I’ve been interested in CRM since my days as a Police Officer/Student at the University of Pennsylvania Police Department. While in school, I worked in development of a members database for the Musician’s Union Local in Phila, and for my independent study at school, developed a client management system for the Victim Support Unit at the Police Department.
My career in sales furthered this interest. I became an avid Act! user, and was such a good beta tester for the company, that I usually didn’t have to pay for the software.
Act had a substantial change in 2005, moving to a relational database structure. What I thought would be a great change turned out to actually make the program unusable. Using the .NET framework made the new Act! slower than ever before.
I felt like an orphan, and didn’t know what to do. The lack of a good CRM really was hurting my productivity.
I tried a number of different options, including Prophet (too slow with a large number of users), and Microsoft Business Contact Manager 1.0 (pretty much the same quality as any 1.0 MS product). I was still at a loss to find something that worked for me.
A friend of mine, Haroon Khalid, told me about an opensource product called SugarCRM. I took a look at it, and it showed promise. It was a blatant Salesforce.com rip, which I considered a plus, having worked with the product in the past.
In order to install SugarCRM, I figured that I had to install MySQL, PHP, Apache, and the Sugar code on my laptop myself. Ok, it would take a couple of hours, but I have experience, and I knew I could do it. WRONG! It was much, much easier. There is a project called SugarSPIKE which installs Sugar and all the additional programs in less that 10 minutes. I was up and running.
The product is fantastic, very, very, stable, and bugs are minimal after the first patch. (Warning about point releases, wait until the first patch comes out.) There is an additional software product, available for a fee, that connects with MS Outlook.
The OpenSource version of the product lacks the reporting and quoting functions that I would need to give this a full OK. They are available in the full version, some third party products, or you can do as I did, and hook the database up to access with an ODBC driver. I’d gladly shell out the money for the full version of the product, but the folks at Sugar will only take a 5 license purchase.