A Quick Look at Version 6.5 of Sugar CRM Professional

Sugar CRM announced the latest version of its customer relationship management (CRM) solution at Sugarcon 2012, its annual conference. After the event, I had a very interesting conversation with Jan Sysmans, senior director of product marketing, and Chris Bucholtz, editor-in-chief of CRM Outsiders, and would like to share the most interesting findings here with you.

Version 6.5 offers more than enhanced functionality—it is based on the new approach Sugar CRM is taking to address the needs of about 400 million customer-facing professionals that are not well covered by the CRM market. According to a 2010 study by IDC & The Radicati Group, there are 15 million CRM users and 365 million people using tools other than CRM to manage relationships with customers.

The keyword used by Sugar during our conversation was “open,” which refers to the following concepts:

  • open solution, due to the new user interface, which makes the product more flexible and easier to integrate with social and other customer management tools

  • open cloud, as Sugar CRM runs in their own cloud, a public cloud, a partner cloud, and on premises

  • open ecosystem, as the solution works with various types of solutions (for social media, finance, communications, etc.) and platforms (cloud, mobile)

Besides the brand new user interface, version 6.5 brings full-text search functionality, a new drag-and-drop calendar compatible with iCal standard, extended business process functionality, better scalability, and enhancements to the architecture of the solution.

But probably the most important step Sugar CRM is taking to address the millions of users underserved by CRM today is the tight integration with IBM solutions and platforms for social selling. Version 6.5 brings additional integration with IBM Connections, UNICA, WebSphere Commerce, and Sterling Commerce (all IBM products), and IBM Pure Systems (the recently released IBM initiative aimed at combining computing, storage, networking, virtualization, and management into one single infrastructure).

The IBM and Sugar CRM social business initiative aims to move the focus of the CRM professionals from management to actual selling. It will also allow Sugar CRM to increase its presence in the enterprise segment, and IBM will surely benefit from Sugar’s 7,000+ customers.

With the social selling offering, Sugar CRM and IBM will seriously threaten salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics in the enterprise CRM market. Not to mention SAP and Oracle, which still don’t have a consistent CRM offering on platforms, such as cloud and mobile, or strong social functionality to supplement traditional CRM modules.
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