SugarCRM Boosts Workflow, Reporting Tools in 4.0 Edition

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2005-12-09

SugarCRM Boosts Workflow, Reporting Tools in 4.0 Edition

New workflow, reporting and customizable dashboards are among the new features that SugarCRM Inc. is adding to the version 4.0 of its open-source Sugar Suite customer relationship management product due for release on Dec. 16.

The new version will include a business rules-based workflow management system designed to ensure the sales personnel and sales managers follow up promptly on important opportunities, said John Roberts, SugarCRM CEO.

The system has "time-based workflows, so if an opportunity for a $500,000 sale sits at a certain stage for greater than two weeks, it generates an alert for the sales rep and the sales manager," Roberts said.

"We have had a very nice charting capability using a flash reporting widget that we actually wrote and open-source licensed," Roberts said.

But version 4.0 allows users to quickly build reports that generate charts that users can instantly display on dashboards that are customized according to the users role in the sales or marketing organization.

Click here to read about the addition of Oracle 9i and MySQL database support to version 3.5.

Version 4.0 also has automated marketing campaign features that allow users to create an outbound e-mail campaign that they can set for distribution at a specific time coordinated with other events or business announcements, Roberts said.

This is also an inbound e-mail processing feature that automatically converts e-mails into customer cases that are linked to escalation rules and queue management features to balance customer support work loads.

With these new features Roberts said SugarCRM can offer a product that can compete with most other established on-premise or on-demand CRM applications on the market, said Roberts.

"We are in the era of commercial open-source applications being on par, and I think superior in many ways to, established, proprietary CRM applications," Roberts said.

The product is now robust enough that "any company that is considering, NetSuite, Siebel Systems or Oracle should absolutely take a look at SugarCRM, and I think they will be extremely pleased with what they see," he said.

Although it has only been a little more than a year since the company official debuted on the market, the company currently claims to have 300 customers, about 15,000 individual users, and the company has grown to about 50 employees, Roberts said.

In October, SugarCRM obtained $18.7 million in venture funding to continue to develop its Sugar Suite product line.

That fact that SugarCRM is developed as an open-source product means it is "really leveraging the shared ideas of developers around the world," and that has helped to make the suite "extremely innovative," he said.

That is also the reason why the product has been translated into 30 different languages even though the product has been actively on the market for less than two full years, he noted.

Next Page: Customers lend a hand.

Customers Lend a Hand

One company that was part of the testing and evaluation process for version 4.0 is BZ Results Inc., which develops digital marketing systems for the automobile dealer industry.

The company uses the Sugar Suite for all its internal sales and marketing programs and expects to steadily expand the usage of the product from about 40 employees to the entire sales and marketing team of more than 100 people, said Rob Lackey, CTO with BZ Results, based in Coventry, R.I.

The company started working with Sugar Suite 3.5 in August 2005 and was actively involved in what SugarCRM calls its "community review" process for version 4.0 in which developers and customers are encouraged to not only suggested improvements but to submit their own extensions.

Click here to read about the inclusion of SugarCRMs suite in Novell Inc.s open-source Linux startup.

Through beta test process, "we were able to become directly involved with the product direction" and make a significant contribution the ultimate shape of the product that is being released next week, Lackey said.

Of particular value to BZ Results is the new workflow capabilities that allows the companies sales representatives to rapidly respond to customer inquiries or changes in the status of sales opportunities, he said.

The new version provides great flexibility in the way it can change or customize the business rules to respond to any conceivable sales situation.

For example, sales representatives can walk out of a customer sales presentation, use a handheld computer to send a confirmation of a potential customers interest and the CRM system back at headquarters can e-mail "a formal sales proposal based on the initial discussions even before the sales rep can get back in his car and close the door," Lackey said.

The suite is proven to be much more versatile than the company imagined when it first started looking for a new CRM application.

"We paid for a CRM application. We ended up getting a customer-centric communications platform that our entire company could work with," he said.

SugarCRM offers the Sugar Suite Professional and Enterprise editions in both on-demand and on-premise packages.

The on-premise versions are available starting at $39.95 per user a month.

The on-premise versions of Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise are available for $239 and $449 per user per year.

The subscription pricing includes the source code, 12 months of application updates, installation assistance, global weekday e-mail-based technical support, trouble ticketing with patch and fix distributions.

The company also offers the Sugar Cube appliance, which is a standalone server with the complete CRM suite installed ready for deployment at the customers site.

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