SugarCRM Ups Web 2.0 Ante With New Release

SugarCRM has released Sugar 5.2, which packages some existing Web 2.0 features with new technologies. The company is also introducing Cloud Services — a framework for developers to build links to third-party data sources such as LinkedIn or JigSaw.

SugarCRM is no stranger to Web 2.0. It has made the Sugar platform available through partnerships to create custom internal social networking devices, for example. It has also Ajax-enabled its interface, which allows for easy Web 2.0 integration.

In a way, SugarCRM has been a cloud company since its beginnings, Martin Schneider, vice president of product marketing, told CRM Buyer. “This release, though, offers new and previously released Web 2.0 functionality out-of-the-box to users for the first time.”

There are four main components to the release, he explained: new Cloud Connectors for SugarCRM; Sugar Feeds, which provide notices and alerts based on CRM data within the application; and new features of the administering modules, which provide a more granular approach to application management.

Cloud Connectors

Chief among the changes are the integration links, or Cloud Connectors, SugarCRM built using Web services that connect and integrate third-party data sources, including Hoover’s JigSaw and LinkedIn. The Cloud Connectors provide two main options, Schneider said: Cloud Views and Data Merge. The former provides users with a one-click preview of information retrieved from the data providers. Data merge then allows users to select the data from multiple providers and then merge that information into the data that is residing in SugarCRM.

The Cloud Connectors are based on a new data services framework built to allow the integration of any third-party data with SugarCRM. Besides Hoover’s JigSaw and LinkedIn, Connectors have been developed for Zoominfo and Crunchbase, which can be downloaded at Sugar Exchange.

Schneider declined to speculate on how many more Connectors might be developed by the end of the year. “It could be a handful, it could be a lot more. I do think, though, that we will see this exchange flourish next year.”

Sugar Feeds

Sugar Feeds are dashlets on the SugarCRM homepage that provide status, alerts and notifications similar to functionality in consumer social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace. In the CRM environment, it means a sales team member can be alerted when an opportunity is opened or closed, for example. Also, in much the same way that people use “away” messages on Facebook and other sites, employees can leave status messages regarding their activities or work progress.

Portal dashlets allow viewers to look at information from external Web sites and applications directly within SugarCRM. Prebuilt within the Community Edition and Professional Edition, they provide product and company news about SugarCRM for display on the home page. The portal dashlets are extensible — meaning they can be expanded or minimized, or customized to change team roles or include new viewers.

Module Administration

The new module administrator in 5.2 allows a company to delegate administrative authority of each module in the application. Sugar includes prebuilt administrative roles for sales, marketing, support and systems administration.

It is a very granular approach to administration rights and role creation, Schneider said. “IT does a great job of keeping systems optimized, but it doesn’t always know the best practices or workflows for a sales team, for instance.”

By allowing someone in sales to select the proper business processes and otherwise handle administrative tasks, the system performs even better, he maintained.

Value Add

SugarCRM is the latest CRM vendor to embrace Web 2.0 technology.

“Some vendors have done a great job in figuring out how this technology can increase sales or enhance marketing,” said Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research, pointing to modules Oracle has introduced over the last few years.

As it becomes less exotic and more users come to expect this functionality, Wettemann told CRM Buyer, it is important not to lose slight of how — or whether — it can add value to an operation.

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