One of the main benefits to using the open source OpenERP software is that while a full suite of business applications are offered, you can choose only the specific modules your business needs to get started. This makes using OpenERP less complicated from the get-go, and you can add in additional modules later.
· Recommended Reading: Learn more about OpenERP Modules and versions in "What is OpenERP? Open Source ERP Software Explained."
Setting up the OpenERP Online CRM Module
To get started with OpenERP Online (the hosted solution), companies first register for an online account and a free 30-day trial is activated upon registration. After creating your account, you will need to go through the initial process of providing your business information and choosing a custom URL to access your OpenERP.
A configuration Wizard will guide you through the initial set-up process, making recommendations. When starting with OpenERP Online, all business application modules are available, but you can use a simplified version with fewer features and configure only specific applications from the get-go and add more features later by clicking the 'Reconfigure' button in the admin dashboard.
Available modules include customer relationship management (CRM), project management, warehouse management, invoicing, purchase management, sales management, knowledge management, manufacturing, accounting & finance and human resources. You can also choose to install industry-specific applications for associations, food industry or auction houses.
The difference between this version of Open ERP and the Community or Enterprise versions is that online includes additional services such as hosting, database management, stable security update, backups, maintenance, bug fixing and migrations.
What's in the CRM Business Application?
The OpenERP CRM module is easy to navigate. Your dashboard provides immediate access to three main functions: customers, meetings and Reconfigure (to change your OpenERP modules and features). The two dashboards from the simplified installation include Sales and Administration (this is where you manage your CRM users and details).
In CRM systems, the 'Customer' is any entity you do business with: including companies, organizations and individuals. The data you can file on a customer is pretty much standard fanfare as far as a CRM system goes. You provide the data and then use the history tab in the CRM to follow all transactions related to the customer (such as sales order, emails, opportunities, claims, and so on). You can opt to separate "customers" from "suppliers" in the CRM when adding contacts.
OpenERP CRM provides an email gateway that is compatible with Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird so you can register emails to each contact so that the gateway will automatically attach incoming emails to the right customer in the CRM.
The Sales dashboard offers pretty standard CRM reports for Open Opportunities, Meetings, Planned revenues and Win/Loss ratio. You can choose a number of dashboard display options including graph, calendar, Gantt or diagram.
The basic OpenERP Customer Relationship Management system provides the right amount of tools to efficiently manage leads, opportunities, customers and key business tasks such as communication, prioritization, and notifications.
Some handy features for any business include notification and trigger actions that can be customized according to your own business rules, and there is plenty of integration with popular email and calendar applications. Additional features, such as website integration for lead-generating forms, is also available.
The OpenERP web client is easy to navigate with priority actions and dashboards – you're never more than a single click away from your main admin tab.
The Benefits to Commercial Open Source CRM
The main benefit to using an open source business application is that the fully-featured software can typically be customized to fit any business model and budget, and such is the case with OpenERP.
Small businesses with fewer users and a smaller budget can look at the Community (free) versions and go it alone for support, and larger corporations and enterprises can invest in Enterprise (on-premises) or Online (hosted) versions for costs that rival proprietary solutions.
In the end, one of the main benefits to the OpenERP open source business applications suite is that you can start small by choosing only a module or two and freely add more at no extra costs later on. That and the fact you can develop your own customized modules or take advantage of the development community's add-on module contributions.
OpenERP Online Pricing
Pricing for OpenERP Online (all stock modules) is $49 (€39) per month per user. You are billed on a monthly basis based on the number of registered users in the system, and when you add new users they will only be charged with the next invoice. The storage volume allowed is 1GB. If you use more, the charge is $6.50 (€5) per extra GB.