Due to its flexibility and its low entry cost, open-source CRM has become an attractive and exciting option for many.
Since any interested individual can join, and modify the software, there are a number of advantages and drawbacks to the model.
Gartner Analyst Laurie Wurster has reported on the growing trend: “Open- source enterprise applications, including CRM, are beginning to show up on IT’s radar screen. According to a recent open source survey by CIO, 45 percent of the 328 IT leaders queried use desktop applications such as OpenOffice.org and 29 percent use open-source enterprise applications.”
First, it is free or low cost.
Most of the open-source applications are available at low or no cost at all. While you may require additional support for a paid fee, the basic code is available to you for nothing at all. This means that providing you have the time, talent and the capacity you can save a good deal on licensing.
Second, no licensing commitment.
This means that you are no longer paying for a system that may not fully meet your needs. Since there is no time limit involved in open-source CRM, you can use it for as long as you need and then cancel with no penalty. The fact that it is fully customizable means that you can build and rebuild to make the source code into exactly what you need. That way if you know exactly what you are looking for and have the talent to make the changes, open CRM may provide you flexible solution without vendor lock-in.
Open-source CRM is not always the perfect solution, and there can be some disadvantages.
These disadvantages include limited support, and fewer functions. It is also likely to be time prohibitive for you and your team. Open-source software requires a good amount of tinkering and change in order to be customized and effective. To that end you will need a talented development team in order to fully tailor an open-source resolution that meets your needs.
Can Open-Course CRM Compete?
We have examined the pros and cons of open-source CRM systems. Now, let’s see if it can compete with the big players.
Some say open-source CRM may have the most significant benefit for start-ups and smaller businesses. This is because smaller companies have well defined expectations for software. Others say that without the support and features offered by commercial applications, small businesses may struggle to innovate with open-source. For larger firms with more technical skills and manpower it may provide the opportunity to innovate beyond what was previously imagined. For these firms open-source can encourage innovation.
Gartner Analyst Wendy Close thinks smaller companies may struggle: “What’s interesting is you can now find free lead tracking, contact, account and task management, executive dashboards, and customer services applications. The challenge is most small and midsized businesses don’t have the resources to take on an open source CRM project.”
Make no mistake, open-source CRM requires a significant time commitment, technical talent and energy to get the quality that your business is looking for. Do not underestimate the need for internal acumen. While it is becoming more attractive to many businesses, open-source CRM still does not offer the features or depth of more competitive commercial applications. With the number of upgrades required today, open-source is rarely as functionally rich and may actually take far more time to get up and running.
In the end, it may be worth considering the possibilities that come with open-source CRM, but make sure that you have what it takes to make any potential cost savings worthwhile.
Michael is the Lead Author & Editor of CRMSimplified Blog. Michael established the CRM blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to CRM.