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SugarCon 2015

Just got back from this year’s SugarCon, and I did tweetpromise you a more complete writeup than the snippets that emerged from my phone. Here goes, though this is going to be kind of brief as well. I obviously haven’t blogged here in a while, so I need to get back into the habit while not overextending.

First, Let me say that the overall feeling I got from the execs, employees, and partners was one of confidence and satisfaction. It wasn’t boiling exuberance, it wasn’t smug self-congratulation, it was more like, “Things are going well. We’ve got this.” Take that for what you will; a lot of people will find this assessment meaningless, but it says a lot to me. It means Sugar is where it wants to be in the market, is moving forward on the things it needs to, and doesn’t have to present a false face. Ya go to enough of these things, you start to be able to tell when a company is trying to distract you.

sugar15roadmap

That said, Sugar acknowledges the need to improve in some places. One is Fit and Finish, which amounts to quality control, bug squashing, app handling and streamlining, and similar issues. Sugar developers tend to be  code enthusiasts to some degree, so any problems could always be rectified or worked around at that end—but it’s never a good idea to leave things like that up to somebody else. Sugar is making it so there’s no cleanup work to do before a dev starts creating.

One of the themes of this year’s SugarCon was positioning SugarCRM as “the engine of customer engagement.” On the one hand, it’s good to see a vendor taking customer experience seriously, and Forrester’s Rick Parrish delivered a session that emphasized the importance of seeing the relationship from the customer’s point of view. On the other hand, it’s not really saying anything new. If you care about customer engagement and experience, and you use CRM, those things are going to meet in the middle somewhere.

As to the devs themselves, there was a lively bunch of partners this year, representing a wide variety of interests. In addition to cruising around the partner pavilion, I got to take a closer look at some of the best ones as a panelist at the annual SugarCRM App Throwdown. The participants covered everything from mobile collaboration to relationship mapping to personality assessment via digital body language. That’s one of the things I love about Sugar—the sheer breadth of what creative minds can do with it.

In fact, SugarCRM is so good at partnering and collaboration that you might occasionally wonder what the product itself is good for. I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it, though; the CRM part of SugarCRM is as strong as anybody else’s, and the company would be sunk if that were not the case. CRM is a mature industry, and none of the major players in the CRM market have serious gaps in their functionality. More than ever, the distinction comes from what you can do with the app after you have it. Partners, developers, and other creative types need a canvas on which to paint masterpieces, and Sugar is extremely good at working with them. I’m looking forward to seeing more.