Archives For CRM

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?

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on destinationCRM.com)

Cloud-based SaaS solutions offer some great benefits, but be careful. Getting trapped in a proprietary cloud solution can lead to a loss of control—of your data, your security, and maybe even your career.

The cloud is certainly having its day in the sun. Social, mobile, and now the cloud have taken turns topping IT priority lists for large enterprises. This notion was underscored when a recent Bitglass survey of 92 CIOs and IT leaders revealed that 55 percent of respondents said their companies embrace a “cloud-first” strategy. Such reverence is hardly surprising. The cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) model offers a lot of advantages for many enterprise solutions. Rapid deployment of off-the-shelf software systems can be affordable, present a low barrier to adoption, and provide an excellent way to prove new ideas quickly. This has certainly made it easy for many companies to implement new software, but there are pitfalls that must be watched for and avoided.

Most cloud solutions are available only in proprietary, multitenant, shared-infrastructure, single-cloud configurations—a big black box in the sky. There is little or no opportunity for companies to decide where they want their applications and data to reside. Public cloud of your own choice? Private cloud? Within your own country’s borders? On premises? A hybrid combination of these? In some cases, all these options are off the table. The only choice is the vendor’s proprietary cloud—a model that just doesn’t work for everyone.

Security concerns, regulatory requirements, and enterprise integration strategies should be carefully considered before deciding to “lock in” with a solution that’s limited to a single vendor’s proprietary, public, shared-infrastructure cloud.

It’s interesting to note that a recent Gartner study, Market Share Analysis: Customer Relationship Management Software, Worldwide, 2014, states that 47 percent of CRM software revenue was generated from SaaS-based CRM applications in 2014. But that means the other half of CRM revenue was generated from private cloud, managed hosted, and on-premises solutions. The more sophisticated multinational companies with intense data integration and data security needs are turning away from the public cloud and choosing the private cloud for their CRM needs.

I recently met with representatives of a large company in the financial sector about a new CRM deployment. Without hesitation, they said, “There is no way we are putting our customer data in a public cloud environment where we lose control.” This is an understandable reaction: Around the world, companies in highly regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, and the federal government must comply with strict regulations that govern the handling of personal information and sensitive data. An out-of-the-box shared infrastructure cloud CRM offering will not meet these strict regulatory requirements.

Compliance is becoming an even greater challenge outside the United States. Many countries have strict rules governing the collection and storage of customer data. This has led to an increasing drive for data localization. For example, Germany requires that data about German users must be stored within the country’s borders. Recent court rulings against the USA-EU Safe Harbor framework and the proposed “Safe Harbor 2.0” data transfer rules will lead to many companies deciding the best way to stay compliant is to keep customer data stored within the same continent and same country, if possible.Cloud Portability Image

In addition to compliance issues, data security concerns have caused many CIOs to delay shared-infrastructure, public-cloud deployments. One of the main concerns for organizations is that information stored in the public cloud is beyond its control. Imagine investing in the best security tools and having the most sophisticated authentication protocols, but still being at the mercy of your cloud vendor’s security mechanisms for managing your most precious asset, your customer data. Your top-notch information security team has no visibility into those security controls, and you have no way to move to another CRM cloud vendor if those security mechanisms are challenged or, worse, fail. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Couple the loss of control with the media’s constant reporting of embarrassing high-profile data breaches such as happened with Anthem InsuranceAT&T, and even Ashley Madison, and the unease about having customer data exposed grows—which is understandable, given the obvious consequences: compromised reputation, lost business, and fines levied for regulatory violations.

Another large multinational electronics manufacturing company I recently worked with reviewed all of the public-cloud CRM solutions available and determined that moving its large volumes of customer data across multiple public cloud vendors was not only potentially unsecure, but too costly. With tens of millions of customers around the world connecting with it across a variety of brick-and-mortar and online channels, the dollar costs of storing that data in a public cloud service and the costs of accessing its own data for reporting and integration purposes via that cloud service did not work out. Global enterprises find the very size and complexity of their customer data challenging to manage and integrate in the public cloud. All of these cost and control issues melt away when the CRM solution is managed in a private cloud, often by one of a variety of different expert-managed cloud service providers.

