SugarCon 2009: CRM as a Platform on Display

I’ve been speaking with a number of customers over the past week who will be speaking at SugarCon this year, and they all present a common thread: CRM as a platform. They’re leveraging our Professional and Enterprise versions in ways we could have never imagined…as partner relationship management (PRM) solutions, customer interaction hubs linking industry-specific practices and departments together, and even as desktop metadata hubs, so to speak, pulling data from legacy CRM applications to give end-users a fresh, modern user interface. In short, leveraging a CRM application as a platform into which the needs and processes of the company can be built across a multitude of departments, and outside of the traditional sales, marketing, and customer service.

But what I don’t understand is how any of these customers could have accomplished these objectives with the many black-box/API-based solutions that exist in the world today. For that matter, I don’t think I’ve ever come across a SugarCRM customer, big or small, that’s ever used our product out-of-the-box. Plenty of CRM providers talk about their solutions being “CRM platforms,” but it seems that these “platforms” exist only in the context of their own product offerings and capabilities.

One example is Bright House Networks, which has built out custom-modules and functionality for contracting and billing, surveying and equipment allocation, and customer support, and has linked those capabilities with traditional case management functionality.

The move by proprietary-based vendors to adopt more “open” policies towards community-driven development and feedback and a willingness to allow more access to the code base is certainly a step in the right direction, and a necessary one. Because as we’ve seen from our own customer base, offering businesses the shear flexibility to build these platforms based off of core functionality will be the standard by which all good CRM offerings will be measured by.