Superstah! SugarCRM - Customer Relationship Management

This is the company that is so hands down the winner of the open source Superstah! that I can’t actually put my hands down far enough to show you how much they won this by. They are the company that revolutionized the CRM industry, probably just a bit short of a disruptive innovation, by showing how CRM could be a collaborative effort and by not freaking out when their code was “hijacked” because they actually invited the “hijackers” in to take it and use it. They also moved the entire open source movement forward a bit by showing that the open source movement wasn’t just a geek’s sandbox. SugarCRM proved it was a viable alternate—now mainstream-approach to developing commercial enterprise-grade applications that had the power and the scalability of comparable, in this case CRM, applications and possibly even more flexibility.

Another factor, underestimated, but equally important, is their corporate culture, which is refreshingly open and yet highly professional.

Mission 21st Century
Larry Augustin, the SugarCRM CEO, is a savvy gentleman. Here’s where he sees SugarCRM going over the next few years:

SugarCRM is positioned at the nexus of three converging technology waves-open source, software as a service, and Social CRM. Our focus is on combining the flexibility delivered through open source, the ease of use of on-demand technology, and the emerging social web to make CRM software more useful and intuitive.

SugarCRM:The Business
SugarCRM has a smart business model, utilizing 18, 000 developers (amidst a community of 100, 000) called the Sugar Network to develop on the core platform. They have a very business experienced CEO in Larry Augustin who has been on the investment side as well as management. They’ve made some excellent hires, for example, Martin Schneider, a former analyst for The 451 Group and a brilliant one at that, who ostensibly handles analyst relations for them but does so much more (and is a damn good rock guitar player).

When they released SugarCRM version 5.2 in late 2008, they overcame their glaring lack of social features by adding a small set of social feeds and what they call Portal Dashlets, which is basically a treacly name for enterprise mash-ups, a.k.a. widgets—something, of course, being offered by SAP, Microsoft, and many other vendors too. What’s most germane to this chapter is that this open source CRM leader is offering cloud connectors, which are hooks to any feeds of a LinkedIn, Jigsaw, or Hoovers nature—in other words, external data sources to provide what would be a richer look at competitive intelligence. These are the technical links, not the actual feeds to any one of them. Finally, they’ve added Sugar Feeds, an enterprise-level Twitter-like way of interacting inside SugarCRM applications, which provides status, alerts, and notifications. In other words, not only are they a successful traditional CRM open source series of products, but they’ve brought their product into the 21st century with social capabilities too.

Because they function as a platform and a serious CRM application suite, their marketing messages get mixed sometimes. They lean to the CRM application suite side more than not. But what makes them interesting is that they are able to operate as a platform or as a flexible CRM suite.

Their sales model shifted in early 2009 from direct sales to channel sales—which is a major shift for any company. Their partner program, as 2009 progresses, is undergoing a major revamping and education so that they can successfully transform their sales model into what is already the most successful open source CRM model by about 10 earth circumferences.

The Product SugarCRM Data Center Edition
SugarCRM has innumerable editions that are every bit as extensive a feature factory as the largest CRM applications out there. They differ from most of the on-demand delivery models in that their SaaS offering is multi-instance, whereas everyone else’s but Oracle’s is single instance, a.k.a. multi-tenant. However, they’ve also done something that, while not unique exactly, plays with the big boys directly and at the same time, distinguishes them from their competitors in the small and midsized company market. That would be SugarCRM Data Center Edition (Sugar DCE).
Product SugarCRM Data Center Edition
Configuration of the SugarCRM Data Center Edition by Vertical Industry

Think of it this way. If you had multiple instances of SugarCRM running with multiple editions of SugarCRM, this would provide you with the systems management, provisioning, and monitoring tools and a centralized management console to handle those deployments.

I thought a portion of former CEO’s John Roberts’s take on the DCE in their official press release was very interesting:“…the single view of the customer for large companies is dead. Enterprises need the ability to create and manage multiple CRM instances to serve the differing needs of business units. Sugar DCE addresses these needs.”

Even though not by a long stretch do I buy into the single view of the customer for large companies being dead, he’s right that how the single view of the customer is viewed varies according to business units.

For this chapter’s purposes, the Sugar DCE for Partners is particularly interesting. It provides a single console for value-added resellers to provision new SugarCRM applications at the click of a button. It does what you would expect a systems management console to do—manage licenses and monitor the system and the use of the licenses, all in an SaaS environment. What makes it most compelling is the sandbox environment that is innate to the DCE for Partners, which allows for the developers to come up with new functionality, including vertical functions and complex customizations in a way that doesn’t affect any other instances managed by the console yet can be deployed to others if that’s needed.

This is great stuff and does so much for the anecdotes that prove the case—open source environments can be highly successful commercially. SugarCRM leads the way in every facet of that. No sweet jokes.Please.

Vtiger
While I think SugarCRM has no real competition as of yet, Vtiger is worth taking a peek. They have over 1.5 million downloads of their CRM suite as of the end of 2008, far eclipsing all the other non- SugarCRM open source CRM vendors. In fact, they may eclipse them all combined. They are owned by Zoho. They’ve even added an iPhone app so that “sexy” can be added as a descriptor.

That’s it. Time for a 15-minute break. Go out and get something to drink and maybe a snack and bring it back. We’re going to clear up the mystery of cloud computing now that we’ve gotten on-premise and SaaS delivery models and open source out of the way. We’ll head over to a new catwalk where the new season’s most fashionable models are on display: cloud computing from the collection of EMC, Oracle/Sun, Microsoft, Amazon, and many other nouveau technology designers and architects.


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