Organizations should have the freedom to implement the systems and architectures that best address their needs for security, regulatory compliance, and data integration. The cloud is a great option. But getting there shouldn’t force you into an environment that puts your data, your business, or your career at risk.

The goal of providing the best possible experience for customers forms the foundation of business transformation at successful companies, according to a recent Forrester survey.

The goal of the survey, conducted in March 2016 by Forrester on behalf of SugarCRM and our friends at Squiz, was to determine how organizations with a mature digital strategy define and manage their “digital business transformation,” and how these firms are tackling the organizational and cultural challenges presented by business transformation.

For mature businesses, the top digital transformation drivers focus on improving the customer’s experience, increasing the speed of innovation, and improving time to market. In contrast, the drivers for less mature businesses focus mainly on profitability improvements and cost reduction. More than three-quarters (77%) of mature digital firms have clearly defined the experience they intend to create for their customers, demonstrating the benefits of having a strong customer focus.

More Key Findings

  • Just 11% of companies surveyed assessed their digital strategy as “excellent.”
  • The CEO is the executive who sets the overall digital vision and strategy for 41% of organizations with a mature digital strategy.
  • 43% of firms with a mature digital strategy see competing departments wanting to own digital as the most significant barrier to effective transformation in their organization.
  • 94% of mature businesses plan to address the threat of digital disruption through transforming systems and processes to be more agile in the digital world.

What Do These Results Mean

Only a comprehensive digital business transformation can create an organization that flexes to address customers’ heightened expectations. The study found that businesses with mature digital strategies tend to look at digital holistically and start their digital transformation journey with a clearly defined digital vision.

To win in the age of the customer, digital businesses understand that they need to be customer-obsessed. According to Forrester, success means investing in constantly evolving customer experiences and understanding that digital technologies have become fundamental to deliver delightful experiences to the customer. The days of treating customers as segments and cohorts are coming to an end. Companies need to think in terms of individualized experiences that organize and prioritize functionality and content around customers’ individual needs and behaviors.

As customers now use digital technologies and experiences as a part of their daily lives for nearly every purchasing decision, their expectations of what constitutes a high quality customer experience are much higher. A modern CRM platform will drive successful business transformation because it is a central hub for information about customers that enables personalized interactions and brand loyalty throughout the entire customer journey.

Methodology

In this study, Forrester conducted an online survey of 410 IT and business decision-makers involved with digital strategy and initiatives. Respondents were from enterprise organizations in Australia, China, France, Germany, India, Singapore, the UK, and the US and from financial services and insurance, government, higher education, media and publishing, and retail industries

You can access the full Forrester report here.

Got customers? Want to differentiate yourself by providing a superior customer experience?

If so, SugarCon 2016 is the conference for you.

SugarCRM’s annual conference for customers, partners, developers and technology experts explores the latest CRM trends and innovations. It will take place on June 13-16, 2016, in San Francisco at the Hilton Union Square.

This year’s SugarCon will feature some of the richest, most powerful content ever assembled by SugarCRM. Sessions run the gamut from high level Business Transformation topics, to Strategic IT Management, to hands-on Sugar In-Depth, where Sugar experts get into the nitty gritty on how to use new Sugar tech, like Mobile SDK, Sugar 7.7, and Advanced Workflow.

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Catriona Wallace, one of the world’s leading thought-leaders on the customer experience and trends related to the era of the empowered customer. Led by appearances from Dr. Wallace, SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin and many leading business strategists and technology experts, the event will also feature interactive panel discussions, hands-on product training sessions, and opportunities to engage with SugarCRM executives and product development teams.

Customer journey expert, Phil Winters returns to SugarCon to discuss “Transforming the Agent Experience”, and Paul Greenberg, Author of “CRM at the Speed of Light,” will unlock the secrets of “Selling the Business Value of CRM.”

