Open Source CRM Solutions – Are They Worth It?

Open Source CRM Solutions is another form of CRM –Customer Relationship Management – software applications are available two ways: through proprietary code packages, or “open source” downloads. The open source concept is fairly simple: the code is available online, and can be modified by the end user, putting control in the hands of the users, rather than the initial developers. Also, it’s usually less costly than the traditional proprietary code models.

Small business owners especially may want to give open source version of this applications a good look, as the cost to obtain and use the software is much lower than the proprietary packages. Typically, the free versions support a limited number of users, and to obtain support for additional employees, businesses have to pay to upgrade. Of the many open source CRM vendors, SugarCRM, which claims more than 800 paying customers and more than 3 million downloads to date, is the most well-known, but other vendors, including Centric CRM, Compiere, and OpenCRX, do exist.

In addition to low cost, proponents of open source version of this application and gives the ability to tailor the program to the needs of the particular business. Computer-savvy business owners can make modifications that truly make the program their own. However, with too many modifications, and with vendors that haven’t got a proven track record yet, support for the software may become an issue. Thus, a market of third-party “support vendors” has sprung up to meet the growing demand for assistance with open source CRM backup support.

For a small business owner, trying to figure out whether an open source software application will be more or less beneficial than a proprietary code package for the particular business can be frustrating. So, here are some things to consider.

First, features – open source CRM applications typically have just about any feature you could want; but who wants features that won’t be used? You might want to go with a smaller, more narrowly-tailored package, having just the features you need.

Second, flexibility – open source CRM applications, as noted, are easy to modify; but what if you’re not terribly technically savvy, and can’t afford to hire someone who is? Proprietary software packages already exist to fit virtually every business type and any need that you might have – it’s just a matter of finding the one you want.

Third, software updates – open source software applications are normally easy to update, and updates are typically available rather more quickly than updates for proprietary software packages, which tend to wait until the next official version release. However, open source CRM updates may not have been fully tested prior to release, and can be for extremely minor issues that may make the number and frequency of updates both confusing and annoying.

Fourth, support for technical issues – open source CRM applications have a broad base of customer support and online discussion forums where information about technical issues is freely disseminated. But if you need someone to hold your hand or fix an issue quickly, discussion forums probably won’t help you. You may not be able to find a support vendor in your area that’s truly knowledgeable about your particular issues, or who won’t charge a fortune to correct your problems.

Finally, cost – hands down, open source CRM applications beat proprietary software packages on initial cost. However, as noted, support costs may be higher, depending on the availability of reasonably-priced and knowledgeable support vendors in your area.


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