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Lithys 2018: SugarCRM - B2B Community Innovator

Lithys 2018: SugarCRM - B2B Community Innovator

Company: SugarCRM

Company background:

SugarCRM enables businesses to create extraordinary customer relationships with the most empowering, adaptable and affordable customer relationship management (CRM) solution on the market. We are the industry’s leading company focused exclusively on customer relationship management. Helping our clients build a unique customer experience through great customer relationships is our sole focus.

Today, digital disruption is driving a tectonic shift in how companies deliver an extraordinary customer experience, inventing new ways to connect with and deliver value to customers. The companies that win in this era of empowered customers do so because they create better relationships with their customers. But you can’t deliver a superior customer experience with the same old CRM. You need a new kind of CRM.

Sugar is the solution for CRM heroes, mavericks, innovative, forward-thinking change agents. The brave, the bold, who dare to be different. Our customers look for new solutions that will give them a competitive edge. They look at the default choice, and question whether it is the best choice. They see Sugar as the chance to find a better way to grow their business and help their employees do their jobs better. It’s the CRM that does more to adapt to your business -- the easiest CRM there is to customize, extend and deploy. And it’s the CRM that can enable everyone across your entire organization to become a customer expert and make a difference.

Recognized by leading market analysts as a CRM visionary and innovator, Sugar is deployed by more than 2 million individuals in over 120 countries and 26 languages. Companies large and small are turning from yesterday’s CRM solutions to rely on Sugar to manage customer relationships.

Contact: Alex Nassi

Title: Senior Community Manager

Related URLs:

Lithy category: B2B Community Innovator

1. Describe the innovation(s) and how you settled on the decision to innovate (user request, Lithium suggestion, internal idea, etc.)

SugarCRM’s community innovation transformed upon the adoption of the Jive platform. Throughout the previous 12 years of SugarCRM’s history, our online community presence was forum-focused, developer heavy, and not strongly moderated or curated. This worked well for a small subset of our user base but was unapproachable to the majority of regular users and administrators. Making the decision to migrate to Jive allowed us to pivot our community strategy by building a more welcoming site and provide a low barrier of entry to everyone in the SugarCRM ecosystem, regardless of technical expertise or customer-type. This new focus brings together developers, administrative and end users, SugarCRM partners, prospects, and employees.

Our previous vendor was going through a transition period, we began investigating alternative solutions. Jive presented us a stronger and more robust set of tools to build a strong community, as well as a more inviting and intuitive user interface compared to our existing solution. The move to Jive allowed us to keep our forum-based focus, satisfying existing members, but also allowed us to store program documentation, curate robust blogs, build clear calls-to-action, leverage strong ideation capabilities, and more. Access to all of this could be easily configured between Jive’s simple permissioning system and an easy integration with our detailed SSO system. These new tools helped us to build a place where Sugar users would find value and a place to engage.

Prior to our launch, and multiple times since, we engaged with Jive partner, Social Edge Consulting, to help us with strategy, design, and best practices. Our initial launch focused on ensuring parity with our previous system, starting with less than 10 spaces (three support-type spaces to replicate our forums, plus staples such as news, release announcements, ideation, and “Getting Started”. The community has since grown to include around 50 spaces of various levels of engagement and purpose.

Over the following years, as the community grew, these new spaces were developed, but two of the most utilized and innovative spaces are our Partner Portal and Developer Portal. Both of these represent programs where content and communication was previously handled through other means (Wordpress sites, email, and other home-grown solutions). These solutions were difficult for our user base to navigate as it scattered content across multiple sites and it was difficult for employees to update and curate.

Partner Portal

The first of these major updates was to create our Partner Portal. This idea came from multiple teams internally as our partner alliances teams wanted a way to curate and collaborate on content, quickly disperse information and updates to our partners (limiting the need for email campaigns), write and track blogs, and be a centralized location for our partners to find all SugarCRM produced content around our various partner programs. Security was another strong consideration in deciding to move the Partner Portal into our community. The portal contains confidential sales and company data, so we had to ensure it was only accessible to registered partners. SugarCRM has multiple partner types, so content specific to each partner type is only visible to appropriate partners.

