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Clint_Oram_1500x2100By Clint Oram, SugarCRM CTO and IBM Business Partner

Understanding the customer, is, at its heart, the art and science of forming relationships.

Customers are increasingly moving to social media to create these relationships, to discover and establish brand loyalties, and to make product purchasing decisions This represents both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. Without a customer relationship management (CRM) foundation, the efforts of businesses to engage customers through social media will be frustrating. It’s not enough to simply reach customers; you must engage with them over the long term.

As organizations become more adept at using social media, they must collect and share the data seamlessly throughout the organization. When data is not shared, it prevents the creation of a holistic view of both the customer relationship and the creation and execution of a cohesive sales and marketing strategy. How can a company grow if the decision makers lack access to critical data? Where does all this critical data live, and how do all decision makers access it?

Here comes the Cloud

By making it easy to use CRM on a subscription basis, and moving management of the computing assets to a cloud provider, companies of all sizes can make the jump to CRM easily and cost-effectively, while also mitigating the risks of adopting a new technology.  Essentially, the cloud removes most of the financial and technological roadblocks for adopting CRM.

But the methods of delivering a business application and the shift toward social business aren’t enough. The key to deriving value from CRM in this new social media era is the ability to provide a precise, tailored solution to each business – in other words, to give CRM users the same personalized experience as those users hope to give their customers.

SugarCRM’s ace in the hole is its flexibility. We designed our CRM technology to be easily customized to address a business’ unique needs, whether they are in healthcare, manufacturing or retail. This flexibility and customization are attributes that enable clients to continually look for ways to use CRM to gain competitive advantage.

Focus on the opportunity, not the technology

In close partnership with IBM, SugarCRM understands this new era of CRM and the two companies are coming together to help businesses build strategies to become social- and customer-centric from the beginning, instead on having to evolve into those new ways of doing business based on incremental additions of technology.

Instead of designing a business around what’s technically possible – an IT-centric view of the business – it’s now possible to instead look at business objectives, imagine new solutions to them and then bring them to reality quickly, with the cloud making them less expensive and quicker to market.

Rather than looking at technology in terms of its limitations, CRM delivered through the cloud allows you to spend more time exploring what’s possible in terms of your business. The technology portion of the equation is important – but the technology is there to do a job, allowing you to concentrate on using the information gathered to create these increasingly sophisticated customer relationships.

CRM is a discipline enabled by technology, rather than a technology on its own. Consumers enjoy a richer experience with the businesses they buy from, and those businesses get more loyal, long-lived and lucrative customers – but only if those businesses use technology to generate actions that directly and positively impact those consumer relationships. Done right, CRM provides a basis for long-term success, long customer relationships and an extended revenue stream for businesses of all sizes.

When you think about it, cloud has given customer relationship management a new meaning.

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[...] – they’re executed by people. (Clint Oram, SugarCRM’s CTO, riffs on this a bit in today’s IBM Smarter Planet Blog, with his phrase “focus on the opportunity, not the technology” showing up in several Tweets as [...]

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