SAN FRANCISCO—How valuable could a personal digital assistant such as Siri or Cortana be to users of customer relationship management software?
And how important to CRM continuity would the automation of deep business intelligence, analytics and workflows be to the success of sales, marketing and other line-of-business employees? The answer to both: Potentially very valuable, especially if the drudgery of data entry can be essentially eliminated.
SugarCRM customers soon will be able to find out firsthand. The Cupertino, California-based company is in the process of applying to its service platform a new virtual personality called Candace. This is a key addition to its already impressive set of business, marketing and sales cloud services.
No other CRM provider—even the mighty Salesforce.com—is providing such an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered virtual assistant at this time.
Candace, introduced June 15 to about 1,200 attendees of the company's SugarCon 2016 conference at the Hilton Union Square, will be available early next year, if not later this year.
Like a Tireless Personal Admin
Deploying Candace is like having a tireless personal admin to assist sales and marketing duties. This is an intelligent virtual agent that guides users in their interactions with customers: It helps them plan meetings, build deeper connections, recommend best actions and respond to breaking developments as relationships evolve.
Candace can scan social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to identify information about business clients that can be used to help start conversations and develop relationships (what school the client attended, what they are saying on Facebook and so on). It also can mine the numerous SugarCRM data feeds to find all relevant facts to use in the business relationship.
Candace is the face of SugerCRM's newly revamped platform, called Intelligent CRM, which was announced June 14. The initial goal of the company's new intelligence service is to remove the drudgery of inserting, adding, modifying and keeping information current, said SugarCRM's new chief product officer, Rich Green.
Green, a former vice president of software at Sun Microsystems and CTO at Nokia, demonstrated Candace and the Intelligent CRM capabilities by showcasing what is possible when it is combined with AI and intelligent-agent technology.
Builds on IP From Acquisitions
"The Sugar Intelligence Service builds on technology from our recent acquisitions of Stitch and Contastic," Green said. "In the near future, we plan to give Sugar users the ability to gather and analyze customer intelligence from a broad range of sources so that people spend less time entering data into the CRM and more time learning from it."
Despite major competition from Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, WorkDay and a host of other CRM providers, SugarCRM has continued to maintain a base of loyal, longtime customers and grow with new ones. Today, the company claims more than 1.5 million customers worldwide.
"If you look at why many people use Sugar, it's because it so easy to extend, so easy to configure, so easy to build on," CEO Larry Augustin told eWEEK. "Our Version 7, which was a major platform upgrade three years ago, takes advantage of the latest generation of Web technologies. We did that well ahead of anyone else in the industry, and it paid off in a huge way.
"Now that we're in that next generation, where do we go from here? Part of that is intelligence, automation, taking advantage of all that data ... but also now we can see more ways to build and extend and leverage more frameworks," he added.
Now Available on IBM SoftLayer Cloud
At the conference, SugarCRM also announced it is now available on IBM's SoftLayer Cloud in a single-tenant, dedicated private-cloud environment. Enterprises can take advantage of new IBM Cloud deployment options, including bare metal servers, OpenStack-managed clouds and virtualized, multitenant cloud services.
Twelve-year-old SugarCRM, which has about 300 full-time employees, is backed by Goldman Sachs, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, NEA and Walden International. More than 1.5 million individuals in more than 120 countries using 26 languages currently deploy SugarCRM.