Agenda highlights include:

  • Feature presentations and panel discussions with leading SugarCRM customers from the technology, financial services, hospitality and automotive industries.
  • Sugar platform demonstrations on the main-stage will show how organizations can use Sugar to manage the customer journey and empower individuals to create extraordinary relationships.
  • Product training educational sessions where attendees will discover groundbreaking Sugar features that help individual employees to do their jobs better.
  • UnCon hackathon, which offers Sugar developers a great chance to hack side-by-side with SugarCRM engineers.
  • Sugar Labs gives attendees an opportunity to do hands-on usability testing with upcoming Sugar features.
  • The annual app throwdown, SugarCRM’s annual head-to-head competition to see who will take the top prize for the best Sugar application.

For additional information about SugarCon 2016, to view the agenda or to register, please visit the SugarCon website. Early bird registration for the ends on April 15, 2016.

Mobile CRM is not the future, it’s today.

As the workforce becomes more dispersed and employees increasingly spend more time away from their desks, a high-quality mobile CRM app is crucial to ensure those valuable interactions with customers that take place outside the office aren’t left behind. CRM on mobile isn’t about shrinking the desktop experience down so it will fit on your smartphone screen. Instead, it’s about empowering users to build extraordinary customer relationships wherever they are with access to updated account, contact, and opportunity data; tools to collaborate with colleagues in real-time within the CRM; and the ability to personalize dashlets in an easy to navigate mobile interface so road warriors have everything they need before, during, and after each customer interaction.

Of course, one of the top concerns with mobile CRM is the risk of customer data being compromised. Mobile devices get lost or stolen everyday. It is up to the organization to anticipate that happening, and to be able to secure customer data when it does happen. With those concerns in mind, SugarCRM has implemented significant data security updates to SugarCRM mobile 3.0.0. Now, offline data within SugarCRM Mobile will be stored in an encrypted database on the user’s mobile device. This new feature will give CIOs even more confidence that their data is even more secure than ever before.ios-sugar-2.4

We’ve heard from many SugarCRM customers who said they are now sending their employees on the road with tablets and smartphones instead of laptops. One such customer is Seguros Monterrey New York Life, the largest life insurance company in Latin America. Seguros sends its insurance agents, (about 2,000 in total) out into the field with tablets equipped with the SugarCRM Mobile app. The agents rely solely on mobile app to provide everything they need to build relationships with their customers and sell customized insurance policies.

In addition, no CRM vendor is more committed to offline mobile connectivity. Sugar Mobile’s offline sync truly makes it easy for users to access data. Users can retrieve or log customer information even when there is no connection to the Internet (such as on an airplane). When the app reconnects, changes or additions will be applied to the Sugar database.

SugarCRM Mobile is included in every Sugar subscription and is compatible with Android phones and tablets as well iPhone and iPad. Users get access to their CRM information, including Contacts, Accounts, Leads, Meetings, Activities, and all custom Sugar modules. The app encourages CRM use by providing users a tool that is familiar, easy to use, and has up-to-date information because it pulls in real time information from the same database as the desktop application.

Digital transformation is a popular buzz phrase. But, what does it mean and how does it fit into your business?

There are many definitions floating around the Internet. This one from the analyst firm the Altimeter Group is good: “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.” But I would extend it by saying it’s about engaging ALL customers — through both digital and human touchpoints.

Many organizations today are undertaking broad initiatives to transform how they engage with their customers. Whether this is classified as a digital transformation, a customer engagement transformation, a business transformation, or something else, a common theme is holistically incorporating capabilities such as social, mobile, data analytics, marketing automation and CRM into a complete solution for customer engagement along the entire customer journey.

The role of CRM in digital transformation

Digital transformation spans more than just CRM, but CRM should be a key component of digital transformation for the following reasons:

  • The CRM is a central hub for information about customers – a critical data source for human and digital touchpoints during customer engagement.
  • Almost all organizations still need human touchpoints such as sales reps, customer success managers, customer service agents, etc.  Even as organizations increasingly adopt intelligent digital capabilities like marketing automation and social media monitoring and outreach, at the point in the customer journey where that customer interacts with a human, it’s important that the human can navigate the CRM system to better connect with the customer. In this scenario it’s also critically important that the CRM system can tie into and both inform, and be informed by, the other digital systems and channels.

