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[November 8, 2004]

This CRM Is Sweet!


Your mother always said too much sugar was bad for you. Now your doctor affirms that injunction. One Silicon Valley-based open source CRM (define - news - alert) applications provider disputes this maternal and doctoral claim.

SugarCRM, founded in April of this year, announced last week its release of Sugar On-Demand, a hosted application of the Sugar Sales Professional customer relationship management application; it is a customizable, commercial, open source CRM service offered to customers as a hosted product deployment option. Sugar On-Demand provides businesses that lack strong IT infrastructure and resources with the ability to utilize this open source CRM platform, without the cost of installing, upgrading, patching and maintaining the software in-house.

This new application, aimed at organizations with 5 to 500 users, delivers the same comprehensive set of core sales force automation features that SugarCRM’s Sugar Sales Professional does, complete with online access to the full source code for do-it-your-way CRM. For new leads and for following each sales opportunity to completion, Sugar Sales Professional tracks customer contact information, documents customer interactions, tracks marketing activities and supports case management problems. It can be deployed for up to 200 user seats.

On-Demand is one of the three deployment methods for Sugar Sales Professional 2.0. (The other two are an application pack to download and run on an internal server; and Sugar Cube, a complete CRM application pre-installed, optimized and ready for production on a stand-alone server .) There is also Sugar Dedicated On-Demand, which offers the same functionalities as Sugar On-Demand—full access and service—but is on a dedicated server and can be deployed for an unlimited number of user seats.

Sugar On-Demand segregates each customer’s application and database, installing separate instances of the application and the database for each customer. Because all customers get a separate database and application, the risk of data corruption problems associated with hosting services that are multi-tenant-based are eliminated.

All features and functions are fully customizable in a single-tenant environment, leveraging the open source design of the Sugar Sales platform. Subscribers can use their online administrative options to make code modifications, tailoring fields and tabs, and adding new modules to match company needs and terminology.

Designed for easy implementation and use, the application is very much intended to be taken seriously and succeeds in doing so; however, the company does have a sense of humor. The user has choices for changing the aesthetic appearance of the interface. The interface template options, rather tongue-in-cheek, are the company’s standard “sugar” theme, a “retro” theme and a “love” theme—the latter looking like Hello Kitty retched pink and baby blue all over the interface, with a seventh grader’s daydream-induced doodling of hearts. While the first two aforementioned themes are aptly minimalist, the third theme may be distracting for some users, the exception being those “always happy-go-lucky, perpetually smiling, continuously optimistic, cutesy and jejune, ‘look-on-the-bright-side’, likely has a Pooh and Piglet picture frame on her (or his) desk” people. But I find it impossible to trust people who are always smiling; think of Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove.

Plus, pink and baby blue are only tied for my second favorite color.

Another key functionality Sugar On-Demand offers is the ability to migrate the solution—both the application software and the database—to an in-house application, without losing the customized application. This reduces the transition cost from an On-Demand model to an in-house solution.

Finally, the company is unique in that because it offers an open source application, the company gains revenue. The product costs $39.99 per user per year, while Salesforce.com, which also offers on-demand packages, costs $995 a year for five users (according to the company’s Web site).

With over 65,000 downloads of the SugarCRM software to date, and with 800 to 1,000 downloads a day, it appears that users are requesting the company to, in the words of Ash in Army of Darkness, “Gimme some sugar, baby.”

For more information regarding SugarCRM products, visit www.sugarcrm.com.

David R. Butcher is assistant editor for Customer [email protected] Solutions Magazine.

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