TechTip: Manage Processes and Revenue with SugarCRM's Community Edition

System Administration
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Sugar CE is a great tool for developers and end users who understand the value of automation software but lack the resources to jump in whole hog on a large commercial project.


Many small and mid-sized businesses can benefit from customer relationship management (CRM) software. However, every business has unique processes and data points in their key sales, marketing, and support operations that make it difficult or expensive to purchase and deploy proprietary CRM tools.


In addition, many proprietary or SaaS CRM systems lack the ability for internal developers to take the software and make deep customizations or integrationseither as a test of the system or for production usage. Or these systems require significant up-front investment to do so.

A CRM Development PlatformRisk-Free

SugarCRM Community Edition (Sugar CE) solves a lot of the development problems posed by proprietary offerings, as it is a free, fully open-source CRM application and development platform. Sugar CE allows developers the opportunity to download, test, customize, and explore the APIs of a fully functional CRM system, with little risk. Sugar CE is a Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP (LAMP) stack web application, so even developers with passing knowledge of PHP can quickly get up to speed with the platform. The front end also uses some JavaScript, but again Sugar CE uses open, industry-standard programming languages to make it as easy as possible to customize and integrate CE with other applications or data sources.


Sugar CE can be deeply customized at the code level, or devs and admins can leverage Sugar CE's visual configuration and customization consoles: Sugar Studio (for creating custom layouts of existing modules and data fields) and Sugar Module Builder (enables the creation of new applications on the Sugar CE platform). The SOAP and REST APIs are well documented, allowing developers to create and test all kinds of application integration scenarios.



Figure 1: Sugar CE's Studio tools make it easy for developers or system admins to quickly customize the existing modules.


Given that CE is a web native application built on the LAMP stack, DevOps can benefit from using CE as it is cloud-ready. Sugar CE fits seamlessly into multiple cloud environments, and Amazon machine images for Sugar CE are readily available today. In short, those looking to test and design private and hybrid cloud application scenarios inside their organizations can use Sugar CE to learn about interoperability and scalability.



Figure 2: Sugar Module Builder allows developers to build new custom applications for free. For example, a developer can quickly extend the reach of the CRM to include an applicant-tracking tool with just a few clicks.

An Open "XRM" Platform for End Users

Many products out there (including SugarCRM's commercial editions) are rich with CRM features aimed at automating and optimizing traditional sales, marketing, and support operations. While Sugar CE offers out-of-the-box sales, marketing, and support capabilities, where Sugar CE shines is as a tool for automating either non-core or non-traditional CRM processes.


Inside every organization, people need to interact inside and in between departments. For example, many smaller businesses may want to track and manage the hiring process using software but may not want to pay the high price for a SaaS HR management system. Or sales processes may span multiple organizations or be shared with partners. Buying, customizing, and deploying a full-fledged partner sales portal may not work for many organizations. However, building a basic portal or application using the tools in CE makes sense for resource-constrained organizations.



Figure 3: Sugar Community Edition allows sales, marketing, and support professionals to track and manage their business day.


The Sugar CE user experience is web-based and intuitive, so it can be used for any number of human-powered transactions or processes. In short, it can manage any relationship that exists inside and around an organization. So, instead of "customer relationship management," we can see Sugar CE as a tool to help facilitate any relationshipthus the "XRM" moniker.


While Sugar CE can be used in production, highly customized or out of the box, with zero limitations, there are some considerations one must factor in when considering deploying open-source Sugar CE. The main point to consider is that Sugar CE is not commercially supported, meaning that users cannot contact a support expert at SugarCRM regarding issues with their deployments, customizations, etc. There are free community-moderated forums, however. For those seeking full features and support, Sugar commercial editions are available.

A Faster, Cost-Effective Ramp to Enterprise CRM

Again, Sugar CE is a great tool for developers and end users who understand the value of automation software but lack the resources to jump in whole hog on a large commercial project. Sugar CE can be a great testing and "proving ground" for both developers and end users looking to explore the value of CRM (or XRM) inside their organization.


For many, Sugar CE is a great "on-ramp" to a fully implemented, well-supported CRM system. And for those who have the development resources in-house, Sugar CE can be a longer-term CRM option. Either way, CE allows users to learn about the power of Sugar and CRM in general, risk-free.