Open source CRM application closes gap

The next version of SugarCRM's open source CRM application, due for release later this week, will include a customisation tool that the company says puts its offering on a par with those of its rivals.

Business users get customisation help in the next version of the open source firm's customer relationship management software

The next version of SugarCRM's open source CRM application, due for release later this week, will include a customisation tool that the company says puts its offering on a par with those of its rivals.

John Roberts, chief executive of SugarCRM, said the name of the product has changed from Sugar Sales to Sugar Suite to take into account new features such as marketing and customer support that the company says make it "more than just a sales application".

The latest release, Sugar Suite 2.5, includes a layer that allows for business users to customise the user interface without having to writing additional code. This tool can be used to add a new field to a form, for example.

Non-technical people can learn how to use this customisation tool in five minutes, Roberts claimed, adding that it gives Sugar Suite 2.5 parity with the proprietary CRM products offered by vendors such as Siebel and Salesforce.com.

"It was the last feature -- they [proprietary CRM vendors] were trying to scare people away from SugarCRM by saying that you can't customise the application without being a programmer," said Roberts. "It's a completely level playing field now."

Although some proprietary CRM companies allow their customers to view sections of the application source code, this is not as useful as being able to view the entire source code, said Roberts. SugarCRM is written using the PHP programming language, which Roberts claims is easier to modify than C++, the language that proprietary CRM applications tend to be written in.

"From a customisation standpoint we're the most open CRM application -- we don't hide behind proprietary interfaces or services," said Roberts. "If you provide the source code it needs to be in a friendly language like PHP -- a million lines of C++ isn't that useful to anyone."

SugarSuite 2.5 was released to the open source community last week and the commercial version will start shipping on Friday.

SugarCRM is not the only open source CRM vendor. Indian software vendor vTiger launched an open source CRM application at the end of last year, which is based on SugarCRM.

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