How to Integrate SugarCRM with Alfresco for Better Document Management


Every business looking to take its next step heavily hinges upon two things- customer management and document management. Both are massive undertakings and more often than not becomes a smart way to identify pros from amateurs.

Luckily we have software tools to handle both managements. We have got SugarCRM, the most popular customer relationship management tool, and we have Alfresco, one of the most popular document management and enterprise content management tool available. They are two different tools with different capabilities but there are ways they get together to give you something never tasted before.

Imagine a solution that has easy-to-use features and analytics capabilities of SugarCRM but also has document management capabilities of Alfresco. The system sounds good doesn’t it? Its not that far-fetched, all you would have to do is integrate Alfresco with SugarCRM, and you have a solution that combines best of the both worlds.

Integrating Alfresco with SugarCRM is not that difficult. There are two easy ways by which you can integrate Alfresco and SugarCRM. One using Alfresco’s SugarCRM application, and another using a custom CMIS RESTful API integration solution. There is also a third way that involves using SOAP API but it is so old school so I am not planning to get into it for now.

Integrating Alfresco and SugarCRM

SugarCRM integration with alfresco is so common that Alfresco itself came out with a native SugarCRM application to make integration easier.

The app way requires minimum to no-coding integration and is mainly a click and play integration solution. All you would have to do is visit SugarCRM AppExchange and install Alfresco App from there, do the required configurations and mappings. And you are done!

Obviously you would have to create accounts on both SugarCRM and Alfresco to use both cloud products and may have to buy Alfresco subscriptions based on requirements.

SugarCRM Integration with Alfresco

Now considering the ease of this integration one would think that there is no need for a custom solution. But there is. The app is good for new users who need simple integration solutions. But if your systems are complex, you would need Custom API solutions.

That is the reason why most large to medium scale companies opt for custom SugarCRM and Alfresco integration solution. And which is also the reason professional service providers of such solutions like me actually have a reason to exist.

SugarCRM Alfresco integration using RESTful API

Integrating SugarCRM with Alfresco utilizes RESTFul APIs, both from SugarCRM and Alfresco.
Even using RESTful API there are two ways that you can integrate the two system, one that uses CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) and Rest API, and another using custom data exchange standards. However we would advice going for CMIS standards.

CMIS are world-wide standards that are used to connect content management systems with each other. The reason why CMIS is popular is because it provides the users with flexibility to switch from one CMS to another without affecting the systems integrated with the CMS. So in the future if you get the need to switch from SugarCRM to a new CRM or from Alfresco to another document manager, you would just need to change the CRM or CMS from its end, add the new system to the old CMIS connectors, and you will have the integrated solution running without any need to completely customize the connector to facilitate new system.
The actual process of integrating using RESTful APIs is a very technical and out of scope of this post. But I am working on the same and hopefully will release a detailed post on integrating SugarCRM and Alfresco using RESTful API and CMIS in the coming weeks. So stay tuned.

The BEST of both worlds

With an integrated Alfresco and SugarCRM solution you not only great Workflow management capabilities, but also get an awesome document manager and viewer, features on which SugarCRM lacks woefully. In addition to document management capabilities, free editions of Alfresco have a lot more storage space than cheapest editions of SugarCRM so you would get additional storage at no cost. Also SugarCRM limits the document sizes to 5MB, but there is no such limit with Alfresco.

Creating custom integrating API’s is not a very easy task. To make sure that your connector API is flexible enough to accommodate changes, is secure enough to handle sensitive data, and is fast enough to perform under pressure, we would advise you to take help from experts.