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channel-cheifs-2015-400.jpgAnyone familiar with CRN’s “50 Most Influential Channel Chiefs” list knows it’s a distinction of honor. So when the announcement came this week that my name was among the most highly accomplished channel executives, I was proud beyond measure for both our channels team and our channel partners. We have a top-notch channel program at SugarCRM and the success our partners are enjoying illustrates how well that program is working.

SugarCRM has a long history of being a channel publisher (that’s “inside baseball” jargon for being a company that sells through channel partners). We started the company 10 years ago and within days of releasing our first version of Sugar in July 2004, a CRM consulting firm named Synolia in France reached out to ask about our channel program. That was the beginning of a very powerful set of partnerships between SugarCRM and over 200 CRM consulting and reselling companies around the world.

Over the course of the last two year years, I and my team have worked diligently to up-level the channel program and add significant new structure to enhance it. We brought our value added resellers (VARs), system integrators (SIs), original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs) under one department and executive leader. This means every partner who represents SugarCRM, embeds Sugar in their own products or integrates with Sugar is now managed by one, fully integrated department. In that time we have also rolled out partner scorecards so each partner can continuously measure their success, established an OEM program and team to work with other software companies that want to embed Sugar in their products, and launched a revamped reseller program with program tiers based on training certification minimums and sales attainment. We also moved our channel partner program up-market, focusing on larger customers and larger partners.

The results speak for themselves. Now, over 60 percent of SugarCRM’s recurring revenue comes from our global channel partners and almost every customer leverages one of our partners, whether a reseller, SI, ISV or OEM partner. We have more than 200 VARs in over 30 countries around the world. We have expanded our channel program to include an OEM partner offering for regional- and vertical-specific solutions with partners like Project Pipeline. And, we’re on track to grow our channel partner program even more this year.

For me, the Channel Chiefs title is validation that the SugarCRM ecosystem of partners continues to be a significant component of the company’s success and our customer’s CRM success.. The implications are just as important for the CRM marketplace itself. Of course, SugarCRM has already proven its mettle as a disruptive player in the CRM market by virtue of its focus on the individual as key in creating extraordinary customer relationships. But just as important, every company that uses CRM must look closely at what differentiates them and implement the right CRM solution that enhances and illustrates those differentiators to their customers. That’s what our partners do for our customers.

From starting the company in 2004 to driving CRM success through our partner ecosystem today, I love every day here at SugarCRM. From the product to the people, SugarCRM is in a league of its own, bucking yesterday’s technology and setting new standards in the industry. This Channel Chiefs accolade is indeed testament to the great success the SugarCRM team and our channel have achieved due to perseverance, innovative thinking and a singular focus on highlighting the customer experience as what’s really important in CRM. I’m proud to share my title of “Influential Channel Chief” with the entire team at SugarCRM and our channel partners, and look forward to our continued success.

If you have a Google alert on SugarCRM, you likely caught our announcement today that 2010 was a fantastic year for SugarCRM and our partners. From delivering an exciting new look to CRM in Sugar 6, to breaking 700,000 Sugar users worldwide, to 52% year-to-year growth, to hitting that all important milestone for start-ups, cash flow positive, this past year broke records quarter after quarter.  In addition, over 100 new partners joined the SugarCRM value added reseller (VAR) program and 2010 was the first year that one of our channel partners, Levementum, drove over $1M in SugarCRM subscriptions alone.

I’ve got to tell you, it’s truly exciting to see SugarCRM develop into the world’s fastest growing CRM company.  When we started the company just seven short years ago, I didn’t think we would so quickly become the largest company in the marketplace focused exclusively on solving CRM problems.  The growth in the CRM market as a whole has been as exciting to be part of as the growth here at SugarCRM.  It’s never been a better time to help companies gain and retain customers.

Now with growth comes change.  SugarCRM is going through another transition right now that is also exciting to see happen.  Because SugarCRM works with our customers through channel partners, our business grows as our partners’ businesses grow.  Following our vision of “CRM Made Open”, we have put several new people and programs in place to streamline working with our channel partners and accelerate their growth.

Near the end of last year we launched a new approach to working with our channel partners on developing the Sugar technology.  We invited a few of our Gold partners to participate in a developer code sprint.  About 20 developers from our partners sat side-by-side with developers from SugarCRM, learned our development methods and contributed code directly to our next releases.

Developers who completed training at the sprint also now have direct access to our entire source code management system and can see exactly the state of our latest development branches.  They have a level of visibility into our development cycle they could never have with one of our closed competitors.

In a similar spirit, we applied the same concept to sales at the beginning of this year at our annual Sales Kickoff.  This is where we bring our entire global sales team to Cupertino for a week and invited over a dozen of our North American Gold partners to join in.  It was wonderful to have everyone working  side-by-side  and learning from one another.

The next event coming ahead of us all is SugarCon 2011 in San Francisco on April 5-6.  This time everybody gets to come and join in the fun.  We’re expecting another fantastic event with a thousand attendees projected to come.  Come learn more about Sugar, meet your local VAR and chart a path to CRM success.  You’re going to get quite the “Sugar Buzz” spending time with the Sugar team and our partners.  The energy is electrifying!