The Sugar 5 train keeps rolling with 5.1

sugarcrmdevelopers —  June 24, 2008 — Leave a comment

This is my first post in the Sugar Developer Blog, so first a quick introduction. My name is Manoj Jayadevan and I run product management here at SugarCRM. My team works with the community, customers and development team to plan and prioritize the SugarCRM product roadmap. I’ve been with Sugar for over three years now and am really excited to have helped bring you Sugar 5.

Sugar 5.0 has been in the wild for almost 7 months now and you are probably curious what the Sugar team has been cooking up in the meantime. Well, the wait is almost coming to an end. Sugar 5.1 is expected to be released by the end of July 2008 and will have many functional and platform enhancements that the developer community has been waiting for.

The key focus of 5.0 was to make the Sugar platform easier to extend, customize and maintain. We have big plans for SugarCRM. But to create and build advanced features, the foremost requirement is to have a solid and modern platform. Hence in 5.0, we focused all our energies to build the most modern business application platform on the planet. Now that we have a solid platform, it is time to add the bells and whistles to the application.

The functional enhancements in 5.1 are focused around cross-module reporting, import enhancements, tracking system usage, completing the new email client, and taking Studio and Module Builder to the next level. The platform level changes in Sugar 5.1 are very minimal and are primarily focused around our on-demand platform.

Building new features is good, but fixing existing bugs is even better. One of the key drivers for 5.1 is quality improvement. We are addressing over 800 bugs found just in 5.0. These issues are prioritized based on all the feedback from the community and commercial customers. Special quality improvement emphasis has been placed on the Email module and the upgrade process. We are also diligently fixing Sugar 5.0 issues through 5.0 patch releases. In all, we will fix more than 1400 bugs in 5.1 before we ship the GA version next month. Sugar 5.1 will quickly prove to be a very stable application platform.

Now let’s talk features. CRM systems are great at capturing diverse information from customer interactions. This data is no good until aggregated and presented in a meaningful and readable fashion. The Sugar 5.1 reporting engine available in Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise is designed to do exactly that. The design philosophy for the 5.1 reporting engine is to provide an easy-to-use yet powerful report builder for end users to generate complex reports. Our goal is not to build yet another general purpose analytics tool, but to provide 90% of CRM reporting use cases using a cross-module report builder. Key enhancements include an AJAX based wizard driven UI, the new matrix report type, tools to create complex filters, support for inner and outer joins, dynamic run-time filters and more.

More reporting improvements ………The Tracker we know today is the small bread crumb bar at the top of every screen that shows the navigation path of the user in the application. But Tracker has more depth to it than what initially meets the eye. In Sugar 5.1, Tracker will be able to capture information like session history, user activities, resource usage etc. Some of the sample reports that can be generated include: who is online, who are my top employees by CRM usage, what modules are used the most. These reports will provide key performance indicators to users and managers for better insight to manage the adoption of SugarCRM within their business. These reports are available only in Sugar Professional and Sugar Enterprise but the tracker engine is available in Sugar CE version as well.

Even more reporting improvements ………To provide additional tools for reporting, we have built a new plug-in for Excel. Why reinvent the wheel when Excel can crunch the numbers for you? This new plug-in installs into Office 2007 and Office 2003 and allows users to move and update data between SugarCRM and Excel without any extra export/import steps. Users can also search for information like reports and accounts from within Excel and transfer the data once the source is located in the CRM system. The Sugar Plug-In for Excel is available in the Professional Edition and Enterprise Editions and is included in Sugar Network for Sugar Community Edition users.

Reporting on data is good…..But how do we get data into the application? ….For that we revamped the import tool in Sugar 5.1. The new tool is completely redesigned and special attention is provided to make imports fast and scalable. The redesign and most of the coding comes from Sugar Community legend, Ken Brill, who has joined the Sugar team and now enjoys spending his time working with Sugar customers. We have observed tremendous improvements in the speed and amount of data that can be imported. Our design goal is to attain an import rate of 10,000 records per minute or more. There is also support for more intuitive duplicate checking, error logging and recovery.

Now let’s talk about our beloved Module Builder and Studio. With Sugar 5.0, we introduced Module Builder. This tool is a huge success. This is evident from the proliferation of modules on the SugarForge and SugarExchange. We are furthering the Module Builder in 5.1 by adding much demanded features like one-to-many, many-to-many and one-to-one relationships. Also, Module Builder and Studio will now support a history and rollback feature for bullet-proofing the development process. Last, but not the least, Studio will now support creating and editing of Sugar Dashlets.

Everyone is going wireless. What about Sugar? Our strategy for Sugar Wireless is to use the new powerful and modern browsers in the latest PDA’s to provide users with a rich client experience. We have re-launched Sugar Wireless with many additional features. This is a rewrite of our first generation client and is based on the new MVC framework for UI generation introduced in Sugar 5.0. The key modules like Accounts, Opportunities, Cases, Employees and Activities are exposed through this browser-based Web application designed for small PDA screens. Our long term goal is to make all the modules available in Sugar Wireless that is creatable by Module Builder and editable by Studio. Imagine this – Any module created by Module Builder or edited by Studio will be magically exposed and through Wireless client.

Email and CRM systems? Why do you need an email client in a CRM system? The simple answer is: to keep the sales folks in the CRM system and streamline CRM adoption and productivity. We built an HTML AJAX client in 5.0 with reasonable success. The community provided tons of feedback. The most common feedback was to fix bugs. So we listened. Substantial investment is made in 5.1 to fix email bugs and also to improve the usability and performance. That said, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight our philosophy in building the email client in 5.0. Our goal is to provide a nice clean and simple way to manage email in CRM. We do not intend to build a MS Outlook-like client in the application. We will be adding a few more simple use cases in the near future, but will not build a full-fledged email client.

So as you can see, there are many reasons to move to Sugar 5.1. We will be adding more features and platform enhancements in the future. And all these new features will be built on the Sugar 5 platform. Hence it’s a great idea to migrate and adopt the Sugar 5 platform and leverage all the great work Sugar developers and community members have done.

Thanks and happy coding.

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