November 18th, 2009 by Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group
By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group
SugarCRM’s satirical send-up of Marc Benioff’s “Behind the Cloud” memoir, distributed today at’s Dreamforce conference’s Dreamforce conference has barely opened its doors and there’s already plenty of howling going on.

Yesterday, I reported that Microsoft had set up an ersatz truth squad for the event. Today, SugarCRM joined the act.

[Editors’ Note: According to SugarCRM representatives, 1,000 copies of a “book” were distributed at San Francisco’s Moscone Center in advance of this morning’s opening keynote by Cofounder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer Marc Benioff. The “book” is a send-up of Benioff’s recent Behind the Cloud memoir, excerpts of which appear in CRM‘s November 2009 issue about’s 10-year history.

Lisa Holden, a spokesperson for SugarCRM from Schwartz Communications, told CRM magazine that, as of noon Pacific Time today, a customer has already confirmed its switch to SugarCRM as a result of the company’s offer for “a free data migration for users through the end of the year.”]

After the jump, you’ll find the email I received, in its entirety — along with my commentary on SugarCRM’s move.

Hey Denis,

Marc Benioff has a few zingers for SugarCRM in his new book “Behind the Cloud”:

“We knew that we had truly emerged as the market leader in the eyes of the industry when we arrived at Dreamforce 2006 to find that a handful of employees from a small CRM company had set up a mock protest outside the convention center. I’m not really sure what they were protesting, and it was a small, low-budget, and poorly executed rip-off of the types of tactics we had invented, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that we knew not to get ruffled.” 
 – Page 65 of “Behind the Cloud”

We are sorry we disappointed Marc during our previous visit to Dreamforce. 

He even challenged us to “step up the innovation”:

“We did not want this company to get free PR on our coattails! Ignoring this escapade worked well. A blogger asked a Dreamforce attendee if she had seen what was going on outside when she arrived, and she replied that it must have been some kind of stunt. (Note: if you are going to compete with someone at his or her own game, always remember to step up the innovation.)” 
 – Page 65 of “Behind the Cloud” by Marc Benioff 

If you insist, Marc.

In continuing its long love affair with the industry’s most down-to-earth CEO and our commitment to staging “small, low-budget, and poorly executed rip-off [tactics]”, SugarCRM is currently distributing 1,000 copies of Behind the Smokescreen: The Untold Story of How Still Manages to Sell 1999 Technology 10 Years Later” at Dreamforce today. 

You can get your hard copy on the sidewalks outside Moscone (look for the people dressed as big books;).

Or you can read the eBook here:

With an endorsement from North Korean leader Kim Jong II (“A great guide for any entrepreneur, CEO, or Head of State looking to promote openness and freedom”), Behind the Smokescreen is a response to the magical marketing that has transformed the company’s service from .com ASP to On-Demand SaaS to Cloud Computing without being apple to run its service on Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, or other cloud services.

To celebrate the release of the book, SugarCRM is offering a free data migration for users through the end of the year. Registrants will have a chance to win a free Motorola Droid.

SugarCRM hopes that the publication of this book “step[s] up the innovation.”

[contact info redacted]

“There is a Japanese belief that business is temporal, whereas relationships are eternal. That’s true, One day you compete. The next day you partner. One day someone is your subordinate; the next day he or she may be your superior. At its finest, business is friendly competition, just like a game of tennis.” – Page 39 of “Behind the Cloud”

I don’t think the way to rise above a competitor is to quote him or her extensively as SugarCRM does here, but I acknowledge that some of this is just my New England roots showing. I recall some rather cheesy stunts by in the early days, outside various Siebel Systems user group meetings — giving out Krispy Kremes in Los Angeles or driving a little van emblazoned with the “No Software” logo around the streets of Cannes.

Seems like the whole industry was on pins and needles as Marc Benioff prepared to take the stage this morning. The competition is looking for a way to stem a tsunami and users want more, more, more.

A couple of years ago in New England we had a football team that had a perfect regular season (thanks, Giants!). During that run the Patriots were beating other teams by what almost looked like college basketball scores. Some people were alarmed about the Pats’ lack of sporting etiquette for some of the lopsided scoring but the discussion settled down when some sage person said — and I’m paraphrasing here — We’re professionals. If we don’t want the Patriots to score so much, it’s our job to stop them.

The same sentiment applies here: The competition saw this coming for the last decade and they all took their time reacting to the disruption that is SaaS and Cloud Computing.

If you want to stop, make a better product. Forget the cute book ideas and truth squads.

Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM market research firm and consultancy Beagle Research Group, has been writing about CRM since January 2000, and was the first analyst to specialize in on-demand computing. His 2004 white paper, “The New Garage,” laid out the blueprint for cloud computing. A CRM magazine columnist, he often guest-blogs with us at, but his own blog can be found here. (His Reality Check column on Marc Benioff appears in CRM‘s November 2009 special issue on He can be reached at, or on Twitter (@denispombriant).

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