How far can open source CRM get?

Despite their support and even their own hosted solutions, there remains something roll-your-own about open source CRM. That's where Intel's money comes in. By scaling Centric, the hope is, a competitive market dynamic can be restored.

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News that CentricCRM is getting a capital infusion from Intel Capital leads again to the inevitable question, how far can open source get in the CRM market?

It's a tough road. Customer Relationship Management is more than mission-critical. The title describes your business right there.

So there are big bucks involved, as well as big risks. If you're a big company you've probably got those bucks invested in Oracle. Maybe SAP. Following its acquisition binge of a few years ago, probably Oracle.

On the low end there's the hosted model, led by Salesforce.com. Despite some well-publicized outages, the company keeps moving forward, and if you're not in the Fortunate 500 it can be a sound, even safe choice.

Then there's open source, the only way in which CRM start-ups can elbow their way into the market today. SugarCRM, SplendidCRM and now Centric have proven there's a place in the market for this (if you read your license carefully). But how big a place? Even the vendors can't say.

Despite their support and even their own hosted solutions, there remains something roll-your-own about open source CRM. That's where Intel's money comes in. By scaling Centric, the hope is, a competitive market dynamic can be restored.

But where does this leave you, with your few dozen or few hundred employees, your tight budget, your crying need for a CRM solution, and those big Oracle price tags?

In the end you have to look someone in the eye. Got a database guy you can trust? Does that guy (or gal) trust Centric, Sugar or some other open source CRM project?  (There's a bunch of them.) Are you willing to bet your company on them?

Then go for it. And let me know how it goes. We can write the story on your IPO tombstone. Or the other kind.

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