Clint Oram, SugarCRM Co-founder and CTO, discusses the new thinking that went into the release of Sugar 6.5, how the company's focus on User First influences the design and development of CRM software, and how as the company's technology chief he aligns product and technology with the company's vision and business growth aspirations.
Key take away points from the SugarCRM discussion with Co-founder and CTO Clint Oram.
SugarCRM released Sugar 6.5 at SugarCon 2012. The CRM software release continues to expand the User Interface (UI) in an effort to improve the user experience (UX), includes new Studio capabilities intended to aid more user-configurable customization, upgraded calendar management functionality and included a new global text search capability. Clint notes that Google has taught us that search is the new navigation and with Sugar 6.5 the company has expanded search as a primary interface and navigation technique within the CRM application. Using search for application navigation is a marked move from an applications marketplace which relies on the information architecture and prescriptive menu sequences for users to reach a particular CRM software screen or page. If search is intuitive, simple and effective in getting users to the right place in the shortest timeframe, this paradigm shift may further contribute to a shift in the UX.
Capitalizing on its open source software roots, SugarCRM search was developed with the Lucene-based Elastic Search open-source project. Customers may choose what CRM data to index via configuration, however, all data in the CRM application is available to be indexed. Moving forward, Clint suggests that as more business applications adopt a search interface, the Sugar framework will extend to include and integrate related applications for broader search capabilities.
Clint notes that social media leaders such as Facebook are reinventing the UX and teaching a new generation of information and knowledge workers how a relationship management application should work. Not surprisingly, the SugarCRM 6.5 release seems to follow the look and feel of several social networks in terms of color contrast, application design and the overall consumerization of business technology.
Clint is technology pioneer and CTO of the organization, however, is cautious not to put technology in front of business objectives and processes. Clint is quick to remind that CRM projects are best begun by first identifying measurable business goals, then aligning people behind those goals, then designing business processes behind those people and finally implementing software technology to automate the processes.
In describing the SugarCRM principal of User First, Clint reminds that the CRM industry bears a somewhat tarnished reputation due to long-standing and oft quoted CRM failure rates—approximately 50 to 80 percent over a 15 year period according to Gartner. Clint and SugarCRM believe that failed user adoption is the primary culprit in failed CRM deployment. In addressing the root cause of user adoption challenges, Clint notes that CRM software has historically been designed for the primary CRM software buyer—being sales management, not sales people. Sugar's User First principal changes the CRM software design principal to accommodate and improve the lives of sales people first, noting that if they then adopt the application because it makes them more productive, the down stream benefits to sales management will automatically occur.
Looking forward, SugarCRM suggests continued UI and consumerization of IT principals to further enhance the UX. For example, gamification technology may appeal to roles such as sales people whom are naturally competitive and thereby further contribute to both a rewarding user experience and improved productivity.
Introducing gamification concepts into the application as well ... all of this designed around the idea of making people want to use the application—make it useful, make it usable and make it something that ads value to their day."