Archives For SugarCRM

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.

In part one of this blog series, we talked about the need to align the sales and marketing departments in the age of the empowered customer.

Along those lines, as prospects are converted to customers, organizations will try to retain each customer for the long term and sell additional goods or services. To accomplish this, it is vital to have a total customer view. This means records of the interactions between individual employees and the customer, and also a view of the customer’s preferences and other pertinent information that can help the organization build a stronger relationship.

While many data sources and systems contribute information to develop a total customer view, CRM is the nexus that ties it all together. It should be the place where anyone who interacts with customers can immediately see where the customer is in their journey, where they’ve been, and get an understanding of how to be successful helping them to the next phase of their journey.

To function in this capacity, the CRM solution needs to be an enterprise-grade platform that can seamlessly incorporate data from multiple systems into an inclusive, central view of the customer. That platform must be scalable and non-restrictive – truly able to grow with increased usage across the organization. It must manage the very large volume of customer data to empower customer-facing employees at every step as they aid the customer along his or her journey.

Creating a total customer view is vital to building extraordinary customer relationships. But it’s also important to take that view of the customer and provide intelligence and context to employees at the point of customer interaction.

There is simply so much information available about every individual prospect or customer that it can overwhelm employees if not properly filtered.

So, a modern CRM needs to provide a “consumer-like” user experience that allows employees to easily navigate the system. The CRM must understand the context of the customer interaction and the role of the employee. By providing role-based views and context-sensitive data, users of modern CRM can quickly identify individuals and determine where they are on their customer journey. From there, they can access the information to complete the tasks needed to successfully aid the customer along the journey.

In short, companies that build great relationships with their customers “live” in their CRM. They obtain a total view of their customer and use that to provide the right information to customers, at exactly the right time.

When it comes to buying a new automobile, smart shoppers do more analysis than simply looking at the sticker on the windshield. While some cars may seem like a deal at the time of purchase, factors like maintenance and repair costs, resale value, insurance rates, and even fuel costs determine the true value of the vehicle.

Selecting a new CRM system requires at least the same level of analysis.

Today, a majority of enterprise software is delivered as SaaS (software-as-a-service) and sold via some form of a subscription model, meaning users pay an annual fee to access the software (like leasing a vehicle). However, when it comes to customer relationship management (CRM) initiatives, the “sticker price” subscription fees can be misleading. Many vendors charge one price to get customers locked in behind the wheel, but customers soon find they are forced to pay more to fully realize the value of the CRM software.

These additional fees can include costs associated with accessing the CRM via a mobile device, making customizations to the platform, and integrating with other technology partners and systems inside and outside the organization.  If you’re not fully aware of these upcharges, you could be in for an unpleasant surprise.

An Example of Spiraling CRM Costs

We took a look at the largest CRM SaaS vendor in North America – Salesforce.com.

Salesforce customers often pay significantly more than the quoted monthly subscription fee due to hidden fees and other limitations that can increase the total cost of ownership.

Salesforce pricing includes upcharges for system usage, which is often hard to calculate and budget. Upcharges include API calls, which equate to connections to other data sources. Storage-based fees can balloon when large files like PDFs or PPT slide decks are kept within the system. In addition, complete mobile access for some versions can cost as much as $50 additional per user, per month.

Also, building custom mobile applications on the Salesforce platform can cost up to an additional $300 per application per month. Base subscription fees also do not include access and consumption fees for Salesforce’s Data.com offering.

These upcharges can more than double total system costs. Let’s look more closely at the upcharge for API calls. When connecting to external data sources, such as accounting or social media streams, Salesforce sets a limit on the number of times users can send and receive information between systems. Each time a user checks the accounting records of a customer, or augments the prospect information with Dun & Bradsteet data, for example, the system underneath executes an application programming interface (API) call. If Salesforce users go over the maximum allowed number of calls, they are forced to either add more user licenses, or upgrade ALL users to its most expensive Performance edition.

What About SugarCRM?

Sugar is offered under a subscription model similar to Salesforce, but with some important differences. SugarCRM’s PurePrice pricing model means the subscription fee is inclusive of maintenance, and includes mobile access, a Microsoft Outlook Plug-in, reporting, customization and integration capabilities.

