On Wednesday, April 30, SugarCRM Inc. launched a beta of its open source customer relationship management (CRM)
application that includes a new tracking function to make application stress points and usage patterns more visible for IT managers.
According to Chris Harrick, SugarCRM's vice president of product and corporate marketing, version 5.1 also fully integrates mobile users for the first time. Now users have full rather than partial access to contacts and information, and IT administrators can distribute application updates or fixes not only to desktops but also to laptops and smart phones, including BlackBerrys and Apple iPhones, simultaneously.
"Often there is a tradeoff between information and [wireless] accessibility," Harrick said. "We've broadened connectivity. So if the administrator modifies an application, it will appear on the wireless handset."
Version 5.1 also enables IT staff to create new reports more quickly by simply changing a category on an existing report instead of starting from scratch. In addition, it helps them uncover new trends with overlays of information that combine data from multiple sources, he said.Earning its keep with customization
Version 5.1 is the 12th installment of SugarCRM that has been released since the company's inception in 2004. It will be offered to the open source community for feedback, then released as a stable edition by the end of June, Harrick said. Although SugarCRM has its roots in the small and medium-sized business market, it's now robust enough to compete with Oracle Corp. and SAP AG in mission-critical roles and increasingly has attracted larger enterprises, he said. And SugarCRM has a group of larger customers that includes H&R Block, Vodafone Group PLC, Men's Wearhouse and AXA Rosenberg Group LLC, which are partial to SugarCRM because it's easier to customize and integrate than proprietary products, he said. According to a SugarCRM survey, about 25% to 30% of its software is deployed on Microsoft Windows, while the rest is distributed among Red Hat Inc., Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux and other operating systems, Harrick said. Denis Pombriant, the principal of Beagle Research Group LLC, said SugarCRM's new release is an incremental effort to add greater functionality and help streamline IT operations. These improvements are particularly helpful for large organizations, which need flexible deployment options to service mobile users, he said. "SugarCRM earns its keep by providing a solution that IT can customize," Pombriant said. "I think they've been effective in understanding their core market and moving upstream." Even though SugarCRM can be installed out of the box, many companies want to tweak software to their needs and open source applications are conducive to tinkering, he said.
For other companies, the lower cost of open source products comes with an unwelcome tradeoff in sweat equity, but many like having developers create free improvements, Pombriant said. The key is that you need to understand the whole software stack to make sure you are implementing the changes correctly, he added.
Annual pricing for SugarCRM 5.1 support is $480 per user for on-demand Sugar Professional and $900 per user for on-demand Sugar Enterprise. Annual pricing for on-site use is $275 per user for Professional and $449 per user for Enterprise. The SugarCRM Community Edition is available via free download from SugarForge.org.