CRM (Customer Relationship Management) applications are emerging as some of the best available applications for on-demand use. There are few applications that you can access within a browser that are more immediately useful. While many web workers use fee-based applications such as Salesforce.com, there is a growing crop of free alternatives. In this post, I’ll round up two of these that are worth looking into.
If your web work in any way involves dealing with customers, then the free, open source application Compiere may be what you’re looking for. Truth be told, it may actually be more than what you’re looking for. Compiere is robust enough to work as a full-blown ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) application. That means it can handle most central electronic business processes including tracking and integrating orders, invoices, records of sales interactions, accounting records, human resources data, and all aspects of CRM.
If that sounds like overkill for your purposes, I’ve actually found Compiere to be neat and tidy enough to just use subsets of it in useful ways. For example, a small workgroup could easily use it to track orders, invoices, and sales contacts—without getting involved with the rest of the application. It beats building out your own custom database by a long shot, and it’s very stable and reliable.
Compiere is Java-based and users can access information in it from their browsers. It has an interface that Windows users, in particular, will be instantly comfortable with. Jumping from an order to a sales record for the customer who placed the order, for example, feels a lot like navigating within modules in a Windows-based database application.
If you’re looking for a free application that’s focused more exclusively on CRM and that you can learn to use extremely quickly, see my previous post on Splendid CRM Splendid CRM, like fee-based applications such as Salesforce.com, stays squarely focused on customers and your interactions with them. It’s hosted on the web, so workers can access it from anywhere, and it integrates with nearly every popular database.
Because these are free, open-source applications, it’s essential to be meticulous about doing regular data backups. One of the big advantages of paying for a CRM solution or an ERP solution is guaranteed data protection. If you’re meticulous about your backups, though, one of these free applications may do what you need and then some.
Finally, several readers of this blog have posted that they get a lot out of Zoho CRM. I don’t regularly use Zoho, and you should note that the CRM offering is free for a maximum of three users, but it definitely has a loyal user base.
Do you currently use a CRM application or other useful application for tracking business processes?