As the economic squeeze continues, many businesses will be asking how automation can help them and their staff become more productive, focus their efforts on relationship building and service existing customers more effectively. Read more
Some users and even software vendors seem to think that open-source and low-code platforms compete with one another. I’ll be honest, the title of this article even came from one such vendor. And, it is a crazy line of thought, in the same way as the Mattermost vs Slack argument in the field of open-source chat. It’s futile without putting the respective feature sets front and center. Whether an open-source low-code platform is the best choice for your organisation or not is dependent on the feature set and quality of the product – not that the software code is available in the public domain or not.
It’s a cliché to say by now, but the world has entered stormy economic waters. Spending on information technology is due to decrease for the foreseeable future. Being less expensive than traditional development and often delivering better results, the growth of Low Code Platforms is about to accelerate even further. Crust offers the premium free and open-source Low Code Platform for building records-based management web applications.
I’ve worked as both a Manager & a Sales Consultant in several different sectors including CRM Suites. My advice to any organisation considering getting a CRM is to start with the following question: What do my team need the CRM to do for them & how will it help them achieve their goals?
A CRM implementation must be a comprehensive, cross-department process involving:
- Buy-in from all major stakeholders
- Customer-focused approach to needs analysis
- Great definition of user stories
- Strong project management
- Appropriate choice of technology
Though the above list is a useful guide as to what order of priority you should follow, addressing this list in reverse order here helps clarify some of the rationale as to why.
It is a testament to SugarCRM that it spawned so many open source forks, before deciding to take itself down an exclusively closed-source, proprietary route. There seem to be dozens of them out there, each claiming to be unique while all working from the same core community edition engine, abandoned by Sugar CRM all those years ago. Read more
I was recently asked this question and at the same time asked to explain what free CRMs have to with the subject of digital transformation. Naturally, we here believe that Crust is the best free crm on the market, providing the market-leading open source Salesforce alternative. However, more importantly, we provide a low code platform that rivals “Lightning”, the Salesforce rapid application development offering in every facet. CRM is just the tip of the iceberg – with Crust and Corteza we can build just about any type of records-centric web applications. Read more
According to Wikipedia, “Innovation in its modern meaning is a new idea, creative thoughts, new imaginations in the form of device or method. Innovation is also often viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs or existing market needs. Such innovation takes place through the provision of more effective products, processes, services, technologies or business models that are made available to markets, governments and society.”
Personally, I like the use of the term “more effective” above. It says something important which is often missing in open source products. It’s not good enough to only write beautifully-engineered technology, because that’s often not what counts as more effective in the eyes of those who buy. We need to think through the whole context outside of engineering – the processes, the services, the business models etc – and we need to ensure that the big picture looks and feels more effective overall.
This is where marketing professionals, in particular, come in. Constantly measuring and updating market understanding and identifying buying triggers is central to their role. This is not a passive activity, but rather a very active one based on ongoing SEO, performance analysis and content generation, amongst other factors. If you’ve hired a marketing professional to make your website look pretty and announce solely releases, then please go and apologize to them immediately!
In general, product should exist at the crossroads of engineering and marketing
In general, product should exist at the crossroads of engineering and marketing. If it does not, I would suggest you to revise your strategy. Of course, not all open source development is about product, but where product is the aim, this guideline is important. At Crust, where we produce “The open source Salesforce alternative”, marketing and engineering constantly engage on feature shape and prioritisation.
Open source technologies, in particular where they are based on 100% open source code and freely distributed (i.e. not open core), can have an out-sized economic impact compared to upfront investment. Large-scale distribution is a natural course for well-conceived products to take and it takes high skill to maintain large feature sets on a fraction of the money of giant cloud vendors. This puts some natural downward pressure on budgets of the marketing departments of open source businesses. However, that downward pressure is a poor excuse for not setting targets to grow marketing expenditure. It’s the equivalent to coders saying “this problem is hard, so we’re not going to do it”. It, therefore, helps to look at the problem from a completely different perspective.
A good product manager cannot contemplate uncontrolled and unmaintainable feature sprawl. It makes sense, at a certain point, to put the emphasis elsewhere. In place of expanding the code base, one can expand marketing presence. Driving additional demand for existing features is a sustainable business model as long as you can count your return on investment, which any competent marketing manager should be able to do. Using marketing resources to understand which features are motivating buyer decision-making becomes critical to the healthy functioning of a growing business.
Open source vendors tend to be smaller in revenue terms than proprietary vendors, even if adoption of their products is often higher. However, there is at least one way open source vendors can get the most out of marketing expenditure. Marketing resources can, and should be, federated over certain subjects. For example, the open standards drum can always be beaten harder as can the growing requirement best practice education for free technology transfer as the world faces unprecedented challenges. But perhaps the the most immediate opportunity for strategic market(ing) alignment in Europe is the growing movement towards Digital Sovereignty, as espoused by initiatives such as Gaia-X and influential platform vendors such as Univention.
Digital Sovereignty demands that open source vendors start acting “cluefully”. Being smaller means having to be practical and the best returns can be achieved by optimising marketing structures and presence. The challenge is no means impossible – innovating our marketing models in line with our collaborative values should come naturally.
Crust Technology recently had the pleasure of taking part in the Univention Summit in Bremen, Germany. The Univention Corporate Server (UCS) is a leading platform for cost-efficient operation and easy administration of server applications and entire IT infrastructures. It is both self-hosted and open source and is used by many recognisable, brand-name organisations. UCS is an excellent OS base upon which to build your Digital Sovereignty, being practical, feature complete and supportive of multi-vendor environments.
Digital Sovereignty is a complex term, implying unimpeded access to the software code (i.e. 100% open source), default support and promotion of federated architectures, control of data location and consistent cross-jurisdictional regulation. While vendors such Univention point the way at the infrastructural level, software manufacturers at the application layer must pick up the baton with equal enthusiasm and determination.
In practical terms, what might this mean for software application vendors?
- Be 100% open
This means no tricks or games. Every line of code must be available to the using or hosting organisation. But it goes even further than that – application architectures must be clear, well-documented and not a source of data lock-in themselves.
- Easy E-Migration
The cost of migrating away from a solution, self-hosted or otherwise, must be as low as possible. In other words, the software must be built with recognition of the principle that the using organisation has a fundamental and exclusive right to “own” all of their data and that, should they wish, this data can be moved away from the platform easily.
- Embrace Standards
From security to communication to API’s, software must be standards-based and must, in so far as possible, facilitate federation with other software and services. Clouds should be capable of collaborating with eachother, irrespective of the language in which they are coded.
- User Experience (UX) must be excellent
Good UX leads to strong adoption. Failing at this first hurdle is unforgiveable. It has now been proven umpteenth times that solutions with poor UX simply do not get adopted by a population of a meaningful size.
Credibility is key. Businesses and governments pushing for Digital Sovereignty must learn from history. It’s littered with defunct open source providers, who failed to deliver compelling alternatives to components of giant data-harvesting clouds and proprietary software manufacturers. To fail again would be to be laughed off the stage, while the use of data from our corporate champions, mittelstand (mid-sized economic actors) and small businesses drifts further and further from our control. The stakes are that high.
Crust Technology Ltd, headquartered in Ireland, is the driving force behind the open-source Unified Work platform Crust, providing a flexible, self-hosted platform for your organisation to work and communicate internally while engaging with its customers, suppliers, partners and other third parties externally. Its integrated approach to identity, messaging and business logic delivers a simple-to-use yet extensible means for managing users and the applications they require every day, whether in the cloud, behind the firewall or a hybrid of the two. For more information, visit www.crust.tech or follow @Crusttech on Twitter.