As most of you know, I left SugarCRM at the beginning of May, but I continue to work with the great people here (there?). I have good friends at Sugar, many were friends before and I am enjoying the continued engagement. While I was at Sugar, the senior leadership supported my endeavors into the Social space, a bit before Sugar (the product or company) was quite ready – 18 months ago. I worked hard to remain objective through my tenure at Sugar, to the point that friends and co-workers were sometimes wondering what exactly I was doing. I rarely said “SugarCRM is better” or “We are the best” (Much to the chagrin of friends Jeff Campbell or Chris Harrick). Now that I am no longer with SugarCRM, from an objective vantage point, I can say some things that might have had less meaning than if I were sitting on the ‘other side of the Firewall’.
My focus and passion over the past 18 months is something that goes by many names. You might call it CRM 2.0, Social CRM, Sales 2.0 or CRM in the Age of the Social Web, it does not matter. Whatever it is called, it is and always has been about the people and connecting the dots. That is the unique (and fun) part about working in a technology space, where the main topic is talking with and about people and relationships. CRM technology is the essential foundation upon which your customer engagement strategy should be built and evolved to meet your goals and objectives as an organization. That said, CRM comes from your people, processes and culture, not the functionality of a product. Successful CRM implementations have and always will include a ‘Social’ element, whether you add the word or not. What this means is that Customer Engagement, the manifestation of CRM, is about people being people and acting at a human level.
Even when building a Platform, it is about the People
As Sugar gets ready to launch a new version (Sugar 6) of the application (It has been in Beta for a while, so it must be happening soon), I wanted to give kudos to the team. Like I said above, it is all about the people. But recognition for doing some good things on the technical side is important. The SugarCRM approach to building a solid CRM application is similar in philosophy to how an organization needs to leverage their ecosystem. An ecosystem is social, simply by what it is – people working with people and companies working with companies. As a business, you make decisions on a daily basis regarding the boundaries of what you are going to provide (products and services) to your customers and what is ‘out of bounds’. Now, saying something is ‘out of bounds’ is very different from not helping your customers. What is means is that you will work within your ecosystem to help the customer get their job done.
The Social Web is growing at a blistering pace. There are products and technologies popping up daily to help us all ‘navigate’ this explosion in communication channels, formats and types. For any one vendor to add all the required elements necessary for your industry, geography, culture and the customer socialgraph (where customers hang out on the social web) is a very tall order. I believe that for the 3-5 year window, the best approach for any medium size business, or department within larger organizations will be to utilize a platform that can be extended easily and has the right partnerships (technological and implementation) to create the optimal solution. In the Social Web, your customers are constantly evolving, companies change, products change and that means that CRM is becoming less about initial implementation and more about ongoing incremental improvement. The job of the technologist is to get the right information to the right people at the right time. This is what CRM is about.