Open source CRM implementation

Learn best practices to follow during an open source CRM implementation and get tips for using open source software. Also, read open source CRM case studies.

In this section, learn best practices to follow during an open source CRM implementation and get tips for overcoming the challenges many companies face when deploying an open source system. You'll also find expert advice for migrating to open source and using open source call center software, and four open source CRM case studies.

Table of contents:
Overview of open source CRM
Evaluating open source CRM software
Choosing an open source CRM vendor
Open source CRM implementation

 

  Open source CRM implementation  

Implementing open source CRM

The process for implementing open source CRM isn't very different from the process that organizations should follow when implementing traditional CRM software, with some exceptions.

According to industry expert Richard Boardman, companies looking to implement open source CRM should focus on functionality.

"While you can get a lot of functionality for little or no money with open source CRM, I've generally found that you don't get the breadth and depth of functionality available through commercial packages, and some of the features you might take as a given in mainstream applications aren't necessarily included," Boardman said. "This makes it even more important than usual to identify your needs, match them against the available functionality, and have a good plan for filling the gaps."

In terms of the challenges many companies face with open source CRM implementation, some companies have unrealistic cost expectations that they need to overcome in order for the project to be successful, Boardman said. Some organizations also find it difficult to find capable implementation partners for implementing open source CRM. Since open source CRM software is usually adopted by smaller organizations, there isn't as extensive a network of suppliers offering support services as there is with traditional CRM. Companies looking to implement the open source model should take into consideration that they may have to spend more time and effort finding suitable support and be open to working with multiple suppliers and freelancers.

Migrating to open source CRM

For CRM users that have previously used a proprietary CRM application, migrating to open source can be a challenge. Some open source CRM vendors, such as SugarCRM, have created tools to help organizations migrating from other products. For example, a third-party application called Apatar (also an open source product) is available for extracting data from an existing CRM application and moving it into SugarCRM.

Using open source call center software

Call centers have been slow to adopt open source software, largely because most call centers require highly dependable, stable applications that are backed by strong support organizations. According to industry expert Donna Fluss, open source telephony systems are showing up in some call centers, although they often lack the functionality that many established call centers have come to expect.

"Most of the adoption of open source call center software to date has been in smaller environments where the IT staff is willing and able to install and maintain the product," Fluss said. "This is because open source software is often a 'do-it-yourself project,' requiring the ability and resources to do your own implementation, integration, troubleshooting and ongoing maintenance and support."

Fluss believes open source call center software is best suited for small call centers that need only a basic set of features and won't need to integrate the software with too many other enterprise systems.

Open source CRM case studies

Sometimes the best way to make a decision about software or to prepare for an implementation is to read about the experiences of others who have gone through the process. These case studies follow organizations that have deployed open source CRM software and showcase their experiences and recommendations. In these open source CRM case studies, find best practices to follow and pitfalls to avoid when implementing and using open source.

When Spirit Cruise Lines decided to replace its CRM system, it had to rule out many CRM vendors because of cost. Eventually, the company turned to an open source application from Centric CRM. With only six people on its IT staff, Spirit relied heavily on Centric and its open source community for many of the changes that needed to be made.

Aheeva Technologies, on the other hand, had a good deal of experience with open source technology and code when it launched its contact center outsourcing operation using the open source Asterisk private branch exchange (PBX) system from Digium. Using the open source call center system, Aheeva was able to grow its new operation from 55 seats to 160 seats in three months.

Flexibility was a must-have for BDO Seidman LLP when it decided to connect its corporate offices to its network of independent alliance accounting firms across the country. BDO Seidman considered both open source CRM and traditional midmarket CRM applications but went with an open source CRM application from SugarCRM because of the flexibility and usability it provided.

When two Web development experts set up Contact Loved Ones, a free service that allows people living in areas affected by a hurricane to leave messages for family and friends, they decided to use an open source PBX system to power their call center and get the project up and running quickly. The system's low cost and deep functionality were also pluses.

Table of contents:
Overview of open source CRM
Evaluating open source CRM software
Choosing an open source CRM vendor
Open source CRM implementation

This was first published in February 2009

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