Sprinkling In Some Personality – Reflecting On Social With Clint Oram

My objective here is twofold: First, it is a natural continuation of the ‘walk before you run’ post. Second, a chance to reflect on my conversations, with Clint Oram, Co-Founder and current Head of Products for SugarCRM. I am not quoting Clint, this is more a sharing of thoughts  (In other words, pulling from this is not a Clint quote 😉

Everything has a back story

Through my writing, I have shared interview style posts with some great folks. I use a combination of blogs, to get a sense of what people think, along with phone calls and then some questions in email. Well, this was not a proper approach with Clint, a friend for many years. Clint and I go back a ways. We both worked at Octane (bought by E.piphany, bought by SSA Global….) in the Internet 1.0 years. At first, we were both part of Professional Services, then Clint in product management, me still in PS. We worked together, and became good friends – I even remember having dinner with our young families, kids sleeping in car seats under the table, while the adults tried desperately to talk about anything but kids. Professionally, Clint went on to start SugarCRM, and I stay through the mergers and acquisition phases, then joined SugarCRM about 3.5 years ago.

Everything needs to have a personality

The great thing about a Mitch and Clint conversation is that you might be able to suggest where it is going to start, even possibly guide where it goes, but you can never be sure where it is going to end up! The reason is simple actually; we are a CRM company, therefore conversations constantly jump back and forth between what we as a company are doing, and then how a CRM product fits into that conversation. Our conversation earlier this week on these topics was not the first, and it will not be the last either. The other fun part about our conversations, is, well, you would not describe them as quiet and subdued – just sayin’

With all the discussions about Social CRM, I wanted to check-in with Clint and get his thoughts on how Social is SugarCRM – no, not the product, the company.  It is almost comical that we need to be more vocal about it, given the background of open source.  Clint has a finger on the pulse of our ecosystem. Why? Because he is social and he talks, listens, participates with customers, partners, prospects and members of his team. OK, that is Clint, my description and viewpoint, what about SugarCRM?

Social is not something totally new

SugarCRM has many of the characteristics of a Social company. Clint readily and fairly reminds me of this often – not to rub it in, or in a defensive way either.  We have been doing it – living and breathing Social – longer than it has been cool and hip to do so. The simple fact that we have been able to get to where we are, with the Marketing budget we have (which is a lot more than we had in the early years). This was with word of mouth, Buzz, all in a space – open source at the application layer – which was very new.

Clint also reminds me that we are not playing with and on all the new, cool, Web 2.0 playgrounds, but that does not make us any less Social. We do play on some: we have YouTube educational and informational videos, we are on Facebook, Twitter. But the meat, the action, is over in the SugarForums – I am not going to quote traffic numbers (for one, I would probably get my hand slapped and two, not sure what a number really proves). These are valuable, interactive, Customer to Customer, Company to Customer and Customer to Company conversations. We do not control the conversations,  and the only posts we pull are the V1agra ads.

Laser focus on solving business problems

Always at the heart of our conversations, Clint is passionate. He is passionate about SugarCRM, more importantly, he is passionate about CRM and the value it provides. Clint and I do not always see eye to eye on all things CRM,  That is not wrong –  I believe that our customers win in that scenario. Often, there is not a right or wrong, just prioritization.  Clint is laser focused on helping our customers solve business problems. In order to do that, we do end up talking about features and functions, but as a means to an end – value.

We are gearing up for one of the biggest, best Developer, Partner and Customer conferences we have ever had. If you are in the area, please join us. If you are already coming, please stop me or Clint and tell us what you think. We will spend the time, listen and learn – At SugarCRM we are Open, in more ways than just the Source code. Why did I write this post? Because Clint is working hard on getting things right, just figured I would let you know.