Like so many open source software companies, SugarCRM seems to be talking more about business growth and partner momentum, and less about open source technologies. The latest example: SugarCRM's Q3 billings rose 69 percent vs. Q3 2010. Moreover, SugarCRM recruited 38 new partners during Q3, raising its worldwide partner engagements to 343 companies. Impressive. Here's how SugarCRM has been evolving to deliver that type of growth.

First, The VAR Guy needs to be clear: SguarCRM certainly isn't abandoning open source. The company continues to promote its open source community and open source values. And CEO Larry Augustin has carefully described his views on open source.

Free Is Good, Paid Is Better

SugarCRM's business efforts include closer working relationships with cloud services providers (CSPs) and SaaS providers that host SugarCRM. Plus, SugarCRM continues to work closely with VARs and IT consulting firms that deploy SugarCRM on-premise.

When it comes to dollars-and-cents business conversations, SugarCRM is positioning itself as the world's fastest-growing CRM company -- a clear jab at potential rivals like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and other industry giants.

Elevator Pitch

Moreover, SugarmCRM's current boilerplate description in press releases doesn't mention open source at all. Instead it states:
SugarCRM makes CRM Simple. As the world's fastest growing customer relationship management (CRM) company, SugarCRM applications have been downloaded more than ten million times and currently serve over 850,000 end users in 192 countries. Over 7,000 customers have chosen SugarCRM's On-Site and Cloud Computing services over proprietary alternatives. SugarCRM has been recognized for its customer success and product innovation by CRM Magazine, InfoWorld, Customer Interaction Solutions and Intelligent Enterprise.
Now, rewind to November 2009, when Larry Augustin was first named full-time CEO. At the time, SugarCRM's boilerplate stated:
SugarCRM is the world's leading provider of commercial open source customer relationship management (CRM) software. Founded as an open source project in 2004, SugarCRM applications have been downloaded over five million times and currently serve over 500,000 users in 75 languages. Over 5,000 customers have chosen SugarCRM's On-Site and Cloud Computing services over lock-in based, proprietary alternatives. In the last year, SugarCRM has been recognized for its customer success and product innovation by CRM Magazine, InfoWorld, Customer Interaction Solutions and Intelligent Enterprise.
Anybody else see a major transformation in how SugarCRM describes itself to partners, customers and the media?

Familiar Trend

SugarCRM isn't the only company that has downplayed open source during business conversations. GroundWork Open Source, which makes network monitoring software, increasingly describes itself as GroundWork or GWOS -- without bringing up the open source conversation.

Again, no need to flame The VAR Guy: Our resident blogger understands the value of open source. But it sounds like open source companies are trying a new tactic to driving business conversations. They're now leading the conversation by describing their own business value -- rather than lumping themselves in with the open source movement.