SugarCRM aims to limit the “hidden fees” that some CRM providers do not include in their base license costs. SugarCRM is the only CRM solution that offers functionality for marketing, sales and support for one low price. Organizations can customize and build on the Sugar platform without hidden fees or forced upgrades to more costly editions. Additionally, users can make any number of integrations without additional charges or fees.

Finally, Sugar can be deployed either as an on-demand or SaaS deployment, or on the user’s own servers. In addition, Sugar can also be deployed on a number of public clouds, including Amazon EC2, Windows Azure, Rackspace and IBM GTS cloud. Sugar partners also deploy customer instances in their private clouds. In contrast with other CRM vendors who offer a choice in deployment, Sugar is priced the same, regardless of deployment option.

This short analysis provides some basic insight into the costs of buying and maintaining a CRM system. Several pricing and deployment models exist—and it is important to understand which model best addresses the pressing business issues. Before making any decision, be sure to plot out the value to be generated from the deployment, including, but not limited to, the hard dollar costs.

By understanding up-front what additional costs or fees may be incurred, organizations can make an educated, and more cost-effective choice when choosing a CRM provider.

In a world that’s increasingly regulated, a well-designed and tightly-integrated CRM is imperative to an organization’s compliance efforts. In the United States, regulated industries with strict mandates like financial services, healthcare, and insurance are often finding that “out of the box” cloud-based CRM systems don’t comply with regulatory requirements.

For example, financial services companies simply cannot tolerate unplanned or provider-planned downtime. Healthcare organizations must adhere to strict HIPAA compliance requirements regarding patient data.

On top of regulatory compliance, outside the United States, many countries have significantly more strict rules around the gathering and storage of customer data. After the Edward Snowden revelations, cloud-based SaaS CRM apps can also bring about regulatory compliance challenges. Some countries now prohibit hosting data on U.S. servers, or require that data is stored within national boundaries. In many cases, the most desirable solution for multinational corporations or companies in highly regulated industries is to deploy servers on-premise. It’s the best way to maintain security and control, and to ensure regulatory compliance. 

If companies in these regions and industries fail to comply with these mandates the penalties can be burdensome, or even disastrous. Being out of compliance in some regions or industries is an issue of breaking the law, and strict financial penalties for noncompliance can be crippling. The stakes are high. In 2014, USA and European banks paid nearly $65 million in fines for an array of violations.

Many SaaS and cloud providers will skirt the issue of data location and ownership with complex data key encryption. The customer data is actually stored in a data center in another country, but cannot be accessed without an encryption key stored locally. While encrypting data is an important security measure, it does not achieve compliance. Simply put, if the data is not in the region or country where the customers reside – compliance and control issues can still arise.

So, if your business is in a closely regulated industry, you need to know whether the CRM system you are considering supports these legal requirements. Additionally, if your business operates globally, or in countries with strict data laws, it is important to ask the right questions before choosing a CRM provider. So what are those questions? We’ve compiled a list. Be sure to get answers to these questions – in writing:

  •      Can you decide where data is stored?
  •      How can you be sure your data is being stored in your region? In your country?
  •      Does the vendor offer on-premise deployment or are they cloud only?
  •      How often can you export your data?
  •      Can data be exported in multiple formats?
  •      Can ALL of the system data be retrieved at any time? Or can you export only the database?
  •      What about unstructured data such as activity streams, call records and other system metadata?
  •      Is the data always “yours” and not owned by the vendor?
  •      How does the vendor guarantee access to your data in the event of or business discontinuity?

If the potential vendor cannot answer these questions (and more important “put it in writing” as part of their SLA) you may want to re-think your choice.

At SugarCRM we have customers in more than 120 countries. We realize companies around the world are subject to many different laws and regulations. Legal requirements in one country or industry may be inconsistent with legal requirements applicable elsewhere. Hence, we offer a multi-tenant cloud service, a private instance in the cloud, and also allow customers to deploy on-premise on their own servers. This gives customers a level of control they can’t achieve in a proprietary SaaS-only model where their data is locked up in one vendor’s data silo. A flexible deployment approach allows our customers to more easily comply with international data security and privacy laws.

If last year’s Sony hack reminded everyone that not securing your own data can be embarrassing, the recent Ashley Madison fiasco proved that failing to secure your customers’ data can be a whole lot worse.

The frequent headlines about cyber security breaches and hacking, along with concerns about data snooping by governments around the world, have caused many to inquire just how secure the data inside their CRM solution might be. They are right to ask. With so much customer data at stake, there is a lot to think about with CRM security.

