Why SugarCRM acquired AI specialist Node

In acquiring Node, the CX outfit saw an opportunity to seamlessly integrate artificial intelligence into its platform and complete marketing attribution

SugarCRM recently acquired artificial intelligence (AI) outfit, Node, which leverages CRM and external data sources to deliver improved predictability across businesses. The acquisition fuels Sugar’s time-aware CX platform by forecasting expected outcomes and highlighting previously unforeseen challenges and opportunities.  

SugarCRM CEO, Craig Charlton, explained to CMO the Node acquisition is like the missing piece of the puzzle. “Of our four key pillars, one of them is becoming a time-aware customer experience platform,” Charlton said.

“It’s creating a platform where you can roll back history and pick up anomalies and correlations and predictions. But then you could also roll forward and actually predict, to give a customer experience equivalent of a crystal ball,” he continued.

The business was working on this two-way intelligence process when the came across Node and with this acquisition skip forward two or three years’ worth of work and have a new solution that fits seamlessly into the SugarCRM platform.

Through AI, SugarCRM will be able to look at data which companies hadn’t even thought to gather and spot patterns that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see. It can then build highly detailed ‘high definition’ pictures of customers to deliver HDCX.

SugarCRM knows forging valuable insights from their data is a perennial issue for companies, yet deep learning models are limited by the quality and quantity of input data, which is often inaccurate or incomplete. Charlton said Node’s deep learning models identify signals with up to 81 per cent greater accuracy than heuristic-based approaches to deliver two key benefits - predictability and performance.

"With this acquisition, we’re turning our attention from being generic to being absolutely focused on success cases for SugarCRM customers so they can get an even more heightened level of accuracy once they get really intimate with understanding the SugarCRM back-end and logic,” Charlton explained.

Scenarios that the SugarCRM with Node can be put to work on include a shopping list of some of the most critical elements in responsive customer service. It includes identifying customers most likely to churn, giving precious runway to remediate and engage with customers in the most strategic way possible; predicting the likelihood of conversion from lead scoring models; insight-driven forecasting; seamless recommendations for add-on products during the right phase of the customer journey; marketing attribution on spend and activity; improving customer engagement models through predictive case routing and contextual data in real time.

“For marketers, much improved accuracy in lead scoring and identifying segments and customer profiles, looking at things like early-stage trending and scoring, and ultimately we want to get to full-blown marketing attribution. We believe we can do all of this through the Node acquisition,” Charlton said.

“Marketing attribution is an enormous challenge. It’s something marketers are always getting queried on by executives. And we’ve been working on those use cases and we believe we can now deliver on that far easier with Node. Again, it comes back to that performance and predictability.”

While Charlton believed tapping AI gives SugarCRM a crucial point of difference from the competition, and by taking the marketing automation data from the CRM together with the external repository of curated data, enables the deep learning models to achieve a high degree of accuracy. And with that, it’s about democratising the power of AI.

“Whereas most AI projects are big, complex, massive technical engagements where you're bolting together a whole variety of different products, we want to embed this technology directly into SugarCRM for the benefit of all of our customers. So it's not a big spend, they don't have massive technical teams at their disposal and they don't need to have really big budgets. We’re making this available to all our customers,” he said.

Looking at the Covid business landscape of 2020, Charlton told CMO it’s been something of a wake-up call for those dragging the chain on their digital transformation plans. The company is seeing a lot of a lot of interest from organisations looking at their entire CX strategy and figuring out, in order for them to be very successful, or in some cases how they can survive, how they need to improve.

“They really have to up the ante in terms of customer experience,” he said.

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