Social Media and Sugar Social CRM
Social CRM is accommodated by a mix of internal tools, partnerships and of course the SugarExchange community add-ons.
Activity Streams (formerly called Sugar Feeds) is a flexible integration routine which taps into the Twitter and Facebook social networks and returns feed results within the CRM app. Users can subscribe to team activities for leads, cases, contacts, and opportunities, subscribe to favorites, and reply to or delete specific Activity Streams.
SugarCRM originally used Connector tools for integration to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. However the Cloud Connectors are much more extensible. Leveraging the Sugar Cloud Connectors for data providers such as Hoovers, Jigsaw, ZoomInfo or other social networking utilities allows customers to import demographic or social profile data about their contacts directly into Sugar 6. Cloud Connectors operate with a framework which permits API calls to external systems and programmed actions (i.e. onload/getdata/mergedata). For instance, this is the tool that was used to integrate Sugar with the InsideView sales intelligence tool, something the company now delivers with Sugar at no additional fee.
The company also offers Sugar for IBM LotusLive, which is one of IBM's social collaboration tools and provides access to things like email and Web conferencing running on premise or in a cloud. Sugar for IBM LotusLive also lets SugarCRM customers access these resources directly from within their Sugar 6 pages.
Other Important Capabilities
- Sugar offers 3 mobile CRM editions—a ubiquitous browser, the Sugar Mobile light app and the Sugar Mobile Plus. The ubiquitous browser option takes a lowest common denominator approach. It offers the greatest breadth but the least depth. The Sugar Mobile CRM edition offers apps for the iPhone or Android but must maintain an Internet connection. There is some caching of data, but this shouldn't be confused as an offline solution. The Sugar Mobile Plus was most recently released in August 2011 and sets the bar among mobile CRM solutions. This edition delivers iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad and a device specific app for the BlackBerry. A Mobile Plus android app is expected later this year, while Sugar Mobile supports Android in the interim. Sugar doesn't offer an app for Windows Mobile but can display generic HTML to a device. Sugar Mobile Plus provides centralized system administration via the Mobile Plus Server and Sugar Studio Mobile editor—a middleware type solution that supports configuration, synchronization and device management. Admins can configure what modules and fields should display within the limited form factors, allow users to preload data to their mobile devices in advance and configure integration with the device PIM software. For example, within the BlackBerry email, Sugar users can link or send the email to their CRM account or view the account's CRM history from the BlackBerry PIM. When taking a call, the device can be configured to deliver a screen pop during or after the call, to facilitate quick activity updates to the CRM account record. These type of deep PIM integrations are limited to the BlackBerry for now, as this device offers a much more mature API. Because Mobile Plus stores the CRM data locally on the device, performance is instantaneous. And important to IT staff, the locally stored data is AES encrypted and can be remotely swipped for the inevitable lost smart phones. Sugar Mobile Plus is included in the Sugar Corporate, Enterprise, and Ultimate subscriptions or available as an a-la-carte add-on for Sugar Professional. The mobile apps were developed with the open source cross platform Appcelerator framework. An interesting feature of Appcelerator is that mobile apps can also run as desktop applications. The company has removed all Flash; somehow believing that's a positive. Perhaps to some.
- There are two methods available for offline operation. The Mobile Plus solution offers access to limited data without a connection on a mobile device. Or for a user experience closer to the online version but with reduced feature sets, there is an offline client. This is effectively a slimmed down version of the application locally installed on a laptop. The local device must also run a database, presumably MySQL although it could also be MS SQL, and either the Apache or Microsoft IIS web server. While the solution is doable, managing a fleet or even a few laptops with this required software configuration would unquestionably require IT support. Also, while the Mobile Plus does encrypt data on the local device, the offline client does not—potentially putting customer data at risk when laptops go missing.
- For email and groupware integration, Sugar's email integration provides email management within Sugar by integrating with Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and IMAP based email servers. With plug-ins for apps like Outlook, users can sync not just email but calendar appointments, tasks and activities. Unfortunately, the syncing is a manual event and limited to operation on the client. Outside of third party partner solutions, there's no ability to sync on the server in an automated fashion—something generally important for larger user groups.
- A somewhat unique offering among CRM suites is the Project Management module. This solution fits nicely between sales and customer support for those professional services and similar businesses that implement or deploy the solution that they just sold. Project Management is fully integrated to the sales, marketing and service modules, uses templates to create project profiles, measures open items and key metrics such as percentage complete, and delivers Gantt style project progress visibility.
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The offline client is effectively a slimmed down version of the application locally installed on a laptop, along with a locally deployed database and web server. While the solution is doable, managing a fleet or even a few laptops with this required software configuration would unquestionably require IT support.