Bending the back office: Open source CRM and ERP

SugarCRM, Openbravo, and Compiere tap the power of open source development to make customization easy, but the line between community and commercial is quickly crossed

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These aren't the only options either. The software is open source, after all, and the companies have found partnerships with groups of consultants. There are dozens if not hundreds of groups that will install these tools and customize them for you. Some bundle this with hosting and some specialize in coming into your office. Some of the consultants contribute actively to the project. Working with these insiders can be a good path to getting the features you need, and the extra code they write for your installation could find its way into the next generation.

The SugarCRM, Openbravo, and Compiere open source toolkits -- and many others like them -- are evolving quickly and efficiently to supply what the market really needs. The community editions are all quite useful and usually relatively easy to handle, but the companies are ready to customize and support the work. It's a convenient model delivering a robust community of suppliers that compete to create a very fertile ecology for the users, whether they're writing checks to the vendors or not.

Open source CRM and ERP in a nutshell

 SugarCRMOpenbravoCompiere
Current version5.22.53.1
Editions and costsCommunity (free), Express ($7 per user per month), Professional ($30 per user per month), Enterprise ($50 per user per month)Community (free), SMB ($2,100 plus $700 to $560 per user per year), Enterprise ($1,050 to $560 per user per year)Community (free), Standard ($25 per user per month), Professional ($50 per user per month), Cloud ($66 per user per month)
CodingPHPXML and JavaJava
PlatformsWindows, Linux, Mac OS X, Solaris (Sparc or Intel); MySQL, SQL Server, or Oracle databaseWindows or Linux; Postgres or Oracle database; Tomcat application serverWindows or Linux; Postgres or Oracle database
Pros and cons+ Beginning integration with social networks + Broad support for community edition + Customer portal + Module builder allows everyone to change fields and tables + Many choices for commercial support - Many of the best features are only available in the professional edition+ Same extensive functionality in the community and professional editions + Documentation wiki is wide open + Web GUI is a nice, updated version of the old green screens - Development means writing XML+ Extensive CRM and ERP integration + Large collection of partners available for customization and integration help + Pre-built images for cloud installations + Makes adding form fields as easy as filling out another form - Documentation isn’t freely available - Community edition doesn't include Web-based interface
Bottom lineA big table for storing information about customers, managing campaigns, and producing reports, backed by a fertile ecosystem of open source and commercial add-ons.Smooths every stage of order fulfillment from the warehouse to delivery, with basic customer management and a flexible open source framework for developing new modules.A sophisticated application that links the sales force, the warehouses, and the customers and allows easy customization without programming.
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