today’s presentation at the Sugar CRM “acceleration” conference in Paris

These are today’s slides for my presentation at the Sugar CRM “acceleration” conference in Paris. I will also comment on my views with regard to “Social” CRM and the integration of barely repeatable processes within CRM processes. Check my other pieces in which I mention Sugar CRM for more details on that company and its products/services.

Sugar CRM: a European perspective

This is the third Sugar CRM executive to be interviewed by visionary My first interview took place two years ago with Larry Augustin, CEO and founder of the CRM company, who is also one of the people who coined the phrase: “open source”. After a brief Skype encounter with the company’s marketing executive Jan Sysmans last year, I now had the chance of spending some time with Tom Schuster, VP EMEA of Sugar CRM. Let’s see what’s happening in Europe with regard to the development of CRM usage in this exclusive interview with took place a few weeks ago.

Sugar CRM: less known than Salesforce but doing frightfully well

Larry had explained his plans 2 years ago and 2 years later, we can say that “he has delivered on his plan” Tom said. Sugar CRM has been through phenomenal growth and is becoming, according to him, the “fastest growing CRM company in the world”. So, what are the numbers? Sugar CRM grew by  52% in 2009-2010 and 67% 2010-2011 and the company has been cash positive since end of 2010. Whereas it is still less known than Salesforce, which was started in the 1990’s, Sugar CRM are broadly recognised. “It’ a fantastic company” Tom Schuster added, “ in 2012,  we are planning 100% growth in Europe!”  a foray into the high end market … with a little help from IBM

Sugar CRM is in its 7th year of operation. It is mostly active with mid market customers (i.e. with 100-150 users), but in the last 6 months the company generated more activity with higher end customers (those with 1000+ users). “This is a space we didn’t target at first, but in which we are definitely getting” stated Tom Schuster.

This hasn’t been quite left to chance though; for “Sugar CRM has a strong relationship with IBM and work very closely with them  in the field”. This is what is driving a lot of the growth. Tom has actually seen an acceleration of his business since Q4 2010. According to Tom, Sugar CRM is “now in 3rd position globally in terms of number of users, with Salesforce at the top of course. The open source company “can now boast well over 800,000 seats worldwide and this is still accelerating” added Schuster.

Close integration with IBM has also been worked out from a technical point of view (with regard to the Cognos and Lotus product lines). IBM helps Sugar CRM address both the mid market and  very high end customers.

Sugar CRM in the magic quadrant

“There are  between 200,000 and 350,000 users in Europe” Schuster added, “this is pretty big business”. And Forrester gave the company an accolade by placing it in the leader portion of its CRM magic quadrant, i.e. not just celebrating the company’s vision but also its execution capabilities.

the ride of open source

“Open source is now able  now able to compete with regular software publishers” Tom Schuster went on. This isn’t new if you include open source stars like EZpublish (of which I am a client), Drupal or Joomla for instance. Yet, Sugar CRM is the first in the application arena to make such a big breakthrough. “With Sugar CRM we are going beyond mere open source software” Tom developed. “the code is free and can be changed, but building a business on that concept of openness and community is mostly about state of mind and attitude” he rightfully added.

3 focuses : social, cloud and mobile

There are 3 areas for the development of Sugar CRM. Let’s review them now:

