Regarding open-source solutions for the business environment, the most common names are SugarCRM and Compiere. The first is a CRM platform ( Customer Relationship Management ) based on PHP and widely extensible thanks to the application of plug-ins developed by third parties and easily available on the Net; the second is instead a solution that combines CRM and ERP ( Enterprise Resource Planning ) functions, developed in Java.
In the course of this article, we will focus attention on SugarCRM. The Californian company that follows its development offers the download, via its website, of an open-source solution that meets the needs of many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises. Alongside the “open” version, more advanced paid solutions (“Professional” and “Enterprise”) are also offered, which are directly supported.
Through SugarCRM, it is possible to manage all aspects related to marketing and customer relations of the company. SugarCRM incorporates the three fundamental aspects of a good CRM: the “operational” one (allows you to automate business processes that require direct contact with the customer), the “analytical” one (allows the extraction of data relating to customers that allow them to get to know them better); the “collaborative” one (it favors the integration between the activities of the various employees of the company).
To test the functions offered by SugarCRM, it is sufficient to set up a test workstation on which Linux or even Microsoft Windows is installed. SugarCRM was born to operate natively on the so-called “LAMP” platform, i.e., on a software configuration based on the Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP “quartet.” Such a configuration certainly guarantees better results from a performance point of view, although it is still possible to use SugarCRM even on Windows systems.
To store the data, SugarCRM relies on a MySQL database: it is, therefore, essential that it is installed and configured. The presence of PHP is also required. The package relating to the latest open-source version of SugarCRM (only PHP pages that make up the product) can be downloaded from this page (about 10 MB).
If, on the other hand, you have a Windows test machine on which neither Apache nor MySQL, nor PHP is present, you can download the version that also includes these elements (see this section on the official product site ).Suppose you have no way of sacrificing a workstation for testing purposes. In that case, you can consider adopting virtualization software such as Microsoft’s Virtual PC (free), VMWare Workstation (or the same VMWare Player, free), VirtualBox, or other similar solutions (we suggest you refer to our articles ).
The installation of SugarCRM, including Apache, MySQL, and PHP, is completed in minutes. It is sufficient to indicate whether or not the MySQL database should be populated with some demonstration data and whether the services related to Apache and MySQL should be automatically started each time Windows is accessed so that SugarCRM is always accessible and usable. The setup procedure also requires the IP assigned to the server or the domain name used and the address to be offered to the user each time he accesses SugarCRM via browser.
For testing purposes, you can leave the proposed localhost address unchanged, 127.0.0.1. During the installation, you are also asked for the passwords to be set to protect access to SugarCRM and MySQL. At the end of the product installation, you can immediately access the SugarCRM control panel by typing admin as the username and the password chosen during installation.
The next step is choosing the time zone: select “Europe/Rome” for India and press the Save button. At this point, the entire interface can be translated into Indian. By default, the SugarCRM installation package does not offer this possibility. By downloading and installing a special “language pack,” you can still achieve the goal. The reference page dedicated to the SugarCRM localization project in Italian can be reached by clicking here. To proceed with the download of the necessary files, click on the “File” tab and then download the most recent “language file” (e.g., it_it_4.5.1.langpack.zip ).
To translate the interface into Indian from the SugarCRM administration panel, click the Admin button – in the top bar -on the Module Loader link and finally on the Install from local file tab.
After pressing the “Browse” (or “Browse”) button, you will have to select the zip file you just downloaded and stored on your hard disk. After pressing the “Upload” button, the line relating to the localization file must appear in the list of modules in the installation queue after a few seconds.
Press the Install button, displayed in the last column on the right. As a next step, it is good to ensure all the boxes are checked by clicking on Show details. At this point, you can click on the Commit button. At the end of the operation, SugarCRM will display the Upgrade applied successfully confirmation message (clicking on Show Details shows the list of installed files).
Finally, after pressing the Admin button in the top toolbar, referring to the Locale settings link, then to the Default language drop-down menu, you must choose the IT Italian item and press the Save button at the bottom of the window. Here it is advisable to make the appropriate corrections relating to the currency used, the thousands separator, etc. By logging out (button in the top toolbar), you will notice how the authentication window appears immediately translated into our language.
If, by logging in again, the interface should still appear in English, delete the browser’s cache (temporary files) and the cookies associated with SugarCRM. Through the SugarCRM interface, it is possible to manage relationships with customers, assign tasks to company personnel (everyone can access SugarCRM comfortably from their workstation using their user account), define meetings, work to be done, contacts to call, and define negotiations and profit opportunities.
Through its well-organized interface, SugarCRM also allows you to manage customer support by opening special “tickets,” which can be assigned to various employees. All the various possibilities made available by SugarCRM can be collected within projects (further subdivided into “tasks” to be assigned internally in the company) not to lose the global vision of the entire set of activities they do, a leader with unique objectives.
SugarCRM also has a centralized archive that allows you to manage all company documentation. To ensure you always use valid and up-to-date documents, users can set revisions and deadlines for them. SugarCRM can then integrate directly with e-mail and act as an e-mail client (just set the data relating to the incoming and outgoing mail server). In the case of outgoing mail, for sending emails, it is possible to opt between using the “sendmail” component of PHP or specifying the data relating to an SMTP server.
Each user authorized to use SugarCRM (the administrator must create an account for each user) can organize their activities, calls to be made, appointments, tasks to be performed, follow-up on negotiations with customers, and so on. Knowing the PHP language, being SugarCRM released as an open-source product, it is possible to adapt its operation to your needs. The modification that can be downloaded by clicking here, for example, allows you to link one or more documents to the various projects open on SugarCRM.
This is a particularly useful feature in many business contexts which strangely needs to be integrated, by default, in the open-source CRM. If you intend to apply it in such a way as to obtain the additional “Documents” panel within the file of every single project (it will then be possible to combine one or more documents already loaded in the “Documents” section of the CRM with every single project), it is sufficient to copy the PHP files present in the .zip file into the corresponding SugarCRM subfolders.
Since the change affects the relationships between the tables (as well as intervening in the layout of some product pages), after applying it (we suggest you first make a full backup of the SugarCRM installation directory and of the entire contents of the MySQL database), it is essential to click on Administer then on Update (subsection “System”) and finally on Rebuild relationships.