Extreme CRM Makeover, Open Source Edition - Episode 1

CRM is critical to the success of any organization. There are lots of CRM choices available, ranging from very expensive to cheap, proprietary to open source, traditional client/server to cloud based. This is one company's story

This will be the first in a series of articles called "Extreme CRM Makeover - Open Source Edition". Just like the TV show, we are going to do a total makeover. Except instead of a house, it is of a company's CRM solution.  We will follow this process from initial matching of requirements through to implementation. But it won't end there. We are going to see if CRM really is all it is cracked up to be and does it deliver what it promises.

Too many people we speak to say that CRM "could do so much more, but we don't use everything it is capable of".  In our take on the reality show we are going to let the CRM folks push the envelope and strut their stuff.  Rolling out a CRM is not just an add water process. There are many things to be done.  CRM as a service or CRMaaS if you will certainly can make it easier. But you don't have to subscribe to Salesforce.com, be locked into that platform and pay those fees to use CRMaaS. Many solutions including open source choices offer a service option as well.

CRM has come a long way since ACT and other contact managers. Today's solutions have web service APIs and large 3rd party ecosystems. The open source solutions in this space are no different. The leading open source CRM, SUGAR CRM has many if not all of the bells and whistles of the biggest players out there today. While some of the older CRMs like Siebel were driven out of business by cloud based start ups like Salesforce.com, others like Sugar have built on their open source roots and also offer hosted and CRMaaS.  But CRM for many organizations is still complicated. Part of that is because it can do so much. As we will see in this series even an SMB sized company can exhaustive requirements.

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First the players in our series:

American Bancard - American Bancard has been providing merchant services to merchants throughout the US since 2001. A registered ISO/MSP through Wells Fargo Bank, they are based in Boca Raton, Fl. American Bancard has been named to the INC list of fastest growing companies in South Florida for 2 years in a row.  Besides providing merchant accounts allowing merchants to accept credit, debit and gift cards, American Bancard also sells charge terminals and POS systems. One of their biggest sellers is the TouchSuite integrated POS system which has several different versions specialized for different verticals.

American Bancard is a great subject for our Extreme CRM Makeover because of their needs. They have an inside and outside sales force. They also have an agent based sales force as well, who need to use the CRM solution.  All told, there are about 100 sales based personnel who will rely on the CRM solution. In addition their marketing department, operations and support personnel will be using the solution.

American Bancard also does a lot of Ad word advertising online and gets many inbound lead inquiries. Using Web Services they want to tie these inbound leads to the CRM and track marketing efficiency and sales follow up.

American Bancard has for the past 3 or 4 years been using a homegrown system that is based on a LAMP stack. While the system is somewhat functional, upgrading and adding more functionality is difficult if not impossible. Documentation for the existing system is sparse to say the least.  At this point, they have really outgrown this homespun approach and are looking for something more standards based, scalable and flexible.

When I first approached American Bancard about appearing on Extreme CRM makeover they were almost ready to cut a PO to Salesforce.com.  While not thrilled with all that entailed, their need was so great that they were prepared to write a check for 25 to 50k to start.

I know both Ira Bornstein, COO and Steve Scop, CTO of American Bancard. When they told me they were ready to go with salesforce, after looking at it for over 6 months, I asked if they had considered an open source solution.  I know both Ira and especially Steve are big open source supporters.  They replied that they had briefly considered it, but had not really dug in on it. In a later post, I will give you their reasons for thinking that Salesforce.com was the solution for them. 

I asked both Steve and Ira if an open source solution could give them at least equal feature set, support and flexibility would they consider it. They both replied yes. Interestingly, they both also said they realized that even an open source solution, at this level of functionality would have a definite cost. They were prepared, but I think we all assumed the open source solution would be significantly less.

To provide the open source solution I turned to the leading open source CRM provider, Sugar CRM. The folks at Sugar were at first a little wary, but once the gauntlet was thrown down, were eager to show their stuff!

In our next episode, we will look at Sugar CRM and begin to dig into the process of selecting a CRM. Matching requirements to functionality and mapping out a plan for success.

Stay tuned for the next installment of EXTREME CRM MAKEOVER - Open Source Edition.

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