Is SuiteCRM a worthy successor of SugarCRM Community Edition?

22 Jul Is SuiteCRM a worthy successor of SugarCRM Community Edition?

In 2013 producers of SugarCRM announced that SugarCRM Community Edition in version 6.5 is the last one and it will no longer be developed since they are focusing their efforts on the edition distributed under Commercial Open Source license. Because of that, a group of SugarCRM CE’s supporters decided to continue development of free, community edition of this system which resulted in the release of SuiteCRM marked as version 7.0 and allowing update from SugarCRM CE 6.5

As an informal successor of SugarCRM CE, SuiteCRM has been recently introduced to our portfolio. It is a great occasion to take a closer look on what the second fork of SugarCRM CE (the first one was vTiger – a fork of version 1.0) can offer its users.  Current version of SuiteCRM is 7.22 and it will be the subject for our insights and remarks in this post. We are going to focus mainly on newly introduced changes in regard to SugarCRM CE, but we are also going to have the functionality offered by commercial version of SugarCRM and modules developed by eVolpe to SugarCRM CE in mind.

Aiming for SugarCRM Professional…

The first change that will be noticed by users of unmodified version of SugarCRM CE will be definitely more freedom in the area of managing dashboards. Besides larger number of dashlets that can be placed on a dashboard with a drag & drop method, user can define multiple dashboards and conveniently switch them. This functionality, available for a long time in commercial editions of SugarCRM allows to quickly adjust and personalize the system and make it present the most important data for a particular user at start.

A significant improvement has been done in the visual aspect of the system. Thanks to the new layout, system is more user-friendly and allows smoother and faster navigation. New skins are neat and duly responsive – SuiteCRM works properly on both desktop computers and mobile devices.

Default skins available in SuiteCRM: "Suite R" (left) and very similar to commercial edition of SugarCRM: "Suite 7" (right).

Default skins available in SuiteCRM: “Suite R” (left) and very similar to commercial edition of SugarCRM: “Suite 7” (right).

New possibilities in the Reports module should also be appreciated. In SugarCRM CE this functionality was rather sanitized and it only allowed generating six predefined raports. Because of that, in order to provide our customers that chose SugarCRM decent reporting functionality, eVolpe had to develop an advanced reporting module. Compared to its predecessor, SuiteCRM has made a huge progress in this area but its reporting module still gives way to the one developed by eVolpe as well as the one present in commercial editions of SugarCRM. Compared to eVolpe’s reporting module, SuiteCRM lacks such options as SQL queries or logic rules. In SuiteCRM we have also fewer available operations that can be performed on records.

A module that was significantly improved compared to SugarCRM CE and got pretty close to the functionality offered by SugarCRM Professional is the Projects module. In SugarCRM CE, functions of this module were very limited and it was often a wish of eVolpe’s client to perform modifications in this area. SuiteCRM allows its users to use such functions as generating a Gantt chart or very useful project templates. Thanks to project templates, we can easily define sets of tasts that has to be done within each project of a particular type. For example, while creating a template of an implementation project in the waterfall model we can set analysis, designing, implementation, testing and training as default tasks that will be present in every new project using this particular template.

Functionality that was also missing in SugarCRM CE and had to be delivered to our customers within a separate plug-in is team management. SuiteCRM has also filled the gaps of its predecessor compared to the commercial edition of SugarCRM and gave its users the Security Groups Management module. Within this module we can define groups of employees with specific credentials to particular records.

SuiteCRM also caught up with eVolpe’s modules to SugarCRM CE and functionality of SugarCRM Professional in the area of the PDF templates. The system comes with a handy HTML5-based WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor very similar to those known from commercial edition of SugarCRM and eVolpe’s plug-in. Compared to those two template editors, SuiteCRM unfortunately offers less freedom when it comes to fields mapping and also generating the PDF documents. Instead of possibility of mapping every fields in the system, SuiteCRM allows to use only fields from six modules: Quotes, Invoices, Contracts, Accounts, Contacts and Leads. We will encounter similar limits when it comes to generating documents, which is also available only for those six modules.

On the contrary to its older, “community” brother, SuiteCRM offers the Workflow module which allows to automate business processes. Analogically to previous examples, this functionality is also present in commercial edition of SugarCRM and was offered as a plug-in by eVolpe to SugarCRM CE. Workflow in SuiteCRM is similar to the one known from SugarCRM Professional and has up-close functionality. However, we have to note that in version 7.6 SugarCRM significantly leapt away from its free relative in this area by introducing the Process Author module.

Besides mentioned modules, SuiteCRM also offers a few other interesting modules unavailable in SugarCRM CE and being counterparts of those present in commercial editions of SugarCRM.

Where SuiteCRM is better?

Although, in most areas SuiteCRM slightly gives away to current versions of SugarCRM and eVolpe’s plugins, there are two unique modules that distinguish this system. The first is Events – a module that allows to conveniently manage events organized i.e. for our clients. It offers a possibility of adding guests existing as records in our system and managing e-mail invitations (automated sending and displaying information about whether a guest accepted or rejected an invitation).

The Maps module allows defining geographic areas  and assigning them to users within the system.

The Maps module allows defining geographic areas and assigning them to users within the system.

Another very interesting – yet still not fully utilized – element of the system is . It is a module integrated with Google Maps and offering the possibility of managing geographic areas. A user can define areas by marking spots on the map and assigning them to particular users. This module offers satisfying functionality when it comes to displaying information, but it lacks connection to the Workflow mechanism which would open a whole new spectrum of possibilities. Because of query limit set for Google Maps API, a dashlet related to the module can only display the list of defined maps.

Conclusion

While taking a look at the functions introduced to current verion of SuiteCRM compared to SugarCRM CE 6.5 it is hard not to notice that the producers of SuiteCRM have quite clear goal which is to level with SugarCRM Professional. Nevertheless, in most cases capabilities of SuiteCRM are lower than those of its older, commercial brother, which is also confirmed by eVolpe’s Analyst and Implementation Consultant – Małgorzata Wojtaszek:

SuiteCRM obviously gives away to the recent versions of SugarCRM and nothing heralds any significant change in this area in a foreseeable future. More demanding users can lack such modules as Forecasts and Revenue Line Items. On the other hand, considering default functionality, SuiteCRM is a way richer and more functional system than SugarCRM Community Edition. It definitely makes SuiteCRM a system that is worth taking a look at.

Considering entire functionality of SuiteCRM, no license fees and possibility of using eVolpe’s plugins for SugarCRM CE – SuiteCRM is a very promising system and after a few modifications it can be a platform that can compete even with the top players of the CRM solutions market.


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