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/

 

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.

SugarCRM is thrilled to be the recipient of an IBM Beacon Award in the Outstanding Commerce solution category.

Winners in the IBM Beacon Awards, a part of IBM’s business partner recognition program, are selected by a panel of expert judges consisting of IBM executives, industry analysts and members of the press. IBM’s Beacon Awards recognize Business Partners who have demonstrated business excellence in delivering IBM-based solutions to clients around the world to drive transformation and business growth.

SugarCRM won for the integrated “IBM Marketing Cloud and SugarCRM” solution. This solution empowers the delivery of exceptional experiences for customers across the buyer journey by leveraging customer data, providing analytical insights and automating relevant cross-channel interactions. The solution provides:

  • Automatic Customer Data Sync: Automatic data synchronization between Sugar and IBM Marketing Cloud delivers a complete view of customer activity across all departments and functions, and eliminates data duplication and inconsistencies.
  • Customized Alerts: Alerts can be set to inform key stakeholders in any department when a customer reaches a certain score or rank. Scoring models can be built based on a broad range of behaviors.
  • Contact Insight: Enables users across Sales, Marketing and Service to open and track all interactions with customers and prospects. Sales personnel can add contacts in the CRM system and trigger automatic inclusion in marketing programs.
  • IBM Marketing Cloud emails sent directly from Sugar: Sales teams can customize pre-configured email templates and use them to communicate personally with their customers and prospects.

Multiple customers, including Rodobens in Brazil, and Henry Wurst Inc., have already chosen to deploy this solution. You can read more about their usage here

To learn more about the solution, see sugarcrm.com/ibm/marketing-solutions

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(Editor’s note: The following blog post originally appeared on IBM’s commerce blog on February 4, 2016)

In the digital world, customer journeys have become much more complicated than they used to be. Customers may research a product or service online or via social media, visit the vendor website, or react to paid or owned media. They may talk to a vendor and/or its competitors at a tradeshow, or they might get around to talking to a vendor’s sales or call center reps. Many of these touchpoints in the complex journey involve separate technology solutions: a web personalization tool, a social media tool, a campaign management tool, or a CRM system being used by sales and call centers.

CRM can be an invaluable tool for designing, optimizing and coordinating the entire customer experience across all of these touchpoints. Although, what’s needed is a way to more easily tie together all the events across the journey, regardless of the systems and technologies that drive the interactions. IBM’s Universal Behavior Exchange (UBX) facilitates seamless connectivity of customer identities and events across channels, apps, and data sources to make this integration far easier.

SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with an innovative, flexible and affordable CRM solution. SugarCRM’s integration into IBM UBX makes it easier to connect with all the systems and applications that drive digital interactions with customers, keeping sales and service reps fully informed about other activities and events that their customer has experienced. With SugarCRM and the IBM UBX ecosystem, organizations can more easily manage customer experiences across the entire customer journey, regardless of which tools are used to manage individual touchpoints.

Learn more about SugarCRM and IBM Marketing Solutions.

sugarCRM-IBM

SugarCRM’s integration with IBM UBX makes it easier to understand and coordinate interactions across the entire customer journey.

 

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.

Today, SugarCRM announced 23 of its worldwide channel partners have achieved Elite partner status for 2016. This year’s class represents the top 10 percent of all organizations in SugarCRM’s worldwide channel program. 16 different countries are represented, including for the first time, partners from Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada and Brazil, showing the significant momentum SugarCRM is enjoying around the world.

Additionally, our Elite partners delivered a solid 36% year-to-year increase in annually recurring subscription revenue in 2015, and added more than 350 new SugarCRM customers in total.

SugarCRM Elite partners have attained the highest level of recognition in the company’s channel partner program by building large-scale, growing businesses that provide consulting, implementation, integration, training and development services for Sugar; meeting or exceeding standards for technical proficiency and professional certification in Sugar products; and demonstrating consistent success implementing Sugar in hosted, on-premises, and private cloud environments.

This year’s Elite Partners are:

  • Bhea Technologies (Singapore & USA)
  • BrainSell Technologies (USA)
  • BrixCRM (Netherlands)
  • CloudTech (New Zealand)
  • DataSync Corp. (USA)
  • DRI-Nordic (Denmark & Germany)
  • Enable Technologies (UK)
  • Epicom (USA)
  • Faye Business Systems Group (USA)
  • GrowIT (Argentina & Chile)
  • iNet Process (France & USA)
  • Insignio CRM GmbH (Germany)
  • Levementum, LLC (USA)
  • Merx Business Performance (Mexico)
  • OpenSymbol (Italy)
  • Plus Consulting (USA & Australia)
  • Provident CRM (Ireland)
  • REDK (Spain)
  • Sinergis (Brazil)
  • Solutions Metrix (Canada)
  • Synolia (France)
  • Technology Advisors Inc. (USA)
  • W-Systems Corp. (USA)

Congrats to all of our Elite partners.