Halfway through the first day of SugarCRM's SugarCon conference, the company announced a new iteration of its platform, Sugar 7.6.

Features that seem have impressed the crowd (hat tip to Jeremy Cox, Mitch Lieberman and Brent Leary among many others) include the customer journey mapping and advanced workflow.

Company vs. Customer

Without a doubt the customer journey product is a big announcement – for SugarCRM that is, Denis Pombriant, principal of Beagle Research, told CMSWire from the conference floor.(Translation: Users may have a different perspective.)

"SugarCRM have demonstrated competent solutions for advanced workflow and journey mapping," Pombriant said. "However they have not moved the ball ahead of what other vendors have done in this respect."

Indeed Pombriant hits on a larger point that many in the CRM industry do not like to dwell upon:CRM applications are almost always tailored with the company's needs in mind -- and not the company's customers. The conventional argument -- and it does have merit -- is that by addressing the sales, service and marketing needs of the company, the company will then be better able to service the customer.

So what to make of a customer mapping tool that shows how a customer relationship is unfolding, but from the vendor's perspective? A case can be made, as Pombriant does, that these are two separate journeys and both need to be charted.

When asked which vendors have nailed the customer-mapping journey, Pombriant pointed to Salesforce.com, Oracle and Marketo.

This is not to say SugarCRM's approach warrants dismissal.

Customers and analysts at the show are clearly engaging in a hearty dialogue about customer mapping in general, and SugarCRM's approach in particular.

About Sugar 7.6

At the same time, the flagship announcement, the debut of Sugar 7.6, is drawing accolades from the crowd.


Learning Opportunities

The application has enhanced three key areas, the workflow processes, custom mobile user experiences and usability for customer-facing employees, such as the aforementioned enhanced role-based views.

Quickly, these new features offer the following. The advanced workflow includes a visual designer, enhanced time-based alerts, escalations and approval workflows, support for parallel workflow and a business rules builder.

Their presence, embedded directly in the application, mean customers can automate such business processes like case routing and escalation, contract approval, customer and employee onboarding, and payment workflow and escalation.

Changes to Sugar 7.6 also allow users to customize their mobile dashboard and dashlets and engage in social collaboration through the activity stream. Other features let them see their favorite charts on mobile devices and create personalized dashboards.

Besides enhancing the role-based views, Sugar 7.6 also has added enhanced D&B data services integration into the Sugar UX intelligence panel, giving users more data to better understand every individual with whom they interact.

"Business transformation takes place when well-informed individuals act in concert to deliver great customer experiences," said Larry Augustin, SugarCRM CEO.

"Sugar 7.6 elegantly addresses both of these challenges. We deliver customer insight at a glance to users wherever they are, and with advanced workflow, we choreograph complex interactions so customers feel well-known, and well-served."