Let’s look at what can go wrong:

Earlier this year, the FCC fined AT&T $25 million for data security and privacy violations that exposed about 280,000 U.S. customers’ names and full or partial Social Security numbers. The breaches occurred when employees at call centers used by AT&T in Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines accessed sensitive customer data without adequate authorization. According to the FCC, the employees took payment from third parties who were looking to use customer names and Social Security numbers to unlock stolen cell phones for sale on secondary markets.

More than 68,000 accounts were accessed without authorization, and more than 290,000 unlock requests were submitted by third parties through an AT&T online portal. The FCC also discovered that roughly 40 company employees in the Philippines and Colombia had accessed about 211,000 customer accounts for the same illicit purposes.

The $25 million fine is just the beginning of trouble. Even more painful and costly are the remediation and communication efforts with affected customers, and lost business that results when breaches are disclosed.

Hosting customer data in someone else’s cloud raises justifiable concerns about security. Customers need to know what levels of security the host is providing and need to address some critical questions:

  • What protection mechanisms are in place to prevent someone from hacking into the host?
  • Is there 24/7 monitoring to make sure that employees are not accessing data that should be off limits to them?

Deploying SugarCRM via the SaaS model (Sugar On-Demand) means multiple layers of protection and security. The Sugar application is hosted in Tier 1 data center facilities around the world. These data centers are protected by powerful physical security mechanisms such as 24/7 secured access with motion sensors, video surveillance, and security breach alarms. SugarCRM security and infrastructure components include: firewalls, robust encryption and sophisticated user authentication layers.

SugarCRM understands that data is a critical component of the daily business operations of its customers and that it is essential to ensure the privacy and protection of data regardless of where it resides. SugarCRM takes a holistic, layered and systematic approach to safeguarding that data and is constantly evaluating, evolving and improving the privacy and security measures it has in place. SugarCRM also offers customers the option to deploy Sugar on-premise, as well as in hosted and hybrid configurations, flexing to meet the broadest range of security and regulatory requirements.

For more information about our security related policies, please click here.

The Safe Harbor Framework that permits the transfer of data between the United States and Europe is in jeopardy.

Last week, the Advocate General, a legal advisor to the European Court of Justice (the European Union’s top court), released his opinion on the EU-US the Safe Harbor framework, which he said is invalid. He said the agreement does not do enough to protect EU citizens’ personal information when it reaches the United States.

The Safe Harbor agreement has been around since the year 2000. More than 4,400 companies are Safe Harbor certified. U.S. and European companies rely on the EU–US Safe Harbor framework to permit the lawful transfer of personal data from the EU to the U.S.

The ruling is not yet final, and the EU court’s judges will issue a final ruling in the coming months.  If they follow the Advocate General’s recommendation, which they often do, this will cause significant headaches for U.S. companies that serve customers in the EU.

A reflection of increased digital privacy concerns in wake of the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden leaks, the ruling has the potential to impact thousands of U.S. and European companies. It presents serious challenges for U.S. SaaS providers who have built their businesses under the framework of the Safe Harbor agreement.

Without the Safe Harbor agreement in place, data that originates in Europe may need to stay strictly in Europe. This includes everything from payroll to customer data. Some large enterprises have tried to stay ahead of the issue by investing in data centers in Europe.  However it should be noted the local data centers don’t fully solve the issue.

While this ruling does present challenges for SugarCRM, the company is better equipped than “SaaS only” solutions that lack local or on-premise deployment options. SugarCRM offers multiple deployment options and can continue to provide viable alternatives for EU customers, including:

  • Local hosting through various partners including “in country” hosting by T-Systems
  • On-site deployment options that require simple instance migration, meaning customers do not need to transfer their data to Sugar

Other SaaS/premise mix providers may be hard pressed to keep their customers, as SugarCRM is one of the only multiple deployment CRM providers offering a single code base across all deployment options.

SugarCRM has customers in more than 120 countries. We realize companies around the world are subject to many different laws and regulations. Legal requirements in one country may be inconsistent with legal requirements applicable elsewhere. Hence, we offer a multi-tenant cloud service, a private instance in the cloud, and also allow customers to deploy on their own internal clouds. A flexible deployment approach allows our customers to more easily comply with international data security and privacy laws.