  1. social: of course, our readers know about that, this is a very hot topic at the moment. The real issue is to know how to position the software in the future when social will become very big, that is to say probably very soon. “Lotus live, Web conferencing, messaging systems, linkedIn data, Twitter data are all interfaced and it’s a new way of working with  CRM software” Tom Schuster added. Hirleo (an Israeli company) and Portuguese Gulf are already using Facebook as the main gate to their CRM system. Younger workers want to work with new fangled applications and social media is their favoured starting place. “Most of the marketing data are in the social media space anyway” added Schuster so the challenge is on how one regains ownership of that data.
  2. cloud: can be run anywhere. but it can also be transferred from one hosting service to another. For instance, “one can get started on Sugar CRM with an Amazon cloud infrastructure and then move it somewhere else and this doesn’t cost anything in terms of licence” Tom Schuster went on. This transfer capability is “transparent to them” Schuster added, “Sugar’s code is free and this is a lot more than a buzzword. It’s a movement and while many have old sheep in new clothes, this isn’t the case with Sugar” he added. “Cloud means you choose your service and don’t even know where it is coming from” Schuster detailed . Sugar CRM have their own hosted on demand service, fully replicated, and it also exists on Amazon, which means that when you buy their hosting service you may choose to get Sugar CRM directly while benefitting from all of Amazon’s  cloud features. “it’s really revolutionary” Schuster added, “you have more control on your data, and you can move them 100% without loss and additional cost.
  3. mobile: “mobile usage has rocketed up” said Schuster, therefore confirming what I have witnessed over the years too. “as of 2010, only a very small fraction of B2B usage was made by mobile” he said. “2011 saw a huge rise in mobile usage of CRM, up to 15% of total usage” Schuster said, “but it’s growing fast now”. [note: mobile usage also amounts to 15%, therefore confirming Tom’s numbers. As of 2010, mobile usage on was limited to 10%]. Sugar now exists in 2 different versions: corporate and ultimate. The corporate version  now amounts to 50% of total revenue, and it includes a mobile module, which supports all kinds of operating systems. An application has also been developed for each mobile OS in order to improve user experience. “There is no other way” Schuster concluded. The mobile browser experience is not a pleasant experience”.

Social CRM: 3 stages of Social integration within sales force automation

(note: this piece was originally written for the Orange Business Services blog)

A couple of days ago, I was able to talk to Jan Sysmans, director of product marketing at Sugar CRM in Cupertino, California. Jan was able to take me through a major evolution of its CRM systems in order to incorporate social media. This is more than just about adding a few features to a piece of software, it is an entire change in the approach to sales force automation and how salespeople do business; let’s see why and how.

Those familiar with orange business TV may have already had the opportunity to watch our video interview with Larry Augustin, recorded a little bit earlier this year, which introduced the famous open source CRM platform to our listeners. This time, we pursued our discussions with the execs from the Silicon Valley firm in order to analyse how Social was transforming CRM. In just the space of six months, the entire landscape of customer relationship management and sales force automation in particular, has changed dramatically. The intrusion of social media in our lives, both professional and personal, has brought in new requirements in the traditional landscape of sales force automation. It used to be sufficient for sales people to keep track of deals, prospective deals and customers in one’s own proprietary database, but it’s no longer the case. Customers want to be talked to in many different ways nowadays. At a time when e-mailing performance is slowing down, mostly in the US, customers want to be talked to through various channels and don’t be mistaken: they are the ones who want to be calling the shots, not you. Here is what is happening with regard to the integration of social within CRM systems as seen through the eyes of one of the leading experts in that area.

defining what Social CRM really is

“A lot of people talk about social CRM, but few know what it means” Jan Sysmans told us when he introduced to us this major shift in the way that sales force automation is designed at this very moment. There are three ways in which social can be introduced within customer relationship management Jan said, on top of the manual access to information from various sources:

  1. what my customers are saying about themselves on various social media platforms: this is the listening component
  2. there is the way that your customers want to be talked to: this is the talking component
  3. there is the way that your customers want to be engaged with: this is an engaging component

(see CRM adoption curve on the lefthand side, click to enlarge)


One of the most important things you must do in sales is not talk but listen. Listening is important because it enables you to understand your customer’s interests and pain points. Listening used to be done through face-to-face interviews or telephone conversations; and it still is. But they are new ways of listening to customers nowadays. One can be linked to one’s customers and customers’ company pages through LinkedIn for instance, or their company twitter account, or even each individual person’s twitter account. The possibilities are numerous; and each individual or company chooses their own preferred channel. Some prefer to use Facebook, others favour twitter. And one needs also to look at blogs. As you can see, there is a variety of ways in which you can gain insight about people and companies. But the real issue is how you keep your salespeople focused on raising dollars and not be distracted from their main tasks by having to look at umpteen different sources of information.

The answer to that question is “by moving that information to the CRM application, because this is how people stay focused on their sales job” Jan added.

This is why Sugar CRM has developed a way of bringing the information back into the CRM platform which is populated by sales people. The latter can attach blogs, RSS feeds, Twitter handles, and LinkedIn addresses etc. to a customer/company profile. This is still not real-time though, Jan admitted, but this is the way forward for getting the information through different channels. The challenge though it’s about how to try and make this information relevant to the sales person/company. Chances are that for the foreseeable future, human intervention will still be required in that area.

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