While open source CRM solutions have been around for many years, some businesses are hesitant to try them for a variety of reasons, including the perception that they are not as sophisticated or as reliable as traditional CRM solutions and/or do not provide support.
But as eCRMGuide.com found out from talking to Martin Schneider, the senior director of communications at SugarCRM, a leading provider of open source customer relationship management (CRM) software, today's open source CRM solutions are just as reliable and can provide more bang for the buck than traditional proprietary CRM applications.
So why should you consider open source CRM for your business? We found 10 good reasons.
Open Source CRM Benefits
- More bang for your CRM buck. Not counting the free open source solutions out there (including SugarCRM's Community Edition), commercial open source CRM solutions, such as SugarCRM's Enterprise edition still cost significantly less than, say, Salesforce.com's Enterprise edition -- $600 per user/per year vs. $1,500 per user/per year -- and offer similar features, functionality and support.
- Professional support. Commercial open source CRM solutions, just like commercial proprietary CRM solutions, offer users various levels of online and telephone support (depending on which edition and level of service you purchase). There are also plenty of online forums and message boards where you can find lots of free advice and help.
- Greater control and capability to customize. Because open source CRM solutions are based on open standards and the code is available to anyone, they are inherently more customizable than traditional proprietary CRM applications, meaning you can tweak the software to suit your specific business needs without having to pay a third-party consultant a small fortune.
- Easy to use. Many people who spend a lot of time on the Web find open source CRM solutions easier to use -- or more intuitive -- than older, non-Web-based CRM software, because they often have a familiar interface. So the learning curve is less steep and training time is minimal.
- Integrates well with other cloud-based applications. Most (if not all) commercial open source CRM solutions integrate with Microsoft Outlook and other leading applications.
- Easy to scale. Unlike with some proprietary solutions, scaling a commercial open source CRM software application is typically not a big deal nor prohibitively expensive. "If you are a technology vendor or provider of any kind that needs to scale to more than a couple hundred users, you need open source in this day and age to scale effectively," said SugarCRM's Schneider, especially if you operate in a cloud environment. "The cloud runs on open source, and allows you to scale to the nth degree without incurring considerable costs, because hardware is cheap now, storage is cheap, and the actual software infrastructure is free."
- Works on any platform. Open source CRM solutions, by their very nature, are platform- and application-agnostic, meaning you don't have to invest in new hardware or software to run them.
- Device agnostic. Open source CRM solutions can be accessed by a desktop, laptop or mobile device with an Internet connection. "That device independence is [extremely important] because it means businesses can run their CRM software in any environment without having to make an additional hardware investment, or limit their use of devices to one type of device," Schneider said.
- Greater mobility. While most (if not all) CRM applications these days will run on a mobile device, SugarCRM -- which is releasing its latest version, Sugar 6, this summer -- has made mobility a top priority. "Sugar's mobile app is available for free on your iPhone, on your BlackBerry, on your Android phone, on your Microsoft-running HTC smart phone, on any cell phone," said Schneider. Why does that matter? "Let's say you are a small business owner with eight salespeople. If salesperson A has an iPhone and salespeople B and C have BlackBerrys, a newer guy has an HTC phone, and two or three other guys have Motorola Android phones, [with open source CRM] they're getting the same application, the same functionality, accessing the same core database, it's going to get upgraded immediately at the same time via the cloud, and there's no maintenance done on their phones" he explained. That means business owners don't have to buy additional software or mobile middleware or pay for additional maintenance or services.
- Fast updates and fixes. Open source solution providers tend to be more nimble than large, proprietary software companies, with shorter development cycles. So bugs tend to be fixed and new features released faster -- and upgrades can be done over the Web, simultaneously, without any business disruption.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to Internet.com and runs a blog for and about small businesses.