Last week, SugarCRM hosted more than 1,200 attendees at SugarCon, its annual conference for customers and partners. The SugarCon 2016 theme was “Transform Relationships” as we gathered to talk about how industry after industry is being disrupted by ridiculously fast evolution of technology – and what that means for the customer experience.  

It was a great week, with more than 35 breakout sessions from SugarCRM customers and partners, a fabulous list of main stage keynotes, and demos that wowed the crowd.

SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin kicked off the show by outlining a four-part strategy for companies to adjust their operations to thrive during the era of digital transformation. Clint Oram, SugarCRM’s co-founder and CMO, followed with a demo of the some of the new capabilities that are coming to the Sugar Platform and mobile app.

SugarSRM SugarCon 2016 in San Francisco, California, Tuesday, June 14, 2016. (Photo by Paul Sakuma Photography) www.paulsakuma.com

 

Dr. Catriona Wallace and Rich Green, SugarCRM’s chief product officer, provided some serious brain power on the second day of keynotes. They dazzled the audience with details about how the rise of platforms as replacements for individual applications, machine learning, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and predictive analytics are the key technologies that will shape the future of CRM. Rich introduced the crowd to SugarCRM’s new Sugar Intelligence product line and “Candace” our future intelligent assistant.

Catriona pic

Announcements that we made during the show included:

  • Sugar is now available on IBM Cloud in a single tenant, dedicated private cloud environment. SugarCRM has extended its relationship with one of its closest partners. Organizations now have more flexibility and control over their CRM data with new IBM Cloud deployment options, including bare metal servers, OpenStack-managed clouds and virtualized, multi-tenant cloud services.
  • SugarCRM’s vision for Intelligent CRM begins with the Sugar Intelligence Service™. The new service, currently in development by SugarCRM, combines data from best-in-class external sources with internal data to provide a more comprehensive view of the customer. Further, the Sugar Intelligence Service adds predictive analytics capabilities to make intelligent recommendations for next best actions in customer interactions.
  • A sneak peek at “Candace,” an intelligent agent that guides and assists users in interactions with customers, helping them plan meetings, build deeper connections, recommend best actions, and respond to breaking developments as relationships evolve.
  • A new advanced plugin for Sugar — the Customer Journey Plugin from Addoptify. This new enterprise solution helps SugarCRM customers unite best-practice CRM with their customers’ decision journeys. This infuses the customer’s entire decision process with internal efficiency to streamline processes, boost sales performance and strengthen customer engagement across all departments.

Thanks to all who attended and shared the week with us. Videos of the keynotes will be available shortly for you to (re)watch. In the meantime, please save the date for SugarCon 2017.

SugarCon2017-SavetheDate

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?

It’s time to Transform Relationships!

The (r)evolution of new technologies is rapidly re-drawing the business landscape. Customers are in charge, hyper-connected and full of expectations that companies know them intimately and deliver communications, products and services designed for THEM. Everyone knows it’s time to transform or be left behind.

The transformation needs to start with taking the customer perspective. SugarCon 2016 will offer new insight from experts and industry leaders on how companies can take a holistic approach to transform relationships to drive deeper customer understanding and deliver more engaging customer experiences.

SugarCon 2016 has more than 35 breakout sessions from top CRM experts. In this year’s sessions, executives and thought leaders from a broad range of industries will address business transformation, strategic IT management, and technical CRM development and deployment topics. In addition, SugarCRM technical experts will go in-depth on the product roadmap and the latest Sugar capabilities.

Some of the can’t-miss sessions at the event include:

Larry Augustin: Transforming Relationships – Four Ingredients for Success – June 14 at 8:45am

SugarCRM works with thousands of companies around the globe. We see four key ingredients that set the very best companies apart. Larry will talk about how each company must align strategy, people, processes and systems to transform customer relationships.

Clint Oram: Transforming Relationships with a Modern CRM – June 14 at 9:45am

Clint will demo how Sugar 7 can help you transform relationships by delivering a seamless customer experience across the entire customer journey, anticipating customer needs and coordinating the actions of teams across large organizations. You’ll see and hear great examples of how Sugar 7 can be extended to address specific industries.

Transformation Around the Globe: Sugar Customer Panel –  Tuesday, June 14 at 11am

We’ve brought together a pretty amazing panel of experts to discuss the market dynamics driving their own business transformations. They’ll share insights and experiences using Sugar to re-tool global sales teams, streamline customer care, and create personalized guest and retail experiences.

The panel includes:

IBM – Deb Drakeford, Director Sales Connect, Office of the CIO

Devlyn Optical – Andrew Devlyn, eCommerce and Innovation Director

Sands China – Scott Lake, Senior Vice President of Loyalty Marketing and Strategic Analysis

Fast Forward with Rich Green – Wednesday, June 15 at 11am

SugarCRM’s new chief product officer, Rich Green, is a recognized Silicon Valley leader and one of the architects of the technology environment that surrounds us today. Rich will discuss major technology drivers, like information to everywhere, mass customization, big data, machine learning, IoT – even quantum computing. He’ll share his vision for how these technologies are transforming CRM — today and well into the future. Expect some exciting announcements and sneak peeks in this session.

Dr. Catriona Wallace: When Customers Take Charge – Transforming CRM to a Segment of One –  Wednesday, June 15 at 8:45am

Dr. Catriona Wallace, one of the world’s most cited experts on the future of customer experience, will share how emerging trends, such as Conversational Commerce, are now creating an environment where both B2B and B2C customers can no longer be put in segments, and instead need to be treated as individuals. Dr. Wallace will share the key trends that have provided customers  more power than ever before as well as the important role that platforms play in better connecting and creating shared value for both customers and businesses. 

The App Throwdown – Wednesday, June 15 at 4:15pm

SugarCRM’s annual showcase of technology for the Sugar platform is always a crowd favorite. The App Throwdown is where customers, partners, and prospects get to see some of the coolest, most useful, and innovative extensions that drive business transformation, save costs, and close deals faster. 

Build your Sugar Expertise

We’ve created a whole new track called Sugar In-Depth where Sugar experts get into the nitty gritty on how to use new Sugar technology like the Mobile SDK, Sugar 7.7, and Advanced Workflow. SugarCon also offers a hands-on “UnCon” track for developers, opportunities to interact with the SugarCRM engineering team in the SugarLabs, and Sugar University training and certification.

Build your Network

SugarCon will offer lots of great networking opportunities – with industry leaders and influencers, peers who share your interests and challenges, SugarCRM executives, technical experts and partners, and of course our event sponsors. Birds of a Feather sessions will offer a place to connect with attendees around topics that matter most to you.

And Have Fun Too!

There are plenty of cool events and experiences at SugarCon. You definitely won’t want to miss this year’s SugarCon Party Tuesday evening, June 14!

Finally, don’t take my word for it. Here’s Clint Oram, SugarCRM Co-Founder and CTO about what will make SugarCon great this year.

(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.