Make the most of your customer relationships and still save cash with software alternatives
Want to save money on software? For many companies, it's hard to look past the leading industry products with all of their in-depth functions, bells and whistles. But for many small firms, free (or almost-free) open-source rivals may do the job just as well for a fraction of the cost. Here, we look at popular alternatives to the best-known premium customer relationship management (CRM) program: Salesforce.
Product: Salesforce CRM
Cost: From €4 per user, per month, up to €315 per user, per month
Pros: Web-based and easy to use on any web browser including mobiles. There is also a large number of extensions and add-ons available from Salesforce and third-party companies.
There's no need to worry about upgrades or maintenance, as the platform is upgraded and maintained by Salesforce, while there's a huge array of features in higher-end packages such as the Enterprise and Performance packages.
Finally, it's well-established, with a strong presence across the US and Europe.
Cons: No option to host on your own server; annual contracts; and severely limited features on lower-end packages – cheapest package (€4 per month) is little more than an Excel sheet for storing contacts
In summary: Salesforce is undoubtedly the leader in cloud-based CRM software, partly due to the company's state-of the art cloud infrastructure.
The cost of getting on to the platform is very low and increases as you start looking for new features. At the higher end, Salesforce provides businesses with everything from account and contact management through to call scripting and workflow automation. It is very popular amongst big firms and multinationals.
Alternative 1: CiviCRM
Pros: Free to download, easy-to-use, web-based interface. It is also integrated with open-source website management software such as Joomla, Drupal and WordPress.
Cons: No mobile app; difficult to upgrade; and a rapid development cycle, hence features change fast (this is more of a problem for IT departments but users should be happy).
In Summary: CiviCRM is a web-based, open source, membership management software geared towards meeting the needs of non-profit and other civic-sector organisations. It's a fairly robust, customisable system.
It has features such as SMS and email marketing and event management.
Alternative 2: Sugar CRM
Cost: From free to €30 per user, per month
Pros: It's a well-developed and mature application, popular in the open-source and commercial domain.
Because it's a web-based application, it can be used on any computer or device. It also allows individual users to have their own databases where they can add applications they already use and need.
Cons: The latest version is only available under commercial licence. Also, official mobile apps are only available with the commercial version.
In summary: This is a full CRM application for sales-based organisations with marketing automation, sales
Alternative 3: vTiger CRM
Cost: From €9 per user, per month
Pros: If you would prefer not to opt for the software as a service option, you can still download it and use on your server absolutely free.
It's also an effective sales CRM system with an easy-to-use interface that requires little or no training.
It's web-based, so it can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection. It's also available as a mobile app for Android and iPhone. It's integrated with Microsoft Outlook, Trouble Ticket Management and basic invoicing and payments are available out of the box.
Cons: Because it's open source, development of new features are slow to come. Also, the mobile apps are not free.
In summary: vTiger is highly customisable and you can customise it to create workflows. It's being used by a large number of small and medium-sized businesses around the world.
- Rohit Thakral is DIT graduate and chief executive of Dublin-based Target Integration, an open source software company that specialises in providing business software to Irish companies.