There is a lot of buzz in the CRM space on how AI will augment the effectiveness of sales people. This interview is a comprehensive deep dive into the issues driving the problem, both promises and challenges.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with introducing our audience to yourself and to SugarCRM, especially to what’s been happening in the past couple of years.
Rich Green: I’ve been at the company for about a year. I’m the Chief Product Officer. I came from an Internet of Things company where we had energy monitoring devices with cloud controlling systems. Before that, I was the Chief Technology Officer for Nokia in charge of all the mobile phone products. I worked at Nuance and ran the organization that provided the technology that became Siri. Prior to that, I worked at Sun Microsystems as the Head of Software.
I was lucky enough to lead the invention of the first mobile applications platform. Long before there was iPhone, there was Java mobile. A billion copies were distributed and sold. SugarCRM has quite a long history. The company started out to provide CRM technology and solutions as an open source offering. We are an open source company that focuses on capabilities right off the net and building a community that could enhance, modify, and extend that technology.
There is still something called the Sugar community edition out there. Over the years, the company rotated to be much more of a larger scale, more enterprise-centric product company. We are a company that provides CRM for the enterprise – from the marketing to customer support. We have two forms of the product. We, historically, have had an on-premise product where you purchase and download the software. Our business over the last couple of years is skewing heavily to our SaaS-based service. That’s where we are putting a great deal of energy. We have a long list of Global 1000 and Global 500 clients.
Sramana Mitra: We’ve covered SugarCRM quite extensively over the years. Right now, we have our AI hat on. Help us get some bearing about what is Sugar’s role, thinking, or product strategy in AI and what are the key drivers in that direction?
Rich Green: The answer to that has a bunch of factors. Let me touch on a couple of them. This sounds a little trite, but it really is the center of it all. CRM’s is all about relationships between human beings. Understanding relationships between people and deriving insights into those relationships or insights that force the definition of a relationship is complex.
To date, we live in a world of second generation enterprise applications where they’re essentially a data input, data linking reporting system where individuals have a modest amount of information from which to create their own insights about the status of a relationship. That has been the history of CRM for quite some time. It’s obvious that changes have to be made on a couple of axes.