First, what is open source CRM?
Open source means the code (all the stuff that makes software work) is openly available for users to modify and adapt. There are quite a few of caveats that go along with this, and you can read more about that here. But, for the sake of this article, it means the code is modifiable. While a vast majority of open source CRM systems are free, open source doesn't always necessarily mean free.
Let's first take a look at SugarCRM
Ah, SugarCRM. It used to be the creme de la creme of open source CRM. It had a community edition that was built from talented developers all over the world, and became a viable option to Salesforce. SugarCRM has an enterprise edition as well that was hosted by Sugar with some additional functionality, however the SugarCRM Community Edition was available as open source.
You could download and install it on your own server (needed an Apache setup, with the wiggly-bits of Linux, MySQL and PHP), however the process was uber-straightforward. Not exactly plug n' play, but those with a decent techie-hat could do it in 20 minutes or so.
What I love about SugarCRM: Number one is its flexibility. There are some CRMs that are built with some main use-cases in mind, but doesn't necessarily adapt for organizations that need a good amount of flexibility. SugarCRM's Studio Builder is really nifty. It has a drag n' drop interface to easily customize different screens, and amazing access control to provide access for some users, but constricting other users to a tailored view.
The reporting dashboards are also a huge plus. Every user can have a different view that's specifically built for him or her.
The development community for SugarCRM was also extremely large with several key components offered at no-cost.
Oh, and SugarCRM Community Edition is... err... was free.
Which brings me to:
What I don't love about SugarCRM: SugarCRM, like a dagger to my tender, wounded heart, stopped supporting its own Community Edition and reinforced its dedication to the paid, enterprise edition. This makes me weep. Why? Thousands of super-smart developers gave their time, money and energy devoted to an open source CRM project. Somewhat out of the blue, Sugar announced that it was no longer going to be around.
BUT... WAIT THERE'S MORE!
Another develop company bridged SugarCRM's Community Edition and is continuing to develop on it under another open source CRM project called SuiteCRM with a download here. It's great to see this project continue!
Let's take a look at VTiger.VTiger is another open source CRM application that's built from some code used in SugarCRM (I should mention, that SugarCRM *has* really provided tons of benefit to the open source world). VTiger's interface is simple, but it doesn't represent the user interface that today's 2015 users are beginning to be accustomed to (flat design, etc) so there are some basic UI improvements that can be made.
But anyways... let's move on. VTiger has really cool tools that make it easy for users to opt-in for certain marketing offers, and the information becomes populated into the CRM. Sure - this is a fairly common element of any CRM, but VTiger's experience makes it a breeze.
VTiger's project management feature is also well-developed and easy to use. In many systems, the CRM project management feature tends to be a bit overlooked or an afterthought. With VTiger, I feel like it's part of the forefront of their thinking (which I truly appreciate).
VTiger's development community doesn't seem to be as active as what Sugar's used to be, however I think if they can make some key user interface updates to make it more current, then this system would be really beneficial to those looking for a good CRM.
Now let's look at CRMery.Many people won't recognize CRMery (and for full disclosure, we have no connection with the company besides the fact that we kinda love it). CRMery is a component to be purchased and seamlessly connected in the Joomla CMS (content managment system) backend. The good thing is that it assumes the similar look and feel as the site itself since it's sharing the same design (the same global CSS files for the techie-nerds out there). So for user adoption, this is a huge win.
The design trumps the other CRMs on this list. It's clean, it's functional, and it's evident that the user experience was placed smack in the middle of the CRM design and development.
The learning curve is a breeze, and it's easy to customize fields for different forms or other calls-to-action.
One of the biggest cons of CRMery is the new-ness of it all. From what I gather, it's developed and supported by a small shop (I've chatted with the lead developer, and he's awesome) so there's always a risk of implementing a CRM that may eventually not be developed or supported any longer. I really hope to see this CRM grow, as it has a ton of promise.
So there's 3 different open source CRMs. We're looking to do a comparison on some others. Are there any CRMs that you would like to see us compare? Any thoughts about the systems reviewed above? Please let us know in the comments below.
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