Requirements

The concrete requirements are, in this case, like thus:

  • CRM system for internal use in a small company.
  • It will be mainly used for contact management to the customers, and public relation purposes.
  • It should be free software (that is, gratis, modifyable, and without vendor lock-in).
  • It may be a web-based application.
  • It should be in the same class as e.g. the (commercial) TecArt-CRM System.
  • Custom adaptations should be possible.
  • The required main features are:
    • contact management (most important)
    • task management incl. regular tasks and reminders
    • appointment management
    • e-mail
    • internal e-mail distribution
    • German internationalization

Recommendable open source CRM systems

The recommendable solutions from the free software world might be as in the following list, in no particular order.

This and the following list of CRM systems not recommended for the above list of requirements is made from looking through all products listed on the Wikipedia list of free CRM software and the category for that. Products in these lists (as of 2009-11-17) but not listed here have been deemed not (yet) noteworthy.

epesiBIM

epesiBIM is another open source CRM application. Their online demo looks quite promising, hinting to a good project architecture. It  also runs quite fast, and uses AJAX all over. However, the project seems in an earlier development stage than SugarCRM and vtiger CRM, so a detailed feature and stability evaluation is adviable before choosing it. It offers the typical CRM features such as contacts, task, calendar, mail and phone call management.

It seems to be strong in a tidy data organization. For example, it’s very comfortable to navigate from tasks to concerned customers contacts, and from there to all their mails etc..

Their SourceForge project page shows that the project is under active development as of 2009-11.

SugarCRM

This is probably the most well-known and most widespread free software CRM solution. It is backed by a company that offers both Sugar CRM Community Edition (the free software, licensed under GPL V3) and commercial Professional and Enterprise versions. There is a live demo of SugarCRM Community Edition (and also a live demo of SugarCRM Professional Edition). It is said that the community edition offers approx. 85% of the professional edition’s features. The community edition was a long-standing highly popular project on sourceforge.org [source], pointing to its usefulness and widespread application.

Also, there is a rich extension repository called SugarExchange; it includes both commercial and free extensions, and many of these (and more, >700 in all currently) are developed on sugarforge.org.

Just as many commercial CRMs, SugarCRM is web-based. So you will need to cope with that … it’s no quick desktop based client-server application.

vtiger Open Source CRM

vtiger Open Source CRM is a split of SugarCRM and is developed by an Indian-based company. There is a Germany-based company called Different Solutions, offering a German live demo of vtiger Open Source CRM. They also offer an extended version, also open source but you will get it only when subscribing to one year of support; see enterprise.vtiger.de.

vtiger CRM seems to be more “tidy”, uses nice AJAX techniques, and offers a feature set different from SugarCRM. However, it seems to suffer from more glitches and small bugs. But it’s definitely worth trying it out before deciding to use SugarCRM, or this one. And just like SugerCRM, this one has also an extension repository.

OpenCRX

OpenCRX is a Java-based, open source CRM system under active development. It is a rather complex software and you need to get accustomed to the user interface, but it is rich in features and, as a Java application, is probably of better code quality than many others. There is a live demo available.

Other open source CRM systems

Projects are roughly ordered by their adequateness to above requirements here.

Candy-CRM

Candy-CRM is a web-based open source CRM software, and actually it seems to be a part of IntarS, also in this list. So it shares most of the licesing issues of IntarS. It is sold as a virtual appliance for approx. 400 EUR. There is an online demo available.

CiviCRM

CiviCRM is a web-based CRM specialized on the nonprofit, advocacy and nongovernmental sectors. That is, it’s good in organizing fundraising campaigns. So probably not what a company will find most useful. However CiviCRM is also especially strong in managing the relationship to ones (customer) contacts across media. It seems to not support task management; and while it supports mass mailings, it seems to not support internal mail distribution etc..

hipergate

hipergate is a Java-based open source CRM application. It’s web-based, maintains a simple, comfortable look and feel, but that probably means also it misses some features.

XRMS Open Source CRM

XRMS is also a web-based CRM written in PHP, however it seems to be no longer actively maintained. Its latest release was on 2006-07-25 [see sf.net download area].

SplendidCRM

SplendidCRM is a SugarCRM reimplementation based on Microsoft .NET technology. No advantages over SugarCRM (except you need the .NET platform), and structured in analogy to it (see the live demo). Also, I could not understand their licensing and view of “open source”.

JFire

JFire is a client/server ERP system, whose current rich client is based on Eclipse RCP (which is a highly flexible and mature architecture). However, it seems to have currently few to none real CRM capabilities (it’s rather trade oriented). However, as it is in Beta development state still, this will change in the future (or could be changed by writing a CRM plugin oneself). So, for the future, this could become a really cool option for open source CRM.

ERP5

ERP5 is a Zope framework (so, a Python-based web application) for rapid application development of ERP applications. It includes CRM functionality, however that seems to be not at the core. For developing a specialized CRM application, it could be the right basis.

EBI Neutrino R1 Open Source CRM

EBI Neutrino R1 is a CRM system that runs both as a Java Swing native client, and as a AJAX web application. This is interesting. However, WBI Neutrino R1 is in rather early development stage, and because it “combines power of distribution, inventory, E-Commerce,  ccounting and workflow” [source] (i.e. wants to be more than just CRM), it probably has not that much to offer as the top projects  recommended here.

OpenERP

OpenERP is an open source ERP / CRM system. Its web interface seems to be not that comfortable or well-organized as the top three in this list, but that’s only a first impression. They have a live demo online. Their biggest advantage is that they offer native clients for all platforms, so, no web-only interface like the other candidates here.

ADempiere / Compiere

ADempiere is a fork of the Compiere Community Edition project, coming from disagreement with the company that founded that open source project. Both projects are Java-based ERP and CRM software. They offer native Java
clients for all platforms, which is a big plus.

They seem to be quite comprehensive (see this overview of features
for Compiere), but centered around being a full-fledged business system (ERP, including accounting etc.). Their CRM abilities are quite weak.

Because of the fork, there is no active open source community around Compiere, meaning there are not much extensions, and those available are mostly commercial [source]. Which would be a reason to chosse ADempiere, if any.

intarS

IntarS is an open source ERP system, also including CRM functions. There is an online demo available, showing that it a really nice and complete ERP. However, while the software is licenced as GPL, there is no download; instead, the customer gets the software when it is customized by the manufacturer for his purposes [source]. Except, there is a virtual appliance on SourceForge,  but probably without the source code. If you seek free and open source software, it seems not that advisable to choose this one, due to the licensing methodology.

Also, it is not clear from the website whether the manufacturer understands the implications of the GPL. Quote: “”IntarS” unterliegt der GPL. Sie erhalten den Sourcecode, dürfen ihn nach Belieben verändern und für eigene Zwecke einsetzen.” [source]. This seems to mean that publishing the whole package including ones modifications is not allowed; however it is, by the GPL.

3 thoughts on “What’s a recommendation for a free software CRM system?

  1. “Also, it is not clear from the website whether the manufacturer understands the implications of the GPL. Quote: “”IntarS” unterliegt der GPL. Sie erhalten den Sourcecode, dürfen ihn nach Belieben verändern und für eigene Zwecke einsetzen.” [source]. This seems to mean that publishing the whole package including ones modifications is not allowed; however it is, by the GPL.”

    Why isn’t that clear? That section says that you are allowed to modify and use the source code as you wish…

  2. The passage that caught my attention was “für eigene Zwecke einsetzen” (English: “use it for your own purposes”). Which seems to imply that you may use the modified software for your own, but are not allowed to distribute it (but exactly that is what the GPL allows also).

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