The best open source CRM software

What makes a good CRM package?

A customer relationship management (CRM) tool has become a must-have technology for any small business looking to grow their operation. However, many of the widely available options, such as Oracle and Salesforce, are beyond the means of many small businesses because of their prices.

But other options are out there if you're willing to look. It's worth weighing up your options to get a good CRM system that also is within your company's budget. Although a tool to manage your sales funnel is essential, there are plenty of alternatives to the big names that don't mean paying through the nose that can still boost the productivity of your sales team.

One avenue worth exploring is open source CRM software. Although they may not be as feature-rich as the bigger names, open source is usually much cheaper (in the majority of cases, the software is completely free), much faster to evolve and still as effective as the more expensive options.

The benefits and drawbacks of open source CRM software

Like all open source software, there are lots of other benefits and challenges open source brings. Not only is open source much more affordable for small businesses, but you won't have to make any long-term commitment to take advantage of the benefits, either. You can usually trial the software before making the jump, which makes it a much better option if you're not 100% sure whether the software will suit you.

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Open source CRM software also has the benefit of being highly customisable. If your company has specific needs, then this type of software will allow you to tweak and refine your CRM platform until it meets those needs. Additionally, you can also tailor it to keep up with any changing market demands.

There are disadvantages too, however, which may put off some users. A common trade-off in the world of open source is that the freely available software has support which is either limited or expensive.

Compatability can be another issue as well. Since the software development will often feature multiple concurrent strands and forks, it can sometimes be hard to make sure your software is up to date, and also that it works with that belonging to your partners and customers.

Compared to larger rivals, an open source CRM package can suffer visually too. This may not seem too important, but the layout and user interface of the system is key in making sure your staff can use it. If they can't understand how to utilise the platform then they won't get the most out of it, meaning your business will be less efficient as a result.

The question of which open source CRM is best is a difficult one to answer, largely because the answer will vary from company to company. A CRM package that fits one company perfectly might be entirely wrong for your organisation.

Instead, you should focus on finding the best CRM software for you. Examine your business needs, and work out what exactly it is that you need a CRM to do. Here's some of the top capabilities you should be looking at when choosing a CRM package.

Scalability and migration

The first thing businesses should be looking for when choosing an open source CRM is how well it scales. You might only have a handful of people on your sales force right now, but you're going to want a CRM package that can grow with your business, which means looking at a package without hefty upgrade fees.

You should also take migration into account. It's well worth putting in a bit of extra legwork early on to make sure that if you do decide to move to one of the larger, business-class CRM solutions, you'll be able to do so with a minimum of hassle.

Integrations

Most CRMs will perform equally well when it comes to basic functions, but where the real value lies for many businesses is in their integrations with other business tools. Modern CRMs will work seamlessly with software like MailChimp, Xero and Google's G Suite apps.

Linking all your tools together can have an immeasurable impact on speeding up your organisation's workflows. Do a full audit of what software is in use within your business, and then look for a CRM package that will directly integrate with as many of them as possible.

Insights

One of the benefits of using a CRM solution is that it allows businesses to make informed decisions based on concrete data. However, this only works if the CRM package in question allows the business to surface relevant insights.

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Organisations should be on the lookout for software that contains strong reporting capabilities, good archiving and any other features that will make use of the large amount of data it harvests.

Support

Support is the biggest real stumbling block for many open source CRMs. Support will frequently only be available to customers on a paid subscription plan, or will be provided by the community rather than an enterprise grade support team.

This can turn out to be an unexpected problem for unwary businesses. If there's no professional support structure to help when its CRM goes down, the unfortunate enterprise could be faced with days of downtime, if not longer.

Best open source CRM software

While it's impossible to definitively state which CRM package is best (for the reasons stated above), we can narrow down some great options for specific tasks and applications, with the caveat that many others are available, so consider these simply as a starting point. 

Open source CRM software for reporting: Odoo CRM

Odoo CRM offers great reporting options for businesses that are looking to derive the maximum amount of insight from their sales and workflow data. Forecasting is excellent, and reports are simple to generate.

Open source CRM software for simplicity: Anteil CRM

Thanks to a simple, easy-to-use interface, Anteil CRM is an excellent choice for businesses that want to get started with their first CRM package. Navigation through the browser-based frontend is intuitive, and its lightweight nature means it shouldn't be too hard to set up.

Open source CRM software for all-rounders: SuiteCRM

Based on the popular SugarCRM platform, SuiteCRM is widely hailed as one of the most fully-featured and polished open source CRM packages around. It boasts a wide range of capabilities, modules and integrations, and is an excellent choice for experienced users.

Open source CRM software for flexibility: vTiger

vTiger is an incredibly flexible CRM offering, thanks to the ability to create modules from scratch with matching workflows. While it requires a fair degree of technical knowledge to perform some of the more advanced customisations, power users will find that they can shape it to suit all of their needs.

Open source CRM software for employee engagement: Zurmo

What sets Zurmo apart from rivals is that it's 'gamified', allowing users to earn scores, achievements and badges for completing certain tasks. The idea is to not only make the software fun, but also to help users become more proficient in its use by incentivising them to increase their skillset.

Image Sources: Odoo, Suite CRM, vTiger, Zurmo

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