Often CRM is looked upon as a viable tool for larger businesses and enterprises while SME’s and Start-ups often view it as a considerable investment. While CRM has proven its versatile potential for large enterprises in areas beyond sales, marketing and customer service requirements, it is yet to make its contribution felt among the start-ups and SME’s who currently rely largely on the ERP software. Open source CRM is a financially and technically viable solution compared to ERP for start-ups and small enterprises.
While ERP assists with maintaining essential business data and records, CRM can help in vital data management, analysis and predictive insights into key business areas like marketing, customer engagement, sales, vendor relationships, employees and talent management and training, thus contributing to the overall business growth.
Advantages of using Open Source Software
Open source CRM is a good solution for SMEs and start up’s to achieve business success at reduced expenses. With availability of the source codes and absence of a license fee, the open source CRM is virtually free and requires a minimal investment into hardware, customization and integration.
Despite being developed by community, the open source CRM software in recent years boasts of a rigorous inspection and quality assurance process. Nearly all new releases and stable versions are exposed to a battery of tests for software quality before being launched.
With the availability of a source code, open source CRM enables organizations to develop customized characteristics and integrate them into their applications. Further, integration with other open source software and tools is also facilitated so as to create an impactful technological framework that can drive business.
With simple license management without expiry date, a dedicated support community platform and discussion forums to share constant updates and identify and resolve software glitches and bugs, open source CRM offers simple user experience. Additionally, with free access to source codes, updated versions and easy customization/ integration options further add to the convenience of open source CRM
Prominent Open Source CRM in India
Founded in 2004, Sugar CRM has over 7,000 customers and more than half a million users worldwide. Easily one of the largest open sources CRM in the world, SugarCRM offers versatile functionalities including sales-force automation, marketing campaigns, customer support, collaboration, Mobile CRM, Social CRM and reporting. While SugarCRM has released no open source editions since early 2014, its earlier community versions continued to inspire other open source software, namely Suite CRM, Vtiger CRM and SarvCRM. (2)
Suite CRM is a popular fork of SugarCRM and was launched as the latest version of the SugarCRM in October 2013. In a short period of its existence, it has won several awards and has been adopted by reputed clientele, including the Govt. of UK’s National Health Scheme (NHS) program. Suite CRM is an enterprise-class open source alternative to proprietary alternatives and offers a series of extension for both free and paid-for enhancements. Prominent additional modules available with SuiteCRM include Teams security, Google Maps, Outlook Plugin, Products, Contracts, Invoices, PDF Templates, workflow, reporting and Responsive Theme. (3)
Requirements to leverage Open Source CRM
While open source CRM is freely available, it takes a lot of patience and a consistent trial and error approach to finally close in on the perfect open source CRM software with the right modules and extension. Often SME’s and Start-up’s give up on this exercise quite early on and end up with either an ill performing CRM software or no CRM at all.
With the long list of advantages, financial benefits and after a long trial and error process, whenopen source CRM software is finally adopted, there are still chances it may not be able to deliver the desired results. This could essentially be due to lack of commitment among the managerial level to implement the CRM. A strong will to make the on boarding process prompt and meaningful is the first step to create an equally committed workforce who is willing to learn and use the open source CRM to full potential.
While the need and advantages of open source CRM are quite evident, it takes more than the availability of resources and managerial commitment to optimally leverage open source CRM. An expert consultant can help transform the free open source CRM software into the most valuable business tool through insights into right integration and customization as well as extended application. In order to make a mark in the rapidly evolving business ecosystems, an open source CRM adopted with the guidance of an expert consultant can be vital to ensure the CRM technology is optimally utilized to drive growth.
Thus, with low cost of ownership, increased ROI, no licensing, convenient and intuitive interface, easy integration with third-party modules, secure access to CRM data, highly flexible and user-friendly modules, open source CRM is a strategic business enabler for SME’s and Start up’s, delivering value across verticals.
The author is CEO of Enjay IT Solutions. Views are personal.