Thursday, October 16, 2008

Open Source CRM - SugarCRM

In my mind there seems to be two primary issues that prevent non-profits and small businesses from taking advantage of the benefits that a good CRM has to offer: cost and user adoption.

I have addressed user adoption in earlier posts, but it bears repeating. User Adoption on the part of front-line sales people is the most critical factor in the success of any CRM initiative. If the system is too awkward, slow, or complicated for sales people to use every day, then there will not be any data for reporting, forecasting, or response tracking. It is, however, a challenge that can be overcome by good, thoughtful design... both up-front with the user interface and in the back-end database design. Usability and Speed must be the primary objectives of the architects.

Cost should now be less and less of a factor as well. Software-as-a-Service models, like, are quickly replacing the big, in-house implementations for many mid-sized customers. The SaaS model offers lower up-front costs in exchange for a perpetual revenue stream in the form of subscription fees. However, there is a growing cadre of open source alternatives that will give the SaaS guys a run for their money. The major stumbling block facing SaaS customers is that extensive customization is a significant challenge. The vendor must enforce its limits on customization so that the system will operate as promised for its entire user base.

In-house implementations, whether they are open-source or not, do not have these limitations. And data integration is kept completely inside the firewall, and thereby more secure. Open-source takes the flexibility to the next level because the customer now has complete, unfettered access to the development environment. The customer also now has full control of the costs, since they only pay for the customizations they believe are worthwhile.

If you believe your organization could benefit from a CRM solution tailored to your specific needs, then please contact me. We can explore all the alternatives, including some of the exciting offerings in the open-source arena.

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