SugarCRM's Bucholtz to Discuss the Future of CRM at ITEXPO West 2011
August 25, 2011
By Juliana Kenny
, TMCnet Managing Editor
“The CRM space has remained resilient in the face of the recession,” according to Chris Bucholtz, editor in chief of CRM Outsiders for SugarCRM. As the overseer and writer for that particular blog, Bucholtz focuses on the progression of customer relationship management software, how it impacts business revenue, and the changes in the social CRM space.
Bucholtz will be speaking at ITEXPO (News - Alert) West 2011 in a session titled “Creating Community, Creating Customers for Life,” and will explore how to utilize social media to engage customers in long-term relationships. Discussing how unified communications and social networks work together to boost customer relationships, Bucholtz will join other esteemed speakers for a valuable and educational session.
TMC’s (News - Alert) CEO Rich Tehrani sat down with Bucholtz to find out more about how he views the recent changes in the industry, and where he thinks it’s going. See the full exchange below:
RT: How has your market segment evolved over the past year and what trends have fueled those changes?
CB: The CRM space has remained resilient in the face of the recession. Businesses may be reluctant to invest in some things, but not when it comes to sales force productivity. Also, the customer retention power of CRM is gaining in importance – if there are fewer customers to be found, the ones you already have become increasingly precious.
RT: What do you see as the next disruptive force in technology and how will it impact your market or business?
CB: Everyone talks about social CRM – the use of social media to capture data and carry on conversations with customers. That will be huge, and there are lots of paths to getting to the point where there are social CRM-ready, turnkey applications. However, I think the next big impact on CRM is going to come from the mass adoption of mobile CRM. It’s an unstoppable force – so many people in sales and service have shifted to mobile devices as their primary computing platforms, it’s an inevitability. The technology is here; the challenge now is to inspire businesses to think of the ways mobility can improve the way their employees work with the technology to be more productive.
RT: How has the acceptance and adoption of the cloud model influenced your development cycle and process?
CB: Sugar’s interesting in that it’s been built on a model that allows private and public cloud deployment and on-site deployment – it becomes a non-issue for people in the decision cycle. That sort of flexibility is really important as businesses gain experience with CRM and other cloud applications, and as their use of the technology grows. What happens to your CRM approach if you start dealing with business that falls under HIIPA or other privacy regulations that might force you into an on-site deployment? That’s a burden, but it’s less of a burden if you don’t have to swap out your CRM application as part of the compliance process.
RT: What is the most common request you are seeing from your customers? How is your company addressing these demands?
CB: We always hear from our user community about additional functionality for our Community Edition – that’s the free version of SugarCRM that’s been downloaded over 8 million times. Toward that end, we have an edition planned for release later in the year that introduces a lot of new features for CE. That community is hugely important to Sugar; it’s the source of a lot of innovation, and, of course, many businesses eventually upgrade to our Professional edition.
RT: How is the continued growth of social media changing service and product development strategies?
CB: All CRM companies right now have the chance to be the first to develop a true social CRM application. We hear it from customers; while a few pioneering end-users have been able to piece together satisfactory social CRM operations, most get bogged down in the integration and that saps the business’s energy for the project. It’s going to take tools from a vendor to provide a jumping-off point for social CRM to really catch fire, and we think that means a solid set of foundational social tools combined with the flexibility for users and their partners to add to those tools.
RT: Will Google+ become bigger than Facebook and Twitter? Why or why not?
CB: I think we’re not far from reaching the maximum attention bandwidth for most people for social media. Even the most intensely involved among us use a couple of broad channels primarily, and perhaps a couple of more narrow channels built around our specific interests. But at a certain point, you run out of time and attention, meaning that there is not an unlimited market of users for broad-based horizontally-focused social media sites. I don’t thing Google+ is different enough from Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter to draw people in mass numbers from those horizontal sites – sites where size of audience is itself a reason to stay. It may combine attributes of both, nut that’s not enough. Without some really unique and useful attributes – and circles aren’t that useful, in my mind – there’s no compelling reason to leave the big city of Facebook to become a homesteader on Google+.
RT: As businesses continue their move toward virtual workforces, how are you meeting the need for increased mobility? What barriers are keeping others from adopting mobile strategies?
CB: SugarCRM’s developed a native client for Anrdroid, Blackberry, iPhone and iPad – we believe that it’s critical to put CRM on the devices that people choose to use. With more handhelds shipped in the first quarter of 2011 than desktops, the writing’s on the wall – people are gravitating toward lighter, more user-friendly platforms. The challenge for all CRM vendors is to provide use cases for mobility – not just the cliché of the road-warrior sales guy, but examples of how others in the business – in marketing, in support, in field service – can use mobile CRM. As those cases are presented, it ought to stoke an outburst of creativity among CRM users and we’ll see mobile used in ways that none of us can predict today.
RT: How do you see the mobile operating system war (iPhone vs. Android (News - Alert) vs. RIM vs. WM7) playing out?
CB: Tough question, and one we refrain from trying to predict. We have native clients for iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry (News - Alert), because we know how important mobility is, and that the people determining the success or failure of those various OS options will be the customer. Trying to pick what our customers will want to use and then limiting the options we provide them? That would be so 2008.
RT: Is HTML5 the game changer many predict it will be?
CB: Maybe, maybe not. We like it at Sugar because it allowed us to skip past the limitations on Flash on the iPad and iPhone for our mobile CRM products.
RT: What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO West in Austin? What do you see as being the biggest trends at the show?
CB: What I’m most looking forward to is seeing the places where different technology segments rub together for the benefit of the customer. For example, there are fantastic possibilities for taking advantage of social media and collaboration tools in a tactical way, and often those only surface when you begin thinking outside your usual area of focus. Getting a bunch of smart people and capable technology products in one place can lead to some great ideas if you’re willing to break out of the box surrounding your specific industry or product type.
RT: What issues will you be addressing during your ITEXPO session and why should attendees be sure to attend?
CB: I’ll be talking about the concept of community and why it’s so vital to CRM and social CRM as the discipline evolves. Sales, service and marketing have been working to improve efficiencies for years, but the idea that our customers can help us be more efficient while at the same time being more effective has escaped us until recently (until the social media revolution transformed how we communicate). Now, we’re starting to realize that working with our greater customer community has a tremendous potential to transform our relationships with our customers, and the challenge becomes one not of reaching customers, but of managing how we reach our customers in order to do so effectively and without completely draining our resources. We’ve gone from just a few opportunities to connect to an infinite number of opportunities, and that requires a fairly dramatic re-thinking of the processes we need within businesses to cope with them.
To find out more about Chris Bucholtz and SugarCRM, visit the company at ITEXPO West 2011. To be held Sept. 13-15 in Austin, TX, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. Bucholtz is speaking during Creating Community, Creating Customers for Life.Don’t wait. Register now.
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Juliana Kenny graduated from the University of Connecticut with a double degree in English and French. After managing a small company for two years, she joined TMC as a Web Editor for TMCnet. Juliana currently focuses on the call center and CRM industries, but she also writes about cloud telephony and network gear including softswitches.
Edited by Tammy Wolf