The open-source tech space is booming with new tools and solutions for businesses. One growing area: open-source CRM. If you don’t need all of the bells and whistles of a traditional (and expensive!) customer-relationship management system, you might want to check out what’s available in the open-source world.
Scott Nesbitt, a writer and expert on open-source technology, says developers are focusing on creating tools for small and midsize businesses. “They’re building CRM systems with just the right number of features for that market,” he says.
If you’re looking for an open-source CRM, here’s what Nesbitt says you should look for:
- Ease of use.
- Good support.
- The ability to import or exchange data with the systems you currently use.
- A hosted version (if you don’t have the technical skills or staff to host and maintain it on your own).
- The opportunity to expand its capabilities through extensions or plug-ins, which is important as your business expands.
- The ability to easily move your data to another CRM if you outgrow the current one or if development stops.
There are a lot of options out there, but here are four open-source CRMs to consider.
“What sets Odoo apart from many other CRM systems is that it combines CRM and [enterprise resource planning] — users can manage just about every aspect of their businesses and customers with it,” Nesbitt says. “It’s pretty much a one-stop shop for a lot of what a business needs to run smoothly.”
Brian Rehg, CEO of the digital agency Blue Stingray, uses Odoo for his business and helps clients implement it. He describes Odoo as “very intuitive,” with a drag-and-drop user interface. “It has all the features a small business needs without being overwhelming,” he says, “and it’s completely open-source, so there are tons of apps already built for it.”
“My company writes very complicated software, but I love simple things,” he says. “Odoo has helped our business a lot.”
Espo is unique because it uses a single-page user interface, Nesbitt says. “You don’t need to jump around between tabs and pages to see the information you need. An interface like that sounds cluttered, but the user experience is quite good.” Plus, he says, “you can buy extension packs for Espo that expand its capabilities to include features an organization might grow to need.”
Nesbitt says Fat Free CRM is “basic,” which makes it a good choice for a company that doesn’t need “a big, powerful CRM system.” “It lets smaller firms with a penchant for DIY not only install the tool on their own servers but also fork the code and fix bugs or add features that they want,” he says.
Robert Rand, chief technology officer of the agency Rand Marketing, recommends the open-source OroCRM for clients that are running e-commerce sites. Since OroCRM was built by some of the original team members from the Magento e-commerce team, it was built “from the ground up with e-commerce in mind,” he says. Rand says OroCRM is a good fit for B2B, wholesale and distribution companies, as well as organizations focused on high-value products or high-value orders.
If you’re considering an open-source CRM, Nesbitt does have one caution about long-term support for those who use the free community version of tools. “The bigger players in the open-source CRM world continue to have two versions: a paid version and a free community version,” he says. “The question remains, though, whether or not they’ll continue to support the community versions in parallel to the paid versions.”