Some Things Are Better With a Little Sugar
By Chuck Schaeffer
Founded in April 2004, SugarCRM has become one of the highest growth CRM software publishers in the world. As of May 2012, the Cupertino, CA-based company has received approximately $80M in venture financing, and has amassed over 11M downloads, 1M users in over 80 countries, 170K paid subscriptions, 30K registered developers, 1K projects on SugarForge, 400 VARs on five continents and 100 products on the new SugarExchange
The company is showing traction in both customer acquisitions and business performance. Revenue growth maintained high double digit figures throughout 2011 and Q1 2012 began with triple digit growth. In addition to its business performance, SugarCRM's brand and reputation are unique in the CRM industry. The company has built a passionate and loyal following of partners and customers.
In an industry of innovators or fast followers, SugarCRM is one of the few innovators. The company was born with the SaaS incarnation and has since pioneered commercial open source within the CRM software industry.
SugarCRM offers five editions. All editions include the core suite of sales, marketing and support and can be deployed on-demand or on-premises.
The free Sugar Community Edition has achieved over 9 million downloads and offers basic sales, marketing, and service tools without company help. It possesses basic dashboards, simple queries and primitive packaged reporting, however, lacks flexible access to information and assignment of precise security permissions.
The Sugar Professional Edition expands upon Community Edition with an upgraded user interface, deeper CRM feature sets, more integration options, Sugar Mobile, workflow and more administrative management options.
This Sugar Corporate Edition builds upon the Professional Edition with Mobile Plus, additional storage allocation, increased customer support and a faster response time Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Sugar Enterprise Edition extends upon the Corporate Edition and includes additional feature sets such as Offline Client, Enterprise Reporting, Customer Self Service Portal, support for MS SQL and Oracle databases and a Sugar Plug-In for Lotus Notes as well as additional storage allocation and increased levels of customer support.
Sugar Unlimited Edition is the final tier and extends upon the prior edition with a Sugar Connector to Lotus Domino Server, additional storage, 24 by 7 customer support with 1 hour response time SLA and various professional services programs.
SugarCRM Sales Force Automation
Like many top CRM systems, Sugar splash pages can be user-configured but generally display a home page of performance metrics based on role. These pages can be easily customized by dragging and dropping panels to their desired locations. Effective dashboards, with integrated feeds (such as news or social streams) and good use of visuals (such as the pipeline funnel) make it blatantly simple for sales staff to know what to do next and where to spend their time.
A helpful and user-definable short cut bar is positioned on the header for common actions such as finding a contact, recording a call, making a calendar appointment or sending an email. This easy access for routine activities is further bolstered by permitting users to perform these functions on the fly and without having to navigate away from a prior working location. For example, a sales rep working in his opportunities can take a call and update the activity record without having to navigate away from his opportunity view.
The search function is also uniquely strong, displaying dynamic search results in dropdown list for quick viewing and fast access.
SugarCRM Sales Force Automation (SFA) is straightforward when it comes to accounts, contacts, activities and opportunities. While the pages are bit bland (fewer buttons replaced with more illustrative images and more color might make the user interface more enticing), the logical combination of menus, tabs, shortcuts, forms and one-click accelerators are very well thought through, and enable users to get where they want quickly and without much if any training. The menu navigation takes advantage of Ajax technology, renders efficient dynamic displays and is clearly one of the most simple menu navigation schemes available.
While opportunity management associates activities, meetings, contacts and virtually all history associated with the opportunity in a single view, it lacks some of the more advanced functionality such as including product inventory items or multiple period sale events.
The 'Get Data' button is a simple and automated function to retrieve contact information from multiple data providers such as Hoovers, Jigsaw and ZoomInfo and merge that data into the contact record. This is one of those features that is extremely helpful in winning sales person user adoption.
Overall, SFA is very sales-process oriented. The natural account sales stage progression—from a suspect to a lead to a contact to an opportunity and to a win or a loss—can be accomplished with one or very few clicks and from single instance page views.
The user interface is uncluttered, simple and gets the job done in a minimum number of keystrokes, but as mentioned it lacks the inviting user experience of a Web 2.0 or consumer technologies application.
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