SugarCRM to release version 4.0

Calling it a release that favorably compares with CRM solutions from Salesforce.com or Siebel, open source ISV SugarCRM unveiled SugarSuite 4.0.

The company's release includes Sugar Open Source, a free basic version, plus two commercial editions, Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise, which come in three delivery models -- hosted, as an appliance, and on-premise.

Changes in Version 4.0 are focused on business process automation, adding a new rules-based workflow engine, said SugarCRM co-founder John Roberts.

"An administrator can define the rules without the need to do any programming," said Roberts.

Also included is an enhanced campaign management system for automating outbound e-mail campaigns and inbound e-mail lead requests, with an extended reporting capability to create charts and dashboards on the fly.

"You can build your own query and create your own report criteria or organize a dashboard that is most appropriate for your business users," said Roberts.

Roberts called it a milestone release because he believes it is the first time that a commercial open source application can rival the long-standing commercial, proprietary applications. Roberts cited the use of a distributed development model as key to its power.

"You get ideas coming from all different perspectives. It gives the software a certain [user] friendliness," said Roberts.

However, industry analyst Gary Chen, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group, was a bit more cautious in his estimation of SugarCRM. "Enterprises have very extensive needs, and they are just beginning to get comfortable with open source," said Chen.

Chen was skeptical of large companies replacing their current systems but does believe SugarCRM has a good story for the SMB market.

BZ Results, a US$70 million digital marketing company to the auto industry, fits Chen's description.

Rob Lackey, CTO at BZ Results, said that having access to the source code was critical in the software selection process.

"Being able to do integration and customization ourselves for our mission-critical applications, and being able to build our own Web services that connect to the CRM application was invaluable," said Lackey.

After reviewing Siebel, Salesforce.com, and SugarCRM, BZ Results chose SugarCRM.

The ease of integration with other systems was another deal maker.

"When you talk about taking that CRM tool and knowing the only limitation on integration options is your staff, that is very powerful," said Lackey.

SugarCRM Professional and Enterprise editions will ship at the end of next week.

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