Sometimes a name carries a stigma with it. In the case of open-source software development — a paradigm in which the software’s original source code is freely available and can be redistributed and modified — images of hobbyists writing code from their garages might spring to mind.
Over the years, open-source projects proved their worth. Efforts such as Mozilla’s Firefox web browser proved what a shared project owned by no single party could be capable of. Many of your favorite websites are powered by Apache’s web server software. Premium electronics routinely ship with notices about the open-source software they contain.
Now, in late 2018, a number of open-source customer relationship management software efforts have begun to bear fruit, the companies and the developers behind them choosing the best code and features contributed by their developer communities to bring new CRM tools to market. Projects such as SugarCRM, Vtiger and SplendidCRM are giving businesses less expensive options for keeping track of and qualifying their sales leads.
Businesses that use CRM software can store all kinds of information about their customers. Think of it like an address book on steroids. In addition to basic contact information, information about your relationship, including how often you’ve contacted them, and what sorts of products and services they may be interested in, can be stored in a CRM. That lets businesses make smarter sales calls and send more relevant marketing messages.
Companies have sprung up around open-source CRM solutions by offering services for the project, including managing and selling services around the CRM in the cloud. That makes rolling out a CRM easier for businesses that don’t have the resources to deploy it on their own. Businesses can compare the offerings of services built around open-source software to other proprietary solutions and determine what works best for them.
In addition to quick, nimble development, cloud architectures and readily available tools such as Google’s resources have also helped open-source CRM companies. “You can really take advantage of the fact that innovation is happening faster,” said Sreenivas Kanumuru, CEO of Vtiger (www.vtiger.com), an open-source CRM firm established in 2004. “The same is true with the consumer cloud and the enterprise cloud, so when you’re using it, you don’t know that Google has updated some email software and some new feature has rolled out and all that is happening without any involvement from you. We are able to deploy updates every week, every month, and new features are getting rolled out without any distraction or any work from the customer’s side.“
Along with these resources, Kanumuru pointed out that open-source CRM development allows Vtiger to use a consolidated product to get sales, marketing, and customer service personnel working together under the same umbrella. “With Vtiger, our approach has to provide one product and bring in sales, marketing, and customer service into the one product,” said Kanumuru. “Whereas, if you look at Zoho or Salesforce, Salesforce has a sales cloud and a service cloud and then there’s some other cloud, a marketing cloud, and all that. Your customer record is there in the sales cloud and your customer record is in the marketing cloud and it repeats. As with Vtiger, it’s just one product, if you want to use it for sales, we just turn on the sales features, we can turn on sales and marketing if you want to use it for both features, if you want to use it for all three wings of the customer teams, you can use all three, you just use one customer record and everything gets linked to that.”
Not all CRM solutions are the same, but many businesses may find that an open-source CRM meets their needs.