensure regulatory compliance. The good news with modern CRM is there are many options for those that are feeling the effects of these changing regulations around the world.

4. Mobile CRM will get even better: Mobile is, and will continue to be a rising focus for the CRM space. One of the great benefits of CRM is that it allows businesses to organize themselves more effectively. However, as the workforce is dispersed and people spend time out of the office, a mobile CRM app is crucial so those valuable interactions while on the road aren’t left behind. In the past, many mobile CRM apps have had limited functionality. As we move forward, mobile platforms will become more powerful. You’ll see smart phones display the latest analytics and dashlets via their CRM.  In addition, users will be able to better customize their mobile experience to get the data they want and transform that data into actionable tasks to address customer needs in real-time.

5. CRM and IoT will become intertwined: Smart companies want to stay a step ahead of their customers so they can provide information before the customer even knows they need it. Smart devices can offer new ways to deliver on that promise. The potential of harnessing the data of billions of connected devices and integrating that data within the CRM to create extraordinary customer relationships is very exciting. CRM platforms will evolve to work with the data that is being generated, make sense of that data and communicate to the people who can benefit from the analysis so they can perform real actions to help the customer. Many innovative organizations have already embraced the potential of smart devices to deepen all types of relationships. Check out our Vetadvisor case study to learn how the organization has integrated Fitbit bands into its SugarCRM deployment.