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Open Source CRM Review

Open Source CRM Review | Compare Business Products Š 2014

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Contents What is Open Source CRM? ................................................................................................ 3 Advantages and Disadvantages .......................................................................................... 3 Open Source CRM Options ................................................................................................. 5 Other Possible Open Source CRM Options ....................................................................... 10 References ........................................................................................................................ 12

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What is Open Source CRM? With major CRM systems sometimes seeming to be out of reach of some businesses, many organizations are turning to open source software to fulfill their CRM system needs. Open source is a term that applies when the original source code of the software is available and can be changed or redistributed. This means that the code is publicly accessible to be changed by any developer. Organizations that provide open source software are generally collaborative with a community of developers, and there is much discussion and debate on how the system can be improved and the best ways to do things. This can lead to certain developers gaining an excellent reputation for their abilities in the development community and improvements based on business needs.

Advantages and Disadvantages There is a widespread misunderstanding about open source software that needs to be put straight before progressing with a review of good open source CRM systems. Open source does not mean free. A basic version of open source software may be available for free, but it is a mistake to assume that because software is open source it will automatically be free, or even cheap. This is not necessarily the case. Open source is not Developers can sell the software that they create. synonymous with Additionally because systems that are open source often change quite quickly, there can be a tendency free. This is a to use a costing structure based on software that is widespread free of charge but support that is not.

misunderstanding‌ That is not to say that there are not advantages of using open source software. There are some very good reasons for doing so. Despite the comments about open source software not being free, one of the main reasons that customers usually opt for it is cost savings. IT staff can also customize software that already exists rather than creating a new system from scratch, and can mold it to their needs. Any developer with the ability to do so can improve and adapt the code, and there are communities to assist with how this can be

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achieved in the best way. Open source software is often considered to be a dynamic and flexible option for that reason. It can also add processes and structure to what organizations are doing for CRM in an ad-hoc manner before they get a system, since many systems offer workflow options. These types of systems can be engaging for the end-users who may assist with figuring out how the system can best be utilized to meet business needs for their functions. Other advantages include a reduced issue of license fees and license compliance administration. However, there are also drawbacks of an open source system, and they may not be for all organizations. One potential issue is that IT staff may need assistance at the outset to be able to support the system. This could be expensive if nobody in-house has the desired skill set. Additionally, with little guidance, users may be Open source allows bewildered at what they can and cannot do with the organizations to system, given the number of different iterations available of the product. Costs can quickly mount take an existing when organizations start adding customization, design and adapt it administration and support, and these should be realistically weighed up in any business case before for their needs‌ commencing with an open source solution. Another potential problem is that because much of the system development depends on the community, if a developer that is working on a project critical to an organization’s needs moves on, then entire projects can be lost. This can set back open source projects considerably in terms of both time and budget. Finally, while there is a collaborative, supportive and helpful spirit in most open source development communities, in the end no one in the community is obligated to assist if the organization has a problem. This can leave an organization with a critical system bug and no way to easily fix it, without potentially paying for expensive CRM system support help from the organization that developed the CRM at the outset. Nonetheless, for many organizations the benefits of open source CRM software considerably outweighs the drawbacks. Following are reviews of some of the best open source CRM software systems that are widely considered to be the best that are on the market at the present time.

Open Source CRM Review | Compare Business Products Š 2014

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Open Source CRM Options Reviewed

Perhaps the best known open source CRM software is Sugar CRM, which was established in 2004. This software is one of the most widely used open source CRM systems. As of 2009, the system is thought to have had more than 3 million downloads, indicating its popularity, and more recently figures were placed at around 7 million. SugarCRM claims its software is actually used by 1.5 million people worldwide. The company has considerable gravitas in the CRM industry and has been funded to the level of $26 million by venture financing, demonstrating the faith that investors have in this organization. Major well-known companies such as Starbucks Corp and First Federal Bank are known to use Sugar CRM in their operations, which is unusual, since many open source CRM systems are favored by small and medium sized businesses rather than by multinational giants. Another indicator of its success, SugarCRM is not only a competitor in the open source CRM market but also in the broader market place, due its excellent functionality. SugarCRM has a community edition which is often ranked the highest among open source CRM systems. It has extensive functionality to help businesses organize their relationships with clients and customers. The home page can be personalized. There are project management functions as well as campaigns, bug tracking and leads. Social media has become a fairly recent theme for Sugar CRM, and the system provides the option to create connections to social media channels. This is particularly important for those companies that want to focus on social media, and who have a higher emphasis on this channel due to the nature of their business. It also allows mobile support. Most people find SugarCRM user friendly meaning that time is not wasted on getting

