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Two flights and 17 hours is a long way to go for a 3 day conference, but going to SugarCon in San Francisco to connect with other business leaders using SugarCRM and leaders in the industry is a great way to get insight into where SugarCRM and business technolgy trends are headed.

Being from Brisbane I thought that going to the US in the middle of Summer meant I wouldn’t need warm clothes. However, Mark Twain wasn’t joking when he said ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a Summer in San Francisco’

SugarCon goes for a 2 full days with the opportunity for some additional training. It’s for the whole SugarCRM community including clients, partners and industry experts.

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It’s been about 2 months since the event, and these are the things that still stand out as being important.

Conversational commerce is coming. This years keynote speaker was an Australian, Dr Catriona Wallace. Dr Wallace is a customer experience futurist, and she laid out a clear vision of what technology trends were going to be needed to meet client expectations for improved customer experiences in the years ahead.

Conversational Commerce – Dr Catriona Wallace from Darren Flood on Vimeo.

 Expanding eco-system of integrations. There are some really impressive products that extend Sugar’s capability and it’s a big part of Sugar’s value proposition to have this network. Seeing what’s possible with these range of technologies can provide a lot of inspiration when you start imagining what they could do in your business.

Travelling to the technology capital of the world and meeting and seeing an array of worldclass products that can further extend the value of your investment in Sugar is one of the many reasons you should try and get someone from your company to go to SugarCon.

Expanding on the convesational commerce theme. Sugar has a competition each year at the conference called theApp throw-down. It’s where the best 5 SugarCRM thrid-party apps do a presentation and the audience votes. 

It was good last year, but I admit to being a bit blown away by a couple of the demo’s this year and both have a conversational commerce / chatbot element to them. 

The video below is from the second place getter with a Slack integration. Slack is an Instant Messenging (IM) application that is very poplular. We use a similar product called HipChat at Evolution for inter-office communication. Instant messaging is a bit faster and friendlier than email for collaboration. Have a look at how you can ask your virtual assistant what’s going on in Sugar via Slack – very cool.

Slack for Sugar Integration from Epicom Corporation on Vimeo.

The winner of the App throw-down overall was for a Facebook Messenger integration to an omni-channel contact centre that was also integrated with Sugar. SO MUCH INTEGRATION!!! I’ll assume you have used Facebook Messenger before, but what you may not know is the Facebook are enabling and in fact encouraging businesses to integrate with it. In this video a customer contacts a restaurant via Messenger then has a series of phone, email and chat (that’s the omni-channel bit). It’s interesting to note that the Omni-channel contact centre platform that has this Messenger integration is completely cloud based too. It’s pretty amazing that you can spin up an integrated Contact Centre and integrated CRM platform in the cloud without having any hardware or being tied to any one location.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is coming. This was something Dr Wallace talked about and it also tied in with Sugar announcing that they would be including an AI assistant called Candace. Sugar, candy, Candace.. get it 🙂  – I don’t think this will be something we’ll see in the short term but it is something you should expect to be using in your business in the next 5 years. I’m going to predict that next years app-throw down winner will have an AI component. (let me know if you want to help build one)

As leading CRM analyst Brent Green tweeted at the conference ‘AI is like gravity, it’s inevitable’.

The Customer Journey continues. SugarCon 2015 was where I first learnt about Customer Journey Mapping, which is an excercise in looking at how a customer interacts with your business, from their point of view, across various touch points, starting at the earliest stages of the relationship where they are researching their buying decision, all the way to where they end up (hopefully) as a satisfied customer that recommends your business highly. 

The video below is by Dr Phil Winters and will explain the concept in some detail. The video goes for 48 mins.

Mapping the Customer Journey from Darren Flood on Vimeo.

Two things struck me when I returned to this years conference.

Firstly, one of the European partners had  run with the customer journey mapping concept & developed their own plug-in for Sugar. This plug-in aligns so closely to where SugarCRM is positioning themeselves they are now adopting it as an official product option. I’ve included some info below but expect to hear more from Sugar about this new feature.

Secondly, I went to a session where there was a presentation by an existing customer, Jaime Morillo of Marathon Sports. Marathon sports is like the Equadorian equivelant of Rebel Sports in Australia. Marthon have sponsored the national football team for over 100 years and are an institution themselves and have had some great success in unifying the instore and online experience for their customers.

Jaime left last years SugarCon and went back and applied what he learnt about customer journey mapping. He is using SugarCRM and Act-On Marketing Automation, two products we use and recommend. It’s an inspiring story of the success that he achieved.

This was my favourite presentation from the conference.

Marathon Sports kicks goals with SugarCRM and Act-On Marketing Automation from Darren Flood on Vimeo.

That’s a wrap on my SugarCon 2016 report.

SugarCon 2017 is September 25-28 in San Francisco again. If you have business transformation and technology fuelled innovation on your mind it’s worth discussing with your team about sending a representative. Be warned, you will need a jumper!

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