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Volume 13, Number 33 -- November 12, 2013

Sugar Says CRM-to-Social Opportunity is Sweet

Published: November 12, 2013

by Alex Woodie

When it comes to user interfaces, business software developers often take their cues from the wider consumer world. That trend continues today with the launch of SugarCRM's seventh major release of its eponymous CRM application. With the new Sugar UX user interface, the Silicon Valley firm has incorporated into their CRM system the data and customer relationships that exist in the social media world.

In the old world of CRM, data lived in separate silos, and wasn't easy to cross-pollinate. There was no simple way to take advantage of, say, a customer service representative's 500-plus LinkedIn contacts within the context of a CRM system. Sugar, of course, isn't the first CRM company to realize the potential of social media. In fact, social media integration was a highlight of version 6, which it shipped more than two years ago.

SugarCRM is looking to change that by completely redesigning its user interface in what's informally called SugarCRM version 7. Thanks to the rebuilt Activity Streams component of the Sugar UX interface, account managers and customer service representatives (CSRs) who rely on the CRM software can more easily access and act upon information originating from outside the CRM system and its database, including social media, RSS feeds, ERP data, and other sources.

The new Activity Streams panel, along with the new Intelligence Pane screen, gives CSRs access to a continuous flow of information about specific customers, accounts, companies, or other entities that are logged and tracked in the CRM system.

"It's a completely new experience," says Sugar's head of product evangelism, Martin Schneider. "Rather than have data in an IFrame that pops up [in a separate window], it's much more seamlessly taking that data and--using our business hooks and logic and out of the box templates--turning them into mashups and widgets that are actually usable and interactive. So the CSR can use that application without leaving the screen."


SugarCRM's new GUI is the highlight of the seventh release.


The redesigned Activity Streams and Intelligence Pane are key to Sugar's goal of connecting the CRM system with social media environments like LinkedIn and Facebook. "We need to bridge that gap and give a solution to empower the CSR at the point of interaction, to go out and make the information available to them," Schneider tells IT Jungle.

Sugar has streamlined the workflow involved with getting its CRM system to work with social media. Not only can users pull identify opportunities in Twitter or LinkedIn and act on them through the traditional SugarCRM tools, but they can use social media to communicate pertinent information, too. If a user identifies an opportunity, they can "drag it out of the CRM system and pull it into the Activity Stream and share it with other employees," Schneider says. "Or pull them into email clients in Sugar and attach them to emails."

As the line between work and play continues to dissolve, SugarCRM hopes to be at the junction of those two worlds, and to help customers leverage social media to market, sell, and support their products and services. The idea is to help customers capture any relevant posts or comments that employees of its customers make on social media, which could lead a Sugar customer to find new leads or discover a potential problem that needs to be fixed.

Remaining flexible--both in terms of software and employee roles--is key to success in the new business world, Schneider says. "Everybody's in sales and support," he says. "We can handle the unstructured data more effectively. It works more like the way we work in real life. We don't work in silos. Our teams aren't fixed."

SugarCRM is written in PHP, and runs on IBM i servers and all other platforms that support PHP. SugarCRM has collaborated with IBM on an IBM i Solution Edition bundle that includes SugarCRM software and discounted Power Systems hardware.


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