To help with this security, we developed a custom module in our CRM system, allowing us to better segment contact lists which would turn into SSO groups and then security groups in our community for each partner type, and even for each partner company. Using these groups, we could segment the content in the Partner Portal to each partner type, including spaces for all partners, reseller partners, software partners, private spaces for specific partners, and the top-level Partner Corner, allowing partners a public place to blog about SugarCRM or the CRM industry as a whole.

Not long before starting this project, our marketing department had recently embarked on a digital rebranding project, updating our company website and then working to update other company web properties. The timing worked out perfectly to refresh the look and feel of our community and build a new site theme. As with our initial launch, we engaged with Social Edge to help build out the new design, as well as build custom tiles for the partner spaces. These updates were reused (and are still being used) across a majority of our community to provide an updated, modern, and consistent user experience for all users.

Developer Portal

SugarCRM’s developer audience has been the backbone of our community. After seeing the success of the Partner Portal project, the team that manages our developer relationships and ecosystem saw an opportunity to build out a more robust and consolidated portal for developers. Using lessons learned and pre-built groundwork from in the Partner Portal, our developer forums, blog, program information, tutorials, preview (beta) program, and more were brought into a variety of spaces and subspaces within our community, creating a our developer portal.

This project was especially valuable due to the public nature of our developer program. A majority of the content contained in the portal is public and available to anyone who wants to develop (or learn about developing) on the Sugar platform. However, we also utilized the custom SSO tools built for the Partner Portal to hide the customer or partner only spaces of the portal which include our Preview (beta) program and a download manager containing the source code of the cloud versions of our application.

2. Tell us about how you made it happen Did you stage it first, who got an early look, how you drove adoption/use, and any iterations you had to make to get it right.

 All development in our community, including for the Partner Portal and Developer Portal mentioned above is built within hidden spaces in our community. This allows us to hide the space from the public but still provide access to specific employees or other collaborators through JX’s standard permission system. Stage versions of the spaces are set up to allow our community manager or other stakeholders to collaborate and test designs and content in a working version of the space.

Most of these projects adhere to a standard process:

  • Community Manager and stakeholders meet to scope the project, including any milestone dates, the reason and goals for the project, define the audience,  discuss permissions, etc.
  • Community Manager takes the requirements and builds them into a staging space, crafting a consistent user experience with the rest of the community. During this time, any custom HTML tiles or custom images are either created or planned out to be built before launch.
  • Community Manager reviews the staging environment with stakeholders to revise as necessary.
  • Announcements and other collateral for community members are drafted to introduce the new space and guide users on the purpose and any navigation updates.
  • Once all requirements are met, a go-live date and any launch activities are scheduled.
  • For go-live, Community Manager either rebuilds the staging site on the live production site (if overriding existing design), by copying over any code and images and rebuilding tiles, or modifies the staging site to change any wording to be publicly consumable and enabling permissions as necessary. These processes take a matter of minutes and, when complete, we publish the introduction blog post to announce the changes to space followers.

Typically, the testing is done internally by showing new spaces to stakeholders before
going live. However, due to the flexible nature of JX, we are able to make changes and iterate on the fly as feedback comes in or as we recognize additional ways to better serve our community. Iterations vary from adding/modifying tiles and layouts, to building new pages, and adding additional subspaces. Spaces in our community are ever-changing as new needs arise or become outdated.

3. What were the results? Tell us how it impacted your customer experience or the outcomes you seek as a business.

For years, our forums lived on the fringes of our customer external communication – not heavily marketed, updated, moderated, or used. Through multiple iterations, including and since our move to Jive/JX, the SugarCRM community has become a vital part of our ecosystem, allowing customers, partners, employees, and anyone else interested in SugarCRM to interact with one another and take advantage of an extensive library of information and content. We work to manage most external-facing projects through the community, often setting up new groups or spaces as needed.

We have witnessed strong growth in all measured categories, including major increases in year over year user access, increasing 17% in our first year since migrating to Jive, 15% the second year, and 5% so far in year three, representing a 33% overall increase! In addition, the Developer Portal has witnessed a 19% increase in active user count and an 18% increase in user activity since the updates mentioned above. More importantly, the Developer Portal and Partner Portal also represent a breakdown of silos for our company, bringing content previously housed across multiple sites under one roof. This eases our customers’ burden of searching multiple places for information and, instead, provides one consistent place to start their search for information.