27. May 2011 01:46
Managing your customer information is an essential task for every business - big and small. You need to keep up to date records of contacts, suppliers and clients. You need to keep in touch with existing clients and also track sales. You could keep all of your customer information in a spreadsheet or in a desktop database system like Access. If you have multiple users though, this becomes tricky. Equally, these applications can't handle essential tasks like mailing and don't scale well.
Most companies will eventually procure a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system which will handle all of aspects of contact with customers and help in building up relationships and managing marketing and sales.
At BMSL we decided that rather than shelling out a five figure sum for a system that might not meet our needs in the medium and long term we would go down the Open Source road. There are more open source CRM systems than you can shake a stick at. The daddy of them all is Sugar CRM. This has a strong pedigree and a large user base but was overkill for our needs.
Our main business need was a system which we could use as a database for maintaing contact data and managing customer communications such as mailings and phone calls. In the end we settled for Splendid CRM. This is an open source CRM which runs on Asp.Net and SQL Server - which is our preferred platform. We have specialist in-house knowledge of these technologies so we can easily customise the system to adapt to our needs. If you don't wish to customise you can choose a compiled version. For organisations with a strong sales focus SplendidCRM can manage leads, opportunities and campaigns.
We will be updating the blog with our experiences of using the system. If you need any help or advice in installing and running your own CRM system then please contact us at the Blackstairs Mountains web site.
If you are technically-minded then you might be interested in the download and installation details below.
Downloading and installing Splendid CRM
You can click here to download the community (free) edition. The installation process uses a wizard which creates a web application in IIS and also runs database scripts. You will therefore need to have permissions to run IIS as well as permissions to create a database in SQL Server. We found that the installer didn't successfully create the SplendidCRM database. Once we created the database manually and then pointed the installer at it we were in business. The installer also defaults to using SQL Security (using the sa login!) so you may wish to change this to use Windows authentication.
The installer will attempt to create a virtual directory called SplendidCRM under your Default Web Site. If this creates successfully then just point your browser at "http://servername/splendidcrm". If all goes well you should see a login page. Just enter 'admin' as both username and password and you should see a screen like the one below.
Now you're up and running.