[IMGCAP(1)]So you may ask, "What's with all the SugarCRM" coverage? Well, it was SugarCon this week in NYC, and while they weren't the only thing that happened this week, the company is making its way into accounting firms and a lot of the newer partners that sell them have extensive accounting and ERP product reseller backgrounds. But, let's take a look at the week that was before we have our dose of Sugar.

KPMG made some news that didn't involve lawsuits or auditor resignations as it formed a new alliance to assist clients with savings plans. It probably didn't distract from the bigger news, but it sounds like a great service given that businesses and individuals are still strugging with making the most of their money. In this case, they are hoping that their partnership with cloud-based spend optimization product maker Coupa Software will help.

Upstate NY CPAs Freed Maxick are also expanding their consulting services, as they are now offering something retailers of all sizes need: PCI data security compliance assessment. Come on, if you are a retailer accepting credit cards you have to be complaint with PCI Data Security Standards. A great service offering with lots of upside potential, provided you have staff that are, or are willing to become, a Qualified Security Assessor. The firm has 'em, and should do well.

In product news, there seems to be some excitement over the fact that free cloud accounting software maker Wave now has a receipt scanning tool, as well it should. Look, any vendor in the accounting or expense management space -- particularly those in the cloud -- kind of needs to have the ability to take a quality picture of a receipt and can transfer the captured data from that receipt and transfer into the system. It just makes too much sense. In fact there's a major credit card company that is going to offer this feature starting next week. I'll have that news for you, but in the meantime Wave's edge here is, well, like Wave itself -- it's free.

So, onto Sugar. As I mentioned, this week its annual SugarCon user and partner event was in New York (at the Waldorf Astoria, in fact) and nearly 1,000 attendees showed up to hear about where the company and its products were going. The keynote was much like any other, lots of cheerleading and backslapping, and for a still-growing company it's what you'd expect.  Some of the highlights of CEO Larry Augustin's speech were when he noted that, "People today don’t follow the buying path that vendors used to lay out for them." He also said that "60 percent of the customers we engage do not have a commercial CRM system," and "Customers want to be treated as an individual, not a demographic." I think these are some useful insights for other vendors to pay attention to. Maybe not so much those who don't offer CRM, but the rest who are finding that customers are changing their buying habits and expect a different approach.

The biggest news of the day for Sugar was the unveiling of Sugar 7, which won't be generally available until June but did have some noteworthy bells and whistles. For one, it will have a sort of mini-dashboard on the right size of the device you are using that will give you update information in the client or customer that you are referencing. It will also have integrated social streams, which will look and feel like you are in Twitter or Facebook but instead it will be others working in the system that you can communicate with directly. There was also some talk about the high speed of the product, which when live demoed looked pretty fast on the HTML 5 platform but I wasn't able to gather exactly how much faster it was than Version 6.

As I mentioned earlier, one of my main interests in Sugar is that more accounting and ERP VARs are taking them on or at least kicking the tires to see if it's something their clients could actually use. The integration to most accounting and ERP systems seems to be growing and, lets face it, the reality of true front and back office integration happening has been limited at best so if Sugar can deliver, I see them popping up in even more VAR product rosters. In fact, Sage and Intacct partner Faye Business Systems Group has started a program that will allow other Sugar VARs who may not already carry accounting and ERP products to take advantage of the integrations and customizations that Faye offers. It's all about partnerships at the end of the day, who is doing something better or different than you do that can help you? Even though you may technically compete, at the end of the day you need to survive and thrive as a business and that's not happening alone anymore.


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