W-Systems joins SugarCRM! Read Blog

How a Software Firm Uses SugarCRM for Engineering

by Amanda Anderson on January 19, 2016

6 minute read

A common misconception with CRM is that it is just a sales tool to manage a pipeline of deals in various stages. While CRM does have that capability, we advise that you position CRM as the anchor for your entire business. The reason is, the CRM gives a 360-degree view of our customer and that is important to more than just sales. A thriving company understands its customers and uses the CRM to manage the customer journey. At W-Systems, we don’t just preach this to our customers, we live and breathe by it and our engineering department isn’t an exception to the rule. Our engineering team uses third-party tools to manage projects, servers, custom code, and track their time. We would be crazy to think a CRM could do it all. However, we have integrated critical components of these tools with our CRM to reduce any data silos that would prevent transparency of customer information to other departments.

Project and Case Management

Sugar has Projects and Cases modules built in for project management (PM), but there is a lack of collaboration and communication tools that purpose-built PM tools come pre-equipped with. A software firm needs a way to better collaborate on projects and keep customers aware of project statuses. To do this, we built an integration between Trello, a third-party PM tool, and Sugar. This integration allows us to use columns to organize to-do items (known as Cases in Sugar) under project status lists. Below is an example of Trello board for a customer project.


This not only provides the engineers with a tool built solely for project management, but also allows the firm to give its customers access to all of its notes, status, and tasks around the project. The integration is built to sync bi-directionally with Sugar so key pieces of information are always available to the rest of the company. They also use Sugar’s reporting module to track open cases, due dates, and our project queue since all of the Trello information rolls up to the CRM.


Time Management and Tracking

This organization's engineering department needs to track billable time for customer projects in a way that is efficient but still allows for a detailed worklog. Time tracking is critical to their business for several reasons.

  • Client Communication: It’s important to have a real-time view of the time worked on a project so that we can constantly monitor the schedule and budget. They also need to report to our customers how much time was spent on projects and what the time was used for.
  • Backlog Management: Knowing the percentage of completion in real-time for projects not only benefits customers, but it benefits this software firm's sales team. They are able to more accurately predict when we can start on a new customer project, which allows sales to communicate to customers when the project would start.

This organization used to have a custom time clock in our CRM, but they recently switched to Toggl, a third party cloud-application for tracking time, and integrated it with their Sugar instance. They sync the Toggl time entries with the Notes, Cases, and Projects modules in Sugar. From Toggl, our engineers can use the start and stop button to log time against any specific project or case. Each time they add time to the project, a note is created to indicate exactly what the time was used for.


All of this information syncs with Sugar so it’s accessible to their sales reps. They can also run detailed time reports in Sugar and send those to customers when needed.


Security and Server Management

This company manages development and production CRM instances for its customers using its own hosting platform. Before starting a CRM customization project, it is their practice to spin-up a development and testing environment for their customers. Once development and testing are complete, we roll the changes into their customers’ live Sugar instance, whether that is hosted Sugar OnDemand, on a customer’s server, or on their own hosting platform. They keep track of customers’ Sugar version, server information, and development environment in their CRM. It's two custom modules, Servers, and Instances are related to the Accounts module and store important server information and credentials for their customers. This information is encrypted in their CRM system and can only be accessed by team members with permission to access customer instances. Additionally, they often need to gather credentials from new customers so that we can access their Sugar system for training, support, or make a copy of their instance for development. They have a policy to not ask for or provide passwords over email because the mail client is not secure. Because of this, we built in a password sender/requester widget into their CRM to securely manage customer credentials. They can send a secure email to any Contact in Sugar which requests the credentials. This message is encrypted, then sent back to the organization. The message can only be viewed once by their team and then is deleted. Sort of like Snapchat, but a bit more secure and certainly less scandalous. Having this information in one place allows their engineers to find and access systems more efficiently. It also helps their training and support teams quickly gain access when something goes wrong or they are simply preparing for a training session.

This software firm relies on it's CRM system in every department and it is the core of its business. This is why they high user adoption, more complete data, and are able to use it to make critical business decisions about hiring, marketing strategy, and more. But more importantly, they truly believe they have happier customers because there is transparency between marketing, sales, and engineering through one system.