from CRM Supplement, Sunday Business Post 27 Feb 2011
Gary Cullen, director, Provident CRM: ‘There is a huge appetite for CRM at the moment’
Most Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems will do similar things,but this is not to say that all systemsare the same.Take the exampleof SugarCRM,which is sold exclusively in Ireland by Provident CRM.It provides everything thatbusinesses expect from CRM,including advanced sales management,support and marketing.So do many others. It exists in the cloud, thereby negatingthe requirement for expensiveon site infrastructure.It is not alone in doing this.But it costs a fraction of the price of most other CRM systems and this is what makesit unique.
Provident was founded in 2000, initially as a telecoms consultancy.However, in 2004, it moved into software developmentand, according to director Gary Cullen, set about looking for something that would differentiate the company in the market.‘‘We started looking at alternative products, ones that werenot already in the market.Thisled to us identifying commercial open-source technology,and we brought in four products,one of which was SugarCRM,’’said Cullen.‘‘ This was at the height ofthe boom in 2005 and 2006,and it’s fair to say it was a hardsell in those days. But when the financial crisis took hold, people started to examine their costs, focused more on their sales processes and delivering value and that’s when thingsstarted to take off.’’Indeed,
Provident is now the second-largest reseller of SugarCRM in Britain, and the exclusive partner in Ireland.It recorded 300 per cent growth last year with its entryinto the British market, and itis targeting a further 50 percent growth for this year. Recent customer wins have included Quinn Insurance and Davy Stockbrokers.
One reason behind this grow this the fact that, because it is based on commercial opensource technology, SugarCRM is hugely cost-effective. Basically, commercial open-source takes advantage of opensource technologies which arefree to use, but it develops a model whereby it licenses and charges for advanced business tools and services using these technologies. However, the kicker for end users is that,because it is basedon open-source technology, itis significantly cheaper than non-open-source (propriety)alternatives; and the fact that it has been developed as a commercialproduct means that there are legal protections and high-end supports in place.‘‘There is a huge appetite for CRM at the moment, as companies that have survived thelast couple of years are nowlooking at managing their sales, and planning for growth,’’ Cullen said.‘‘However, we believe thatwe have features which we have deployed better for example,our interface looks good and is easy to use, we are more flexible and can run onsite or inthe cloud. So we have everything that the others offer, butit’s done in a more open and friendly way.’’Another key factor for choosing the commercial open-source model is the factthat it doesn’t use any proprietary languages. And while this might appear to be solely aconsideration for teccies, the reality is that it can lead to significant savings for companieswho use commercial opensource. ‘‘Most people involved with technology will be familiarwith PHP, the language usedby Sugar. So instead of hiring in expensive consultants whooperate in one propriety language,companies can use external or internal resources that are much cheaper,’’ Cullen said.
A social network
Additionally, the fact that SugarCRMcanexist in a privateor public cloud means costs are lowered even further. Ofcourse,while the cloud was bignews last year, Cullen believesthat the next major trend for CRM will take advantage of.And he believes that companieswho don’t learn to incorporate‘social CRM’ will be indanger of losing out on a major opportunity to engage withtheir clients.‘‘We are onthe cusp of socialCRM. Everyone is alreadyusing social media, fromGmail to Facebook and Twitter,’’Cullen said.‘‘If a customer has a good or bad experience with a company,they have the ability tolet the world know. So all that businesses can do now is to tryto treat every customer as wellas possible,and try to engage inthe conversations as they happen.‘‘It is about communicating and engaging with customers in a medium that they are alreadyusing, and the entire CRM market needs to figure out the best way to achieve this.It is very cutting-edge, but it is the future of CRM, and Sugar already has a number of different tools which allow users to check social media sites so theycan see what’s on their customers’minds before they even pick up the phone.’