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I just returned from a jam-packed two days at the Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit in Las Vegas. While there, I met with analysts, existing SugarCRM customers, and a lot of prospects and IT leaders looking for the next “big thing” in application software.

gartnerimage002After dozens of great conversations, it is exciting to know that the IT and line of business leaders who attended are driving change in their organizations – mainly around the customer experience. And, perhaps more important, they are doing so in ways that align perfectly with the vision we have here at SugarCRM.

Here are some key takeaways I brought back from the event. I think they are pretty telling about the state of the industry and where we need to be as solution providers for businesses of all sizes looking to reinvent the ways they interact and build customer relationships:

Disruption is a serious issues for nearly ALL industries. I spoke with (and spoke to during my breakout session) individuals from all types of industries – both old, establish firms and even some startups. They ALL said they feel disruption BOTH from digital native upstarts as well as see the changing demands of the customer as disruptive forces.

Transformation over Migration/Modernization. I LOVED hearing that those with older technologies performing CRM functions were looking to go broader and truly transform their cultures and engagement strategies, and NOT simply put in more up to date systems. Right now is a time for transformation, not migration.

You gotta have a platform to win. In nearly every conversation we had with those managing a transformation, or even a broad CRM initiative – they indicated the need for a process-driven platform at the heart of the project. We built the Sugar platform, and embedded advanced workflow, with these types of projects in mind.

CX and CRM are Merging. Well, maybe to be more accurate, as one Gartner analysts described to me – “CRM is becoming a subset of CX.” Meaning, all businesses need some sort of core CRM tool, which can be a foundational system to power broader, more inclusive, end-to-end and omni-channel CX initiatives. I think the attendees are still bewildered around how to create a wholly inclusive CX strategy, but we as an industry need to be experts and be there to help guide them.

Value Matters, Always. We had hundreds of people coming by our booth at the conference and one overarching theme was that a lot of companies simply do not feel they are receiving value for the biggest and entrenched enterprise CRM players. We had a lot of productive conversations about how to drive value inside a CRM/CX initiative – and as more CIOs and business leaders are pressed to do more with less, we will continue to strive to be a leading value-oriented provider for all types of businesses.

Ultimately, it is comforting, energizing and exciting that we have built up a portfolio of offerings and solutions that align well with the needs and visions today’s business leaders see as necessary to remain successful in their respective markets. Thanks to all of the attendees and analysts with whom I had the pleasure of speaking to at the event. It was an awesome few days of learning and sharing ideas!

For people marketing some CRM tools, the job is easy. Well, easier, because most of the established CRM tools were purpose built around what we thought it meant to empower sales, marketing and support agents.

In a lot of ways, this made sense. We tried to hit as many business needs out of the box, and the rest was up to expensive consulting engagements and professional services projects to make a reality.

This is, pardon my French, a really crappy way of building software.

Here at SugarCRM, we have learned from the past mistakes of the application software industry in a lot of ways. Instead of playing “feature wars” with our competitors and thus overwhelming users with a ton of bells and whistles they may (or may not) really need – we are instead creating a highly intuitive platform for building applications they way YOU want to.

This is, really, a fundamental change. Out of the box software was very feature-driven in the past. Now, we want to give businesses tools to easily and quickly morph a blank canvas into a masterpiece of automation and information for their users.

I was reminded of this vision by a great example of how Sugar can be used for virtually anything. Barrett Powell uses Sugar to manage his Real Estate business – not his sales agents or contact center reps. Powell has flexed the Sugar platform to meet his unique processes, and integrated data and features from other systems, creating a very specialized deployment of Sugar that fits his needs perfectly.

For some users, straight SFA features will be perfect. For others, taking the tools we provide and quickly creating a new interaction platform is what makes sense. The best part is that regardless of the project – Sugar offers real value and benefits for the most simple, to the most sophisticated application deployment.