If you’re in the market for a CRM application, you’re probably wondering if you should go with an open source solution like SugarCRM instead of a standard vendor offering, such as Salesforce.com.
Unfortunately, trying to determine open source’s benefits and drawbacks vs. vendors’ proprietary solutions can lead to a seemingly endless amount of head scratching. To help you in your software search, we’ve boiled down the pros and cons of open source CRM applications to seven key issues. By studying this list, you should have a better idea of which software approach will be the better fit for your business.
Pro: Open source CRM products embrace just about every possible type of CRM feature, since users in a wide range of business sectors contribute to the development ecosphere.
Con: Who needs a bunch of functions that will never be used? You may be better off with a trim and focused commercial product that offers the capabilities you’ll routinely use rather than a piece of “bloatware” that’s loaded with an array of unnecessary and potentially confusing capabilities.
Pro: Open source software is easy to customize, since the source code is freely available to developers (unlike proprietary software). This capability is particularly attractive to businesses that need to shape a CRM tool to their own specific needs.
Con: Not all businesses need or want to customize their software. Additionally, the commercial CRM market already offers products that are tailored to virtually every business type and need.
Pro: With open source CRM offerings, updates and bug fixes are rapidly available, sometimes literally overnight. That’s a major plus, because big CRM vendors often drag their heels on application improvements, sometimes delaying updates until the next major version release.
Con: The number and variety of open source updates can be annoying and confusing, particularly when the changes address minor issues. Fast updates can also be shaky and potentially damaging, since they usually haven’t undergone rigorous testing. Better to wait and be safe rather than to hurry and be sorry.
Pro: Since open source CRM is supported by a massive user base, there’s a deep pool of free support information for just about every product. Most open source CRM solutions, including SugarCRM, are also supported by online user communities, where problems can be solved through interaction with people who have already sorted their way through similar issues.
Con: While it’s nice to have a large, free support base, a bunch of strangers won’t hold your hand and help you solve business-critical issues on a moment’s notice. The open source CRM community is rife with self-appointed “experts” who are about as knowledgeable on CRM software issues as your son’s karate instructor. Vendors and their business partners will charge you for their support, but at least you’ll know that accurate one-on-one help will always be available when the data hits the fan.
LOOK AND FEEL
Pro: minor shortcomings.
Con: The shortcomings of open source CRM tools, particularly in the areas of user interfaces and reporting capabilities, aren’t only cosmetic. Confusing interfaces, cockeyed reports and other glitches can sap user productivity and lead to potentially serious business mistakes. These problems may be fixed in time, but are you willing to wait?
Pro: Open source CRM solutions like SugarCRM cost a fraction of the price of commercial products. The offerings also free businesses from “vendor lock-in,” including forced upgrades and licensing issues.
Con: There’s no real downside to open source CRM’s cost benefits, as long as you’re willing to deal with the technology’s philosophy and structure.
Pro: Open source CRM has reached a stage of maturity where it’s an acceptable approach for just about any business.
Con: Open source CRM still has rough edges and unique demands, limiting its suitability primarily to businesses that have a high degree internal software deployment and maintenance expertise.