Inside Track - getting to know the vendors

Editorial Type: Interview Date: 2016-05-01 Views: 2,379 Tags: Networking, CRM, Cloud, SugarCRM
Ray Smyth considers the customer journey following a recent discussion with Larry Augustin, CEO at SugarCRM

The mention of CRM, its workflow and business criticality would at one time have caused the eyes of the IT professional to glaze over. But increasingly there is business pressure for IT professionals to extend the scope of their work and culture new skills that bind them to the heart of their business.

I picked this up with Larry Augustin, who explained that CRM is transitioning away from a focus on databases organised around silos, which is not a view that many customers would recognise. He explained that there needs to be a stronger relationship between business practice, process, people and technology to create a more insightful, interactive and action centred customer view. Larry confirmed that senior IT staff members occupy an influential and unique position, making them well placed to bear invaluable influence.

Larry explained that SugarCRM users expect to access their customer view, in a context that suits them, from any location, using multiple end points. I asked about business continuity, and because of a flexible cloud focus Sugar have this in hand - as well as the critical issue of data security and its sovereignty.

Sugar can be deployed in private, public and hybrid clouds, reflecting an increasingly complex use case, data sovereignty and legislation: it can work across multiple databases with a single view. Larry was keen to point out that security is designed by a dedicated development team.

CRM has been with us for a long time and much of its journey has taken place in the shadows. Having already pointed out that CRM is in transition, Larry expanded, saying that "...it had started out as a database view which became a tool for the company to manage sales force activity," adding that "It was a lot about data, a lot about management and not much about relationship…"

In this context of the historical view, Larry told me that there is a new leading edge emerging and that its values build around enabling an individual employee to build and establish a customer relationship. While information remains important, alone it is not enough. Expanding the insight around that information and related activity means moving far away from recording what someone did or said, to helping them undertake activity of much greater value.

From this, I could see the supreme importance of the role of technology like SugarCRM in this acute, business oriented discipline, but it also struck me that putting the 'R' into CRM is about more than the technology.

Larry explained that there is a huge component embracing business practice, process and people. As a Silicon Valley-based company he explained that, "There is a tendency to think just about technology as the answer. It's not the answer to everything: more a combination of people, process and technology. Our goal is to deliver the technology that makes developing these additional components easy."

Larry further explained that in their customer engagements they work beyond the technology to help their customers transform their business and improve their customer's experience. He observed that customers buy from the company and that this is oftentimes not reflected in a vendors’ silo-based approach, as customer engagement is across all functions, requiring end to end management.

Larry is often asked by IT professionals how they can be more relevant to the business. Larry's response is clear: because they are already situated across all business functions they can become more relevant as business partners, as opposed to being restricted to a technology delivery function. Looking forward, Larry thinks CRM will increasingly bring insight and intelligence to the point where it matters - the employee communicating with a customer. NC