Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SugarCRM project of the month

What I coincidence. We just announced the Funambol Forge and one of the best Forge out there (SugarForge by SugarCRM) announces one of "our" projects as project of the month.

It is the Funambol-SugarCRM Connector by Phil Shotton. Phil is a great guy and he deserves this recognition. He put together two cool projects (sorry if you feel I am not modest, but SugarCRM is a really cool project :-)) And I feel mobilizing a sales force automation product is quite a need, which is just going to get more important with time.

Let me steal the Q&A from the SugarForge (hoping John won't sue me ;-)
Why are you a leading contributor in the SugarCRM community? What are the benefits that you experience from your involvement?
I started using the original Sync4j connector to fill a business need, and started contributing to its development. Then I was asked if I wanted to take over project lead. I felt it was my opportunity to give something back to the community. Being involved gives me an opportunity to do something of wide value, teaches me about the value (and difficulties) of community-based development and puts me closer to the end user than is normally achievable when writing software.

What inspired you to create this project?
Business need - I didn't want to have to maintain multiple calendars and contact lists, and I didn't want to be tied to Microsoft products so I was looking for an adaptable synchronization solution. I am grateful to the original developers who started the work on the connector which fulfilled most of these needs, and the great thing about open source is that if the solution isn't quite perfect you can go in and fix it. After doing some bug-fixes and improvements I was asked if I could take over the project and I've been working on it ever since. There's still a lot of features I'd like to add!

What business pain points were you solving specifically?
Managing multiple calendar and contact lists across multiple people, working on disparate sites and wanting to share information. I started my own company with some colleagues and we wanted to be able to share information across applications and platforms. We run Linux and Microsoft Windows so the solution had to work for both platforms.

Is there anything that the users should know about those? Something hidden/new in this project? Think of this as an opportunity to describe how it works to a user.
Synchronisation sounds simple but is quite complicated, particularly against a multi-user system like SugarCRM. I'm continually working on improving the synchronisation process, making it faster, more flexible and more error-proof. I'm also trying to minimise the install pain while still supporting more versions of SugarCRM. The hardest problem is testing, as there are a large number of potential use cases and also a number of platforms and versions of both SugarCRM and Funambol. I'd like to build some more automated tests to try and avoid bad releases going onto SugarForge.

What would you say to encourage additional community participation?
The more you contribute, the more you get back. It's a sort of selfish altruism. If you want some capability or feature, you are more likely to get what you want if you play an active part in its development. Even if you're not a programmer you can contribute ideas, suggestions, be willing to test and so on. The more you do the better the software will get, and the more you (and the rest of the community) will benefit.

What do you want to build next for Sugar Suite?
As a full time software consultant I don't get a huge amount of time to spend on Sugar, and there's lots of things I'd like to improve with the connector, such as Task list sync, email sync, more flexibility in selecting and filtering, and so on. I'd also like to work on building a really good duplicate detector for contacts and calendar, with fuzzy match logic and merge, to clean up all those duplicates that slowly accumulate and clutter up the system.
Thanks Phil, keep up with the great work!