Experts believe that open systems could be a real alternative to proprietary applications and there are already many examples in use that are backing up this evaluation.

The recipe sounds simple: take advantage of an open source system, refine it with individual adjustments and thus receive a profound basis for efficient customer management, marketing, sales and service.

Almost any size of a project could be implemented with open source CRM - whether small, partial or business embracing solutions. The complete spectrum of relationship management can be represented thanks to flexible adaptability and as with all CRM projects, it is essential to be prepared and professionally accompany the planning, implementation and introduction. The result is a cost effective solution that can defy proprietary systems easily.

Benefits of open source systems

Open source systems can be used and disclosed by anyone. The essential point is that the source code is public and therefore changeable. Open source CRM promises free provider choice, flexibility for extensive customization of the software to business processes and expandability if required. Commercial open source solutions offer in addition to the basic functionality more application modules and regular updates.

Compared to proprietary software open source systems provide in general the following advantages:
  • Lower costs: non-commercial open source solutions are free while commercial open source solutions are generally much cheaper than proprietary software
  • Platform independence: the application can be used in very different system environments
  • Flexibility and scalability: by disclosing the source code, the application is adaptable and expandable to many users

Individual adaptation on the basis of standards

The main advantage is for sure that the software can be customized and extended individually. Thus, industry-, enterprise-, and user-specific requirements can be implemented into workable systems. A successful example of a commercial open source system in the CRM environment is from the company SugarCRM Inc., as their “Sugar Open Source" combines all advantages of a commercial software with the open source idea.

Thus, the basic package already includes a variety of functions such as:

  • Sales leads, contact and customer management
  • Campaign management and eNewsletter
  • Sales opportunities
  • Enquiries, activities and event management
  • Statistical reports
  • Integration of e-mails and connection of MS Office (Outlook, Word)
  • Completely browser based

Sugar Open Source supports the worldwide industry standards, "LAMP" (Linux, Apache, MS SQL, PHP) and “WIMP” (MS Windows, IIS, MS SQL, PHP) and interfaces such as "SOAP" (data exchange protocol for Web services). It thus offers a sophisticated basis for specific adjustments in the areas of sales management, marketing campaigns, collaboration, reporting and service.

But of course I don’t want to give credit only to the biggest player in the open source CRM arena here, I only exemplify the advantages of open source CRM with Sugar Open Source as an example. Take a look at David Hakala’s collection of the “Top 10 Open-Source CRM Solutions” which reveals that SugarCRM Inc is leading in this space, followed by SplendidCRM Software Inc., CentricCRM, Hipergate, Compiere Inc., Vtiger CRM, CntraView Inc., XRMS CRM, Cream CRM and Tustena CRM.

Most likely most of these names don’t ring a bell as compared to the huge CRM players like Oracle Corp., SAP, or Microsoft Dynamics, which are all covered in a way in this issue of Asian e-Marketing.

However, the open-source model is perhaps really the easiest way for new companies to enter the CRM market.  By the way, from a strategic point of view, the question of "open source or proprietary product" is secondary, as it is first more important to set the right course for a systematic relationship management. This includes the formulation of requirements, objectives, priorities, and milestones for an integrated master plan and in the case of open source, the analysis of patent-, ownership-, and publication issues. In doing so, the software solution is only a means to an end.

By Daniela La Marca