CRM requirements in the digital transformation era

To make your CRM a centerpiece of your digital transformation, it must easily integrate into other customer engagement tools so that the CRM user is presented with all the relevant information he or she needs to know about a customer, even if that information resides outside of the CRM (and much of it will). For example, can a call center rep see previous digital marketing interactions, social media comments, and even in-store / in branch activity, quickly and easily inside the CRM? From the CRM, can they then initiate other processes like a return process, check on the status of an order in the order management system, even add the contact to an existing marketing automation program? Can a sales rep be fully informed about all the prospect’s previous digital interactions? Are analytics quickly and easily measured in the CRM to provide “next best actions” or upsell recommendations, easily and quickly to the sales or contact center rep?

Why is Sugar the best CRM for Digital Transformation?

Here’s how Sugar is uniquely positioned to meet these needs:

Innovation Empowering the Individual

Tools used in digital transformation must be innovative. Unlike legacy CRM systems, Sugar is designed with the individual in mind, and offers the most innovative and intuitive user experience on the market – SugarUX™.  With SugarUX’s modern and immersive interface, every customer-facing employee can effectively engage with customers every time thanks to a consistent Sugar experience regardless of your access point or device. Embedded collaboration tools help break down departmental silos and increase engagement and service levels. And best of all, Sugar provides contextual intelligence from internal and external data sources—all within a single dashboard—to drive more actionable insights for every user.

A Customizable CRM platform

Sugar easily integrates with global enterprise applications and data sources. It is a highly customizable platform based on open technologies and using readily available skills (PHP, Javascript). Sugar offers full source code access with a full range of upgrade-safe integration points. And, Sugar offers single code base across all environments.

Note that in most cases, system integrators and customers who build customizations on top of Sugar, own the intellectual property. Therefore they are free to leverage their investment and harvest their customization as a remarketable asset, adding value for their customers and differentiating themselves.

Greatest business value

Sugar offers simple, predictable pricing with no hidden fees or forced upgrades. Unlike other CRMs, Sugar is less expensive to customize and integrate; includes sales, service and other core CRM capabilities in one price; and has lower long-term TCO: lower data and API costs due to flexible cloud options. Other CRMs charge additionally for additional API calls , and hence digital transformation initiatives with multiple CRM integration points end up incurring high CRM costs. Sugar does not charge for additional API calls.

Example of Sugar in Digital Transformation

Rodobens is one of the 100 largest conglomerates in Brazil, and operates seven business units, including automotive sales, leasing and rental, farm machinery sales, insurance, and banking. Rodobens undertook a complete digital and customer transformation, including Analytics, Marketing Automation, and CRM initiatives. To do so, Robodens turned to trusted solutions providers in IBM, for its business management model , analytics, and marketing automation offerings, and SugarCRM for a Customer Relationship Management solution that could handle the diversity of the various business units and easily integrate with IBM and other business applications. You can read more about the Rodobens story here.

A key initiative here at SugarCRM is to provide to our customers a platform that allows them to create and support extraordinary relationships with their own customers. In the spirit of sharing best practices, we wanted to publish some ideas on how we approach designing and building our platform to meet this objective. True to the philosophy is breaking down the problem and then putting it back together in a way that helps us to reach the best possible outcome.

Background

Designing and building a software application is no easy feat, if it were easy, anyone could do it (well). While many companies have become quite good at managing and building product features leveraging Agile methods, Agile is specific to a specific part of the production lifecycle. Figuring out what the user community actually wants, and going through iterations in design is a different matter all together. In order to attack this issue the two methods that have come into favor during the past 10 years are both Lean and Design Thinking. There are strengths and weakness to both, but what if we take the best parts of each?

