By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2004-12-13 Print this article Print

Companies looking for a low-priced sales force automation application will find a lot to like—and lots of options—in SugarCRM Inc.s Sugar Sales 2.0. However, the application currently suffers from a lack of community support and tools.

Sugar Sales will be a good fit for companies that are willing to take a risk on a nascent open-source project and that have the technical skills to manage its PHP and MySQL underpinnings. Sugar Sales 2.0, released last month, comes in two versions: the raw, open-source Sugar Sales and the commercial Sugar Sales Professional, which has a larger feature set.

The open-source version of Sugar Sales shares a core subset of features with the enhanced Sugar Sales Professional. The Professional version adds more robust product, opportunity and quote management capabilities, making it a more practical solution for large organizations.

eWEEK Labs evaluated Sugar Sales and Sugar Sales Professional and found that both handle sales management tasks well and are easy to use. However, both are hampered by a lack of vendor support and services readily found with other SFA products, such as Best Software Inc.s SalesLogix and Salesforce.com Inc.s Salesforce.com.

In fact, one of the biggest problems with the platform at this stage of its development is its flimsy support infrastructure—particularly when it comes to help and training. For example, during tests, Sugar Sales help link redirected us to a SourceForge.net SugarCRM documentation site, where nary a user help file could be found. We expect that to change through community contributions.

SugarCRM does offer installation, developer and ongoing-support packs for the open-source product, with prices ranging from $95 to $445. The Professional version is sold three ways: on a recurring license basis, starting at $239 per user per year; on a hosted basis, starting at $40 per user per month; and bundled with the $4,495 Sugar Cube 1005 or $7,995 Sugar Cube 3005 appliance.

The open-source version of Sugar Sales covers the basics of contact, account, opportunity and pipeline management, while the Professional version gives companies the ability to manage products and quotes as well as build reports.

Neither version offers the level of administrative features and workflow management capabilities we would like to see. For example, we could assign leads and tasks, but we could not add custom fields. However, given the relative immaturity of the product (Version 1.1 officially launched in August), this isnt a surprise. And companies can customize the application by changing the PHP source code.

As it stands now, Sugar Sales competes more closely with Best Software SB Inc.s Act 2005, FrontRange Solutions Inc.s GoldMine and Salesnet Inc.s Salesnet service than with higher-end products such as SalesLogix and Salesforce.coms namesake service.

Click here to read about new Salesnet services that are designed to make the companys hosted SFA applications more efficient and cost-effective. Overall, we like the way both versions of Sugar Sales handle management of contacts, leads and opportunities. During tests, the forms and features generally worked well, with good navigation aids such as tabs and breadcrumbs making it easy to move from task to task.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

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