Customer relationship management (CRM) is a set of tools designed to assist businesses in handling their customers with the distinct purpose of increasing sales. Open source software is software that has been built in collaboration by groups of people to create a product that sometimes provides free licenses. The major difference between open source software and commercially developed software is access to the source code.
The primary benefits of open source CRM is that programmers or developers have access to modify and further develop the software to meet their needs and demands. This is ideal for smaller businesses in theory, but the cost of specific development can be high. As such, it is often less expensive to get a commercially developed tool. That being said, having a CRM solution is typically better than not.
While open source CRM has been shied away from by firms due to fears that the quality, security or reliability of the product is less than that of commercially developed CRM, these issues have been addressed and rectified. Specifically with open source CRM, developers have designed the programs with these qualities in mind. While many open source CRM products are not free, most are available for a significantly lesser price than commercial software mainly due to the differences in how licensing works on the product.
If a company is considering investing in an open source CRM solution, they must first ask themselves several questions, such as:
Is the tool easy to use?
Does it have a mobile application?
Does it have the features we need?
Is it designed with the user in mind?
Does it have long-term application?
What are the drawbacks and negatives?
What are the positives?
These questions need to be answered before purchasing any CRM solution. With open source CRM, it is important to look objectively at the product. A useful exercise to do when making a decision is to create a list of features that you feel a CRM product should have. With this list in mind, you can begin looking at available CRM tools to determine if an open source solution meets enough of the features that you require to be useful in your business.
The last thing to consider with open source CRM is long-term survivability and assistance. By having someone with coding knowledge examine the code and language that the program is written in, you can determine if the program will be useful for years to come. There are many coding languages that are becoming obsolete and it is important that the software you purchase is not developed in those languages. Additionally, assistance with installation or maintenance may be an issue where someone with coding experience can help greatly. Having someone within your organization with the ability and understanding to fix the CRM program if you run into problems is highly beneficial. If you don't have an individual like this, then an open source CRM may not be the right solution for your company.
Overall, companies should consider open source CRM when deciding on a solution to meet their business needs. Open source CRM can provide options that are affordable for small or entrepreneurial businesses, while also meeting and even exceeding their demands.