Should I use an Open Source CRM product?

By Jelani Harper
Updated: February 17, 2011

The answer to the question as to whether or not one should use an open source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) product depends on several factors. Companies must determine what their specific needs for a CRM are, as well as what their information technology team is capable of handling and how much they are willing to budget to this particular task.

By definition, the term open source means a product’s source code is revealed and is subject to as much manipulation as the user desires. This can be an extremely effective tool for companies with specific needs and integration concerns regarding their previous technological applications. Whereas vendor restricted on-demand CRM systems (which host the product and lease its software to companies for a monthly fee) often dictate the user’s interface choice and the on-premise counterpart typically restricts what type of server and operating system is required, open source CRM products allow virtually any possibility of combinations for their sales, marketing, accounting and customer management modules.

Evaluating Needs

Consequently, a company needs to thoroughly evaluate its IT capabilities before choosing an open source product. All of the installation, upgrades and configuration of the product and its modifications must be done independently, since there are no vendors to support these functions. An experienced and durable IT team is essential to the continued maintenance of the operation of an open source CRM, which may be supplemented (with varying degrees of success) by a large development community of like-minded users. Communal involvement can be effective in solving technical issues, but other users are not obligated to help—particularly in the allotted time frame a specific business requires.

Communal Solution

While the communal version of open source CRM products are typically free and downloaded from the internet, several open source CRM companies offer commercial products as well. These CRM solutions are often cheaper than standard on-demand and on-premise systems, although open source CRM products are offered in on-demand, on-premise, and a variety of other ways as well. Thorough research of a product and its functions is highly recommended before a user commits to one, as differing products come with varying formats and modules. Although modifications can usually be made, it is always worthwhile to see what a product comes with and how it measures against a company’s existing systems.

Final Caveat

There are no guarantees for code quality with communal open source CRM systems. Consequences may include system failure or decreased efficiency for any number of applications. But for the business owner who diligently researches his or her product, employs a savvy IT team and has a good idea of which features his system needs, an open source CRM solution can work just fine at a fraction of the cost of other CRM systems.

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