As we approach the ten year anniversary of SalesAgility as an open source consultancy focused on CRM, I want to reflect on the our past and our future.
SalesAgility started life as a one person company in 2006. From the get-go we were focused on open source CRM. Our platform of choice was SugarCRM Community Edition. Like many startups, passion rather than abundant cash was what sustained us. We grew slowly but surely. We generated a regular cash stream from a series of extensions to SugarCRM that we developed, sold and published as open source and engaged globally as a centre of excellence for innovation on the core Community Edition. We worked with large companies and small ones. It’s fair to say that we had rather more of the latter than we did of the former. Regardless, we kept the lights on. We were active and vocal members of the fantastic community that SugarCRM attracted. By 2013 we were an eight person company.
In October 2013, in a blog post on the company website, SugarCRM announced that they were done with open source. They had come to the conclusion that their future was in proprietary software.
This was poorly received by the community in general. It generated much heat, little light and one important consequence – the launch of SuiteCRM as a fork of Community Edition.
Since launching SuiteCRM, we’ve grown to a thirty person company and are still growing rapidly. We have managed to attract and retain a great team of software engineers, architects and consultants. We are engaged in multi-year projects with large corporate companies and NGO’s. The revenue from these projects funds the ongoing development of SuiteCRM. The community surrounding SuiteCRM is growing rapidly and this is source of great pleasure.
SuiteCRM has benefited from 17 releases, some are major and some bug fix. We’ve settled into a quarterly release cycle with functional improvements each quarter and bug fix releases in the interim. We have a full-time team dedicated to SuiteCRM and we’re now beginning to get substantial code contributions from some of the large project customers that we’re engaged with.
We have no external investors but we are cashflow positive, profitable, stable and carry healthy reserves of cash.
That’s ten years, from the past to the present, in six paragraphs. Now, what about the future?
Before we get into any detail, the elephant in the room needs to be ushered out. Since SugarCRM abandoned open source, there’s been a bad smell and some of that odour has lingered over the SuiteCRM project. A question we have heard a number of times is “are SuiteCRM going to do what SugarCRM did?”
The answer is an emphatic “No”. We’re an open source company, we have always been an open source company and we believe passionately that done correctly, that open source is a better way to develop and maintain software. It’s also a better deal for users. Not just in cost terms but also in terms of the “freedoms” associated with open source. So, let’s get that out into a single, unequivocal sentence:
SuiteCRM is and always will be open source and every line of code published by the project will be open source.
Here’s our ten point plan for SuiteCRM:
|1.||We’ll be launching support plans that deliver enterprise-grade support services to organisations that depend on SuiteCRM for day to day operations. This will deliver recurring revenue to the project and add more stability to our cashflows.|
|2.||We’ll be launching a greatly enhanced On:Demand service enabling users to spin up and administer instances of SuiteCRM anywhere on the planet. If you’re in the USA, spin it up on a US server, likewise if you’re in India. Data protection in local jurisdictions is becoming ever more important and we see a need to enable users to align with local requirements. This too will deliver recurring revenue to the project and add more stability to our cashflows.|
|3.||We are driving towards SuiteCRM 8 which we aim to release in mid-2017. This is a radical re-imagining of CRM. I’m not able to give any great detail yet but what I can say is that our commitment to upgrades between versions is unchanged.|
|4.||We’re going to move towards a Long Term Release (LTR) strategy. We expect to have an LTR product every 2 years. What this means is that older versions will go out of project support and will no longer be upgraded or bug fixes issued. They’ll still be there for the community to innovate on.|
|5.||We’re going to appoint a Community Manager. This is a core strategic step for us. The job of the Community Manager is a vital one in an open source project and will help us engage with, assist and galvanise the fantastic community that surrounds the SuiteCRM project.|
|6.||We intend to professionalise our partner network. If SuiteCRM is to succeed, it needs a global network of high calibre partners who possess the knowledge and the processes to deliver consistent success stories to users of SuiteCRM. This will deliver recurring revenue to the project and add more stability to our cashflows.|
|7.||We’ll improve user and developer documentation. We’ve already made great strides. But we know we can make it even better.|
|8.||We’ll be releasing extended functionality in the areas of scalability, search, analytics, webchat and surveys. By “extended functionality” we mean that we’ll integrate with some of the other fantastic open source products that deliver those services. They won’t be in the core of SuiteCRM. If you want web chat so your customer service agents can communicate directly with customers and have the chat recorded in CRM we’re going to make it easy for you.|
|9.||We are going to increase our focus on stability. At some point in time, in the near future, this will mean major releases will have less innovation but hundreds of bug fixes. This is necessary for the drive to the Long Term Release strategy.|
|10.||We aim to make SuiteCRM the best, most used and most-loved CRM on the planet. It is and always will be open source. We’ll keep taking Salesforce, Microsoft, SAP and Oracle on head-to-head and we’ll beat them time and time again. We don’t really come across SugarCRM in the market these days. We suspect that they might become the Mambo of CRM (look it up) and who remembers them?|
We hope to see you on the journey with us.