It is important to outline the basic principles for each Lean and Design Thinking. Yes, there are many books written on each, clearly a paragraph does not do justice, but will suffice.  A Lean focused product development approach works towards creating a minimal viable product (known as MVP) and leverages data and specific feedback throughout the design and development process. Lean takes a feature/function approach to the product as well, more on that in a bit.  Lean is considered a fast, efficient approach to the whole process, as depicted below:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.21.32 PM

Design thinking puts more emphasis on empathy and creating a stronger bond with the target end-user and the job the user needs to get done with the product in question. This is also known as a Service Design or a jobs-to-be-done philosophy. Where Lean is closer to quantitative, Design Thinking is qualitative. Where Lean is logical and detailed, Design thinking is emotional, detailed and places the product in question within a larger context; the future, my business, the world around us. Visually, Design Thinking looks like the picture below, note the differences from the picture above:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 1.22.29 PM

In designing and building a platform for a large enterprise, it is harder to think in terms of MVP, because the team is not designing or redesigning the entire product. In this case the team needs to create another vehicle in order figure out what to build, when to build it, and whether it will work (to satisfy our customers).

With respect to building or enhancing an Enterprise platform, should the team choose an approach that favors Lean, or one that uses Design Thinking?

Both.

Resetting the Baseline

In order to make my case, it is important to redefine the rules, if only a little bit. Taking a moment to discuss exactly what “minimum viable product” describes is important to this discussion. By definition an MVP has just enough features to gather validated learning about the product and its continued development. While, by definition, MVP needs to deliver just enough of a desired outcome for people to want to sign up and use it, within a Fortune 500 organization, the bar is quite high. The baseline for MVP within the Enterprise domain is different. So much so that it cannot be ignored. Is it possible to look at this from a feature-by-feature perspective?

In the world of Enterprise Software, there is not one target user (persona), there are many more.  Enterprise applications live on a technology stack, and often have domain areas of functionality. Within the spectrum of Enterprise users, some are very analytical, logical and perform tasks in a very specific way, these jobs-to-be-done require repeatability and precision. For others, there is a strong emotional element, efficiency and creativity are a high priority; like sales people for example. For this reason, this reason alone it is enough to now make the statement that one method cannot work. In an Enterprise fast, iterative, quantitative and qualitative design, along with a strong empathetic bond is required to build the right stuff.

Here are the three groups Enterprise application designers and developers need to keep in mind as they design and build software (using CRM as an example):

  1. End-User – Sales, Service or Marketing user, I need CRM to get my job done.
  2. Designer/Developer – Configuration, Customization, Integration
  3. Technology Support – Raw iron (or VM) up to Application layer; OS, DB, PHP

A balanced approach to each of the personas is required to design, build and deploy software that meets the needs of all three types. The balance in approach needs to come not only from how the process takes place, but whom the team talks to and how the discussion takes place.  The question of approach may need to pivot towards the question of how best to get user input into the process, again, not a simple task.

What is Feedback?

“If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would say faster horses,” attributed to Henry Ford – though he never said it, and many are not sure if it was good or bad. In other words, the job that needed to be done was to get from point a to point b, Ford was selling cars, something very new.

Some might contend that the key difference between Lean and Design Thinking is one of practicality and science versus wants and desires.  The quote above, whether factual or not does represent how Ford approached the automotive industry. However, the factory model he built created his legacy and nearly caused its downfall. It was rigid and hard to change. General Motors came at Ford pretty hard in the late 1920s. In 1921, the Ford Motor Company sold about 2/3 of all the cars built in the U.S. By 1926, this share had fallen to approximately 1/3. (5)

The practical value of when and how to listen to customers and/or users is a very complex problem. Any designer/builder of enterprise software should have detailed understanding of their customers and their customer’s problems via both empirical knowledge and observable patterns; domain expertise is a definite nice-to-have. In the end, the team should also feel empowered to ignore customer input, as the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ is often lost in the day to day within many organizations. The emotional attachment to features and functions needs to be heard and considered, but in the end tough decisions made.

Thoughts anyone?

Sources for the discussion:

1 – https://medium.com/art-marketing/lean-vs-design-thinking-6ae7c04453a6#.7ue9w2px9

2 – https://medium.com/lean-product-design/couple-design-thinking-lean-for-your-mvp-80478b8fb9f5#.prs6zjujv

3- https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reuse-lose-many-uses-stan-garfield

4 – https://hbr.org/2011/08/henry-ford-never-said-the-fast

5 – http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-user-experience-why-data-not-just-design-hits-the-sweet-spot/