The pros, cons and the future of open source CRM software

You must have often heard of open source software, and most of the time wondered what it is? Today, I will tell you about “CRM Software” applications that are open source. Open source software is any software that you can get for free and modify yourself via the source code and can be used for your business.

As well, CRM Software is the acronym for Customer Relationship Management software and is used to store, track, and manage client information such as contacts, contact history and so much more.

An ideal open source CRM Software is one which can manage existing customers and also at the same time have space to facilitate new ones, track and launch campaigns for marketing, analyze needs and preferences, and can be accessed almost from anywhere with a computer and internet connection.

The Pros

  • The biggest advantage of open source CRM is that it’s free so you need not worry about replacement costs.
  • Most of the time, the value of a system is based on the adoption of its use by your employees (Open Source or commercial systems).  Commercial CRM software are usually quite rigid and can have a lot of complexity in their functions, whereas open source are fully flexible and you can modify everything to your heart’s desire. Therefore, making modifications to your employee requests is almost certainly possible using open source software.
  • We are living in an age where the technology keeps changing constantly and so do the customers to a business along with their needs.  To make small changes to commercially licensed software is difficult and often illegal, but to make a change in an open source software is not only easy, but also legal and free.  Open source software are also community supported, so support and help is generally very easy to find, (without a maintenance or support contract!).
  • Using open source software and allowing your employees to make custom changes provides great motivation to them, as this shows that you have faith in them and trust in their abilities.  Open source is a collaborative ventureand is geared towards teams.  A change/customization in commercial software does little to promote this level of engagement with your employees since less flexibility and control is available.
  • Another advantage of using open source CRM is that it usually has more features than any of the commercial CRMs.

The Cons

  • Open source CRMs, most of the time, lack aesthetics. I will not say downright ugly, but functionality is obviously more important than looks to these development communities.  Many of these are not very well designed and lack user-friendliness as well.
  • Open source CRMs like SugarCRM are built on PHP and if you are using software/development tools licensed/provided by Microsoft (ASP.net, etc.) then it can be really hard for your employees to adapt and be efficient in customizing in a new development language.  Most open source software applications are rebellious of the dictatorship by Microsoft and promote freely available software development tools and standards for their source code.
  • In general, you have to dig around a little to find training and answers to your questions.  There may or may not be instructors available and material provided through the development community.  Commercial applications generally have a much more structured training and support services (although you have to pay for them).

The Future

What does the future hold for open source CRM applications?  It is still a little blurry.   Open source is at the same time constantly trying to improve its functionalities and offer a better platform at no charge, but the developers seem to be losing interest due to less or no pay.  Many are profiting from this freely available software, but stability is important at the corporate level (uncertainty is not liked in any critical business application).

Is it sustainable in the medium or long-term?   If there is an active development community behind it, and stability is at the forefront, it is here to stay.  It is not in a position today to overtake the commercial CRM vendors, but it is a viable choice.

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