K/Callinize Open Asterisk Connector is the June 2012 SugarCRM App of the Month. Open source asterisk integration with click to dial, inbound call popups, transfer support, multiple call support, etc. Unobtrusive GChat inspired UI makes saving call notes as easy as sending a chat. Works entirely in browser. Visit the SugarForge project and check out the latest Callinize for mobile right here on SugarOutfitters.

Name, title and brief bio?

Blake Robertson is the CTO and Co-Founder of Alertus Technologies. As Alertus' strategic leader, he is responsible for all product, design, and manufacturing decisions. Blake was initially the principal inventor responsible for much of the hardware design and programming behind the Alertus System, Alert Beacon, and Alertus Desktop. Blake holds a bachelor's in Computer Engineering from the University of Maryland.

When you designed and built this app, what problems were you looking to solve for SugarCRM users?

I just saw so many great opportunities for automation (read productivity) when you have a tight integration between CRM & PBX. No more dialing numbers, calls could be logged automatically and properly related to appropriate contact/account, make call logging as easy as sending a gchat, etc.

I thought these features would also provide a compelling reason for everyone in the organization to log in to sugarcrm more frequently which would lead to other side benefits such as:

  • More contacts get added to the system because it's easier to "click-to-dial" then typing in the phone number plus when that contact calls us next time they show up on the inbound call popups & caller id. Everyone appreciates knowing who is calling before they answer the phone.
  • By making it as easy to save call notes as it is to send a chat message, people actually take call notes! This drastically improves collaboration and provides a completer history.
  • The support guy may create a knowledge-base article that he wouldn't have before because he didn't want to bother opening/logging in first.

What inspired you to build this app?

Honestly, frustration... My company, Alertus Technologies, is a SugarCRM customer so it wasn't my intention to get intimately involved in developing a PBX integration.

But, after evaluating all the other available asterisk solutions including the commercial ones (circa Nov 2010), none of them met our basic needs. They either didn't work in newer versions of Sugar, didn't support having multiple browser tabs open, or didn't have features like call notification or ability to leave call notes once you hung up the phone. When I learned Sebastian Tieland was working on making the open source Kinamu/Abcona solution work in Sugar 6 through the forums... I was "inspired" to get involved.

What attracted you to being a part of the Sugar ecosystem?

My company used to use one of SugarCRM's competitors. When I found out they wanted to charge something like $12,000/year just so we could have API access to OUR OWN data. I began looking for a more developer friendly CRM solution.

What other apps have you been involved with in the Sugar ecosystem?

I am the author of "email-to-sugar" which allows users to archive email from any any client by BCC'ing their companies crm mailbox. It's much like the Sugar Email Archiver service that came out in a recent release.

What has been the most rewarding part of being a part of the Sugar ecosystem?

Been a couple for me...

  1. Contributing back to the open source community just feels great.
  2. Participating in the App Throwdown at SugarCon was a unique and exciting experience.
  3. Getting "forked" on github and receiving pull requests were firsts for me.

How has Sugar's open ecosystem and vast community made building this app?

If it weren't for the community model, this app wouldn't exist. This project is the culmination of MANY people's efforts. I'm just the newest kid on the block.

The history of this project is pretty interesting. A company named Starface wrote a SugarCRM plugin for their proprietary PBX System and released it with a GPL license. Kinamu & Abcona came along and adapted the plugin to work with the open source PBX system Asterisk but at that time it only worked in Sugar v5.x. Then, Sebastian Tieland came along and made some improvements to make it work in Sugar 6. I then got involved and redid the user interface for call popups and added some bells and whistles like call transfer, open cnam integration, multiple call support, etc.

The project is now up on github at http://www.github.com/blak3r/yaai. We'd love some additional help! There is a project TODO page which is a good starting point and lists specific tasks and questions that experience developers could probably just answer on the spot without getting too involved.

What do you want to build next for Sugar?

Hard to say. I've been meaning to get our order fulfillment database completely integrated with Sugar. I'd also like to improve upon the features of the Knowledgebase module.

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