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Open source CRM finds new Soul mate

Open source CRM finds new Soul mate

National voice and data carrier Soul has entered the CRM foray by replacing siloed desktop applications with the open source, Web-based SugarCRM suite.

The custom development and integration work will be done by Sydney-based consulting firm, and SugarCRM partner, Insightful Solutions.

A Soul spokesperson told Computerworld the decision to go with SugarCRM over Salesforce.com was due to low cost and because it's open source.

Marc Englaro, director of business development and consulting at Insightful Solutions, said Soul was a typical "greenfield" CRM site where SugarCRM will replace a mixture of Microsoft's Excel and Outlook that are the current customer management tools.

Englaro said because it's built with open source components, the entry price for SugarCRM is lower than competing offerings from Salesforce.com which is built with proprietary software; with SugarCRM there is one database instance per customer.

"Organizations that choose SugarCRM typically don't have anything formal or reasonably modern," Englaro said, adding that Soul chose Insightful's hosted, or "on-demand" option.

"We regularly come across Salesforce.com, NetSuite and occasionally Microsoft CRM. A differentiator is the ability to host [SugarCRM] on site, but about 80 percent of customers host with us. Either way we can provide the same level of management and support. And we host in Australia so privacy issues come under Australian law."

SugarCRM is built on the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) stack. The company's mantra is that by using open source components, SugarCRM "easily adapts" to specific businesses which can "customize and integrate customer-facing business processes in order to build and maintain more profitable relationships".

"Putting CRM into a database gives a better, multi-user environment, but also gives sales people a tool to manage the work and gives management reporting and dashboards," Englaro said. "It also gives sales reps more time to spend with customers."

Insightful Solutions has added extra fields to the standard SugarCRM code base to capture information relevant to Soul, like customer breakdown into different territories.

"It's something that fits their business and not the other way around," Englaro said. "The new breed of CRM has recognized that no two businesses are identical. CRM is not just a silo but a central conduit for syncing all customer information."

The configuration took "about three weeks" and involved mapping the business process, completing a first draft, and doing "minor" changes.

"Three to four weeks is typical for a SugarCRM implementation," Englaro said. "You want to see quick ROI on these things and if you spend 12 months your whole business has changed."

SugarCRM is priced at around $660 per user per year, which Englaro says is about 60 percent of the cost of Salesforce.com.


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