Should You Choose Open Source CRM?

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It can be hard to choose a new CRM solution.

It’s both time-consuming and challenging – and it’s a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, if you choose the wrong solution, you might end up being stuck with a costly system that doesn’t evolve at the same pace as your organisation. 

Here at YourShortlist, we want to make software selection less daunting for our clients. That’s why our IT experts are here to make the choice a little bit easier for you. In this guide, we will focus especially on small businesses and how they can benefit from open source CRM solutions. 

We have previously written about enterprise CRM, if that’s more up your alley. 

The First Steps Towards a CRM

So, you might be on the market for a CRM because your current solution can no longer keep up with your business growth. Or, perhaps, this is the first time you are acquiring a CRM, and you are a little hesitant about dipping your toes into unchartered waters. After all, it can be a very expensive process – you don’t want to make the wrong move. 

Luckily, you don’t need to break the budget in order to acquire a good CRM. There are plenty of low-cost, open source solutions on the market, many of which can offer the same features as the more expensive premium tools. 

Are you ready to take the guesswork out of your processes, and take advantage of the smooth automation, the searchable database, and the many analytics tools that a solid CRM has to offer?

What is Open Source? 

In a nutshell, we can say that an open source software is distributed under a licensing agreement which permits the code – or the blueprint, if you like – to be freely shared and edited. 

Anyone who knows how can modify the open source software free of charge. This means that you can use the code of an open source system to build your own fully customized and bespoke system. In other words, you can freely edit the blueprint to fit the exact specifications of your business. 

This is great for those organisations looking to re-purpose the great extensions developed by the open source community – without having to purchase the expensive and restrictive licenses from the big CRM vendors. 

The downside is, of course, that your business must have an in-house developer in order to configure the CRM. It doesn’t matter how customizable an open source system is, if you don’t have the in-house resources that can actually perform the customization. This means that you must yourself consider whether you have the right resources available to configure the system, and if this really is the best option for your business. 

If you’re on a limited budget and lack the resources to customize an open source system, then a free CRM solution might be the best option for you. These free systems are often referred to as “freemium” solutions, as they come equipped with only a limited set of capabilities.

 If you need to unlock more advanced features, you will need to upgrade to a more expensive plan. 

However, it’s worth noting that a free solution can often be the best option for a small business going through growth. Perhaps you’re growing quickly, and you’re not entirely sure how your business will look like in 2 years? Or even 5 years? Then having a free solution that covers your basic needs will be a good option right now – and it will allow you to upgrade to a more comprehensive system at a later point. 

3 Best Open Source CRM Solutions of 2019

We want you to find the best CRM system for your organisation. Below, we have gathered up three open source CRMs that all rank high in both features, price and usability.

  • SuiteCRM

This is arguably one of the most popular open source systems on the market, and they can boast of having  more than 4 million customers worldwide. Like most open source solutions, SuiteCRM is highly customizable and can be tweaked to fit the needs of most industries. It can be installed as an on-premise solution, or be accessed as a cloud-based service.

Features include:

  • Lead management
  • Lead generation
  • Lead scoring
  • Contact management
  • Pipeline management
  • Detailed reporting
  • Pricing strategy control

The system runs on both Windows, Mac, Solaris and Linux, and most web browsers.

  • Odoo CRM

This is another solid open source CRM, and it can bring plenty of advantages to your business. The system comes with several business modules – from ERP to POS, from sales to manufacturing – and all the modules are interconnected and easily integrate with each other. Features include:

  • Forecasting
  • Detailed reporting
  • Contact management
  • Scheduling automation
  • Email templates
  • Lead scoring
  • Live chat

The CRM runs on most Windows, Linux and Mac systems, and is compatible with most web browsers. 

  • Vtiger

Vtiger is an open source CRM that can be accessed as either a cloud-based or an on-premise solution. It includes features such as

  • Quotes
  • Billing
  • Project Management
  • Third-party integrations
  • Meeting scheduling
  • Opportunity management

The CRM starter plan costs $10 per user per month. This plan will also include profile scoring, pipeline management, and marketing automation features. 

Despite being a solid solution with plenty of features, we recommend that this is only considered by small companies. If you have previous experience with CRM, or you are a larger company, you will most likely find the solution a bit limiting. 

Is Open Source Right for You?

We have now taken a brief look at a few of the most popular open source CRM software on the market. But before you commit, you should carefully consider whether you’re actually making the best choice for your organisation. 

How will you know what’s right for you? 

Well, first of all, you must consider your current situation. If you’re a small business with a relatively limited amount of growth ahead, a free CRM might be the best solution for you right now. However, if you’re representing a larger organisation that is expecting substantial growth in the near future, you shouldn’t completely disregard all paid solutions immediately. 

It’s essential that you receive all the functionality and flexibility you require from a software. By choosing only free solutions, you might end up losing the very functionality that you will need in order to scale your business later on. This can end up being a costly mistake

If you feel that going down the free software route is right for your current situation, there are still a few things you must consider before making your decision:

  • You should create a complete list of your essential business needs. Then eliminate all software products that don’t offer features to cover these requirements. 
  • A free solution can still cost you money, that’s why you need to ensure that it will be worth it. After compiling a shortlist of candidates, you should compare their total cost of ownership. You can do this by looking into the costs of implementation, hiring of IT staff, necessary training and other relevant costs. 
  • As you might imagine, the success of an open source CRM relies on your in-house resources. Will your IT staff actually be capable of configuring and making the necessary changes to the CRM? Or will you need to hire third-party vendors whenever something goes wrong. 

It’s essential that you’re mindful about your solution as early in the process as possible. This will make both the selection and implementation process much simpler.