Tackling the issue of CRM and ERP

I think this is a challenge for both OK-international as well as local OK chapters and groups who are trying to professionalise their efforts. How do we minimalise or automatise administrative tasks and keep a general database of our leads, partners, sponsors, volunteers, attendees, etc.

So my question is, what do you use for your CRM / ERP / Accounting and other administrative challenges? I know a lot of tools are Open Source such as Odoo, Zurmo, CiviCRM, SugarCRM, and so on… but I can’t really see the Wood for the Trees.

And my second though was: Maybe, focussing on CRM effforts, it would be good to have a multisite CRM system that international can offer to chapters and groups. Whenever efforts in a certain region might fade or have a group turnover, you wouldn’t lose all the valuable contacts with other local partners. And local groups and chapters wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of setting something up themselves.

What do you think? Love to hear some remarks.

Kind regards,
Pieter-Jan - Open Knowledge Belgium


This isn’t just an OK problem, many of the other volunteer run orgs (even in the IT area) have these exact same issues!


Hi @PJPauwels good point and effort (!). As @markwalkom remember, it is a wider problem… And at now, only few people (~15 days for 3 of us) interested :wink: … So, need a ant work (little but continuous), step-by-step…

Lets see how to start: drafting a roadmap.

  1. A little more questions, and check consensus about it,
  • we are interested in OK-I or OK-chapters?
  • we can start only with “CRM needs”? (ERP is so complex)
  • infrastructure: what is the most basic common infrastructure for a CRM, the database? dataset standards? hosting?
  1. Samples and use cases.
    I imagine that we can populate a Github project or an open GoogleDoc with dataset samples and use case examples, to express our real and common needs … Them select standards (ex. vCard and FOAF are standards for data interchange that we can to adopt), etc.

  2. Technical discussion.
    After some work and discussion the “CRM best tools” will emerge and we can decide what infrastructure (ex. hosting and common databases) we need.

Sorry for interrupting your discuss but is really a CRM and/or ERP solution needed for any OK project? Weren’t you targeting project management softwares, like Slack, Trello and so on? I mean, I new to managing these groups and I have been focusing on finding solutions for me work group, even though I am going trough the same problem exposed in post #2: [quote=“ppkrauss, post:3, topic:1874”]
And at now, only few people (~15 days for 3 of us) interested

Anyway, why do you need CRM? Isn’t a project management platform sufficient?

I’ll try to answer to the best of knowledge.

1.a) I don’t know whether OK-I already uses a system for their CRM / ERP and or Project management but as I see it would be good to have a sort of federated multisite system that enables lokal chapters and groups to use the tools for their needs. Have one big database would get cluttered very quickly I imagine, but not sure.

1.b) Agreed, CRM and maybe project management tools like gsilvapt mentioned would be a first good step. ERP is too complex as every country or region has different currencies, different modalities and different needs. But still, for chapters to professionalise and be more self-sufficient this would be eventually a good addition to the tool belt. And i’m already dreaming here @ppkrauss, but if we could add an ERP system to the local group/chapter wordpress page, we coud automatically post our financial streams and be a forerunner regarding openness regarding budget and spending data. Interested how @Mor thinks about this.

1.c) The dream scenario is to have something that looks like a SaaS for groups and chapters with an own organisation and login. But I can imagine still is hard as OK-I, Chapters, groