SugarCRM Adds New Service Functionality

Open source CRM vendorSugarCRM is adding service-related capabilities into its product line now that it has solidified its hold on marketing and analytics.

The firm just released Project Management for its Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise product lines. In April, it will be announcing the availability of a self-service portal and a knowledge base application, Chris Harrick, director of marketing, told CRM Buyer.

Another sign of the company’s growing maturity is its first global developer conference, scheduled for May in San Jose, Calif.

“SugarCRM has made a lot of inroads with its product since the company launched, but there is still a lot of room for further development,” Martin Schneider, an analyst with the 451 Group, told CRM Buyer.

That said, SugarCRM is appealing to a vastly underserved market, according to Schneider.

“It is a great application if you are too big for a Software as a Service (SaaS) application, but too small to afford an on-premise application that requires expensive customization and integration,” he explained.

The CRM 2.0 Path

SugarCRM’s product road map is similar — albeit relatively stripped-down — to that of Salesforce.com. Salesforce.com concentrated at first on its core sales force automation features, then added other CRM functions such as marketing and service.

More recently, Salesforce.com has embraced the process-centric, collaboration-centric thought mode of CRM 2.0 with its development.

Now that it has largely rounded out its marketing and analytics product portfolio, SugarCRM is launching the next phase of its development: collaboration.

“When you think about project management and a knowledge base, ultimately those applications are about enabling collaboration within the four walls of the enterprise,” Harrick said.

Even the self-service portal is a reflection of that, he continued. “Let’s say you have a sales rep who is an ace and you want to capture what he knows about certain customers or how to find leads or how to do searches. Capturing unstructured data like that can be difficult in a traditional CRM relational database system,” he pointed out.

First of a Kind

That is one reason the company chose to deliver project management as one of its first collaborative applications.

“We found that our customers need deep project management capabilities integrated into CRM,” Harrick said. “Let’s say a company designs Web sites for clients. It needs to manage feedback and interaction among the staff at every point — from design to delivery.”

The new project management application is automatically integrated with the CRM app when it is downloaded, becoming visible in a screen that requires collaboration — including account screens, task assignments, contact management, lead management, case management and campaign management.

New functionality:

  • Planning Grids, which allow users to build a project and then manage it from a top-line perspective.
  • Project Templates, which include predefined templates.
  • Gantt Charts, which are time-phased bar charts that lists tasks or activities along with a time-length bar representing the duration of the activity.
  • Integrated Case Management, which allows customer support representatives to manage complex customer cases as a project. Complex cases can be separated into independent parts, classified based on urgency, and assigned based on subject-matter expertise. The related case status is also exposed in the project dashboard to provide a consolidated view of the project status.
  • Project Collaboration History, which gives team members a view into e-mails, meetings and calls of the project.
  • Team Controls, which leverage Sugar Access Control to manage who can see sensitive project information.
  • Project Dashboards, which provide a visual representation of project metrics such as upcoming tasks, open items, percentage completion and open cases. Project managers and users see different views of the dashboard depending on their role.

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