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employees trained up to use it. It is easily understandable and logical to use. There are plug-ins available for download. Sales can be tracked and sales force automation is possible. Reporting is of a high standard, and client service may also be tracked. In terms of technology, the system is built on PHP and MySQL. The solution can be offered either on premise or hosted, depending on the needs of the business. Sugar CRM has many plug-ins and add-ons, including an Outlook plug-in, and it is also possible to customize fields as needed. It has good compatibility with Microsoft, which is particularly useful for many businesses. As indicated already, SugarCRM is the open source CRM choice of enterprise business. While not initially built for this market, the wide scope and abilities of the system make it a good option to support such businesses if they wish to take an open source route. Support of the system is considered by many to be continually improving, and the SugarCRM community is also engaged and involved in the ongoing development of the software. Indeed, there are an estimated 22,000 developers of SugarCRM. While the system has no licensing fees, customization costs can add up, and support can add costs also. Pricing varies from $35 per user per month for Sugar Professional to $150 per user per month for “Sugar Ultimate�. With the latter, the organization gets 24x7 support and a technical account manager, among many other benefits. More information is available at: http://www.sugarcrm.com.

Based out of India, VTiger is another popular open source CRM system, and this is not least due to the fact that it is simple and easy to use. The software has a high level of focus on sales force automation, customer support and service, and also marketing automation. Various types of tracking are included, such as the tracking of emails, meetings and tasks. In fact, VTiger offers a lot of different kinds of functionality, making it a versatile choice. Sharing of calendars and activities is a useful feature. Some activities such as lead management can be automated. It also has the added benefit of allowing

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users to create and customize catalogs and price lists, among others. VTiger is particularly known for its ability to utilize inventory, and its processing of sales orders. The basic product is described by VTiger as being “fully functional” with the ability to use add-ons as desired, depending on business need. This is VTiger is another particularly useful for small and medium sized businesses that may not have a large budget to popular open spend on CRM, but that want to get started with source CRM system improving customer relationship management, and handling it in a more structured manner. There is an and this is partly opportunity for scaling up the system later on. One because it is so easy way in which this can be achieved is starting out with a cloud version of the system, but then migrating to to use… an in-house system later on if so desired. Email integration is possible off-the-shelf and it is possible to tie the system together with Outlook and Office, as well as Thunderbird. VTiger pricing depends on the options selected. VTiger CRM on demand can run as low as $12 per user per month, which provides 5GB of storage for the organization, phone, email and chat as well as backups. Sales and marketing options are included with the organization receiving 10,000 email marketing mails free per month. The system has the expected lead management, calendar and workflow options. On the technical side, this system has been developed with PHP and MySQL. It is built on LAMP/WAMP architecture. There are helpful plug-ins so that it can work with a variety of different business tools such as Outlook, Office and Firefox, among others. Helpfully, the organization will assist with the migration of data from other systems such as Salesforce or SugarCRM, if desired by the company. More information can be found at: www.vtiger.com.

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CiviCRM is CRM with a difference. Instead of focusing on all types of organizations, CiviCRM has gone for targeting the very large niche of customer relationship management for the civic sector, non-profits and charity organizations. It includes functionality that other CRM systems do not, that is specifically needed and valued by civic sector organizations, through its web based system. As of 2009 there had been 210,000 downloads of this software. Reflecting the different market that it is targeting, CiviCRM calls itself a Constituent Relationship Management software rather than “Customer� Relationship Management. The goal of the software is fundamentally to help organizations to be able to build relationships with constituents, which it believes is not based solely on collecting information alone, but also on nurturing relationships to maintain support. Of specific use in the civic sector, the system has developed functionality to handle the carrying out of fundraising and the tracking of contributions by constituents. CiviCRM is considered to be easy to use and user friendly. This has made it a popular choice for many organizations of all sizes and in all locations. There are a number of features that can be customized. Of particular interest as well as the fundraising it offers event management functionality, which his again a feature desired in customer relationship management in the civic sector. In terms of cost, the system has been designed for those that have a tight budget, and the application that is accessible via the Internet is available for free. While the system is free, the organization itself is eager to point out that actually there are costs involved for the business with customization since companies need administrators to take care of the system. Of particular importance, while the system is continually being developed and enhanced by the open source community, it is possible to use the software already provided off the shelf, according to CiviCRM. Alternatively it is also possible to customize the system for specific organizational needs. Feedback on the system and user needs helps to develop user requirements for the system.

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More information about CiviCRM can be accessed at: www.civicrm.org.

SplendidCRM was founded in 2003, and the organization reportedly aims to compete with industry giant SugarCRM, as well as to offer an alternative to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Its energy is focused on companies that use Microsoft servers, and it is a Microsoft Certified Partner. It is considered to be highly customizable, and it is available both on-site or as a web-based product. There is an additional option of “on demand”, allowing organizations that use SplendidCRM to save money. As is typical, the system offers a similar functionality set to other open source CRM systems on the market, such as a wide range of sales functionalities, marketing (including email marketing), support such as bug tracking, project management and call center and a variety of different reporting options. There are mobile apps for the main platforms available, and the system integrates well across a range of different browsers. Social media options are included for organizations that wish to use these too. There is an Outlook plug-in for email convenience. Recent additions to the system for all platforms include the ability to send and receive text messages in real time, enhanced integration with Twitter, with functionality possible to send Tweets from the CRM system. It is possible to “undelete items that were previously deleted and improved functionality for meetings and reminders has been set up, including popups and email reminders for calls and meetings. The enterprise system

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has synchronization with Google Apps, surveys, enhanced reporting, and PayTrace, a payment processing platform. Prices vary and mostly depend on the number of users. The organization is eager to point out that its prices are considerably lower than SugarCRM across all of the different levels of functionality that are available. Regarding technology, the SplendidCRM system has been built on the Microsoft platform, using Windows, SQL Server, ISS, C# and ASP. More information can be found at: http://www.splendidcrm.com

Other Possible Open Source CRM Options Open Source Option

Description

Compiere

This is a long established competitor in the CRM market and was founded in 1999. It is considered by some to be a solid option for the mid-sized business, and is reported to have been downloaded 1.8 million times. It offers on site or hosted options. There are a variety of different system versions. It is worth mentioning that first and foremost, Compiere is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system with a CRM component within it. This makes it a good option for companies that are thinking of starting with ERP at the same time as CRM, but not such a good choice for those that already have a long and well established ERP system who do not want to change. The system works with JDBC and Oracle databases, and it was developed in Java, JavaScript and PL/SQL.

Hipergate

This system is built based on the use of CRM by enterprise organizations. It includes a variety of different functionalities that might be expected of all CRM systems, including contact management, tracking of bugs, e-shopping, project management

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and more. It also offers security based on different roles and for different reports. X2CRM

This system is renowned for placing a solid focus on areas such as assisting speed of sales activities as well as emphasizing marketing workflows. Reviewers state that it is easy to use and contained while being a powerful tool that works well with mobile.

Open CRX

One of the commonly cited benefits of OpenCRX is that it is cheap. The payment that needs to be made for customization is considered to be lower than for other open source CRM systems. It is also easily understandable, so no expensive employee training is needed, and users can quickly get up and running with this system. It includes attributes like messaging and business management. This system was developed in Java and it has APIs that allow it to be used with other applications like third party applications.

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References Chris (n.d.) “The Top 10 Open Source CRM Systems”, CRM Search, accessed 01/05/14: http://www.crmsearch.com/top-10-open-source-crm-systems.php CRM Software 360 (n.d.) “Top 5 Open Source CRM Software Applications” CRM Software 360, accessed 01/05/14: http://www.crmsoftware360.com/crmopensource.htm Floyd, S. (2013) “Top 9 Open Source CRM Systems”, AXZM, accessed 01/05/13: http://www.axzm.com/top-crm-systems Gedda, R. (2010) “Five open source CRM systems to watch”, CIO, accessed 01/03/14: http://www.cio.com.au/article/333705/5_open_source_crm_systems_watch/ Hakala, D. (2009) “The Top 10 Open Source CRM Solutions,” Inside CRM, accessed 01/03/14: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/insidecrm/the-top-10-opensource-crm-solutions53507 Ji, B. (2013) “Best Free Open Source CRM”, Innovsystems, accessed 01/03/14: http://blog.innovsystems.com/php/best-free-open-source-crm McCafferty, D. (2013) “Five Pros and Five Cons of Open Source Software,” CIO Insight, accessed 01/07/14: http://www.cioinsight.com/it-strategy/linux-opensource/slideshows/five-pros-and-five-cons-of-open-source-software Open Source (n.d.) “What is Open Source?” Open Source, accessed 01/07/14: http://opensource.com/resources/what-open-source Whiting, R. (2008) “How Open Source Apps Got Popular in the SMB Space”, CM.com, accessed 01/07/14: http://www.crn.com/news/applications-os/210200190/how-opensource-apps-got-popular-in-the-smb-space.htm

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Open source crm review