SugarCRM, the open source CRM company founded in 2004, has announced the release of their latest version, Sugar 6. With this release, SugarCRM is trying to focus on making it easier and flexible for users to use CRM systems. In fact, many users are completely lost when it comes to using CRM. The complexity and lack of good user experience are considered to be the main reasons for this. This release focusses on substantially improving the user experience by offering a clean, bold look with new buttons and icons that allow users to perform tasks more easily while increasing the information density of each screen. In short, the idea is to make the CRM be flexible and convenient to users needs than users spending time to understand the UI and the complexities associated with it. They have achieved this by focusing on the user friendliness of their menu bars.
This new release also brings more social aspects to SugarCRM. Now Sugar users can leverage information from social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and other data sources from inside the CRM. This makes SugarCRM more social than before, positioning themselves to compete with other sCRM offerings. This release also has support for more cloud providers making it easy to deploy SugarCRM on the cloud.
Today SugarCRM also announced partnerships with two cloud service providers, a topic that may be of some interest to Cloud Ave audience. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partners Conference at Washington DC, SugarCRM announced that Sugar 6 is now certified for deployment on Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform. What it essentially means is that one can install SugarCRM on Windows Azure and it will work as promised without any issues. This increases the number of cloud partners for SugarCRM. Interestingly, SugarCRM has embraced the cloud era with a different approach from companies like Salesforce.com, Zoho CRM (disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of this blog but it is my independent opinion), etc.. While the latter companies take a multi-tenant SaaS approach, SugarCRM is trying to push for cloud apps instead. They certify SugarCRM with different cloud vendors and when it is installed on these clouds, it will work flawlessly. I asked Martin Schneider, Senior Director, Communications at SugarCRM, if SugarCRM will scale out in the Azure environment like the underlying cloud platform, he said it will scale seamlessly without any efforts on the user’s side. He also pointed out that the users of SugarCRM on Azure can use either MySQL or SQL Azure.
I did ask Mr. Schneider how he expects to compete with multi-tenant SaaS providers on TCO, he pointed out that the SaaS version that offers competing features to SugarCRM is Salesforce.com’s Unlimited version which costs around $250 per user per month. He pointed out that SugarCRM is $30 per user per month and the cost of an Amazon instance will only add couple of more dollars to the amount. He is quoting this price difference as a differentiator and adds that the additional control SugarCRM offers for users data compared to SaaS CRM offerings as a more attractive reason for taking the cloud application route than a SaaS route. I do agree with this but such an advantage exists only in the case of open source offerings where licensing costs tend to be much smaller compared to proprietary offerings. When I asked him about the labor costs involved with maintaining cloud applications, he said SugarCRM Cloud applications are offered by their partners and they absorb the costs of managing the SugarCRM instances on the cloud and help keep the TCO lower for their clients. But I will be interested in listening to Organizations using SaaS CRMs and SaaS vendors on this topic. Feel free to contact me or offer your comments below.
The last piece of news from SugarCRM land is about their partnership with Box.net (Disclaimer: Box.net is a Diversity Analysis client). With this partnership, SugarCRM users can access their Box.Net storage account from within SugarCRM and seamlessly share documents, multimedia files and other content to collaborate with others beyond the boundaries of the organization’s firewall. This adds ability to create and access shared workspaces within SugarCRM to collaborate with key contacts, as well as contractors and customers outside of their SugarCRM deployment. It is an interesting day at SugarCRM land and I will be keenly watching how much traction they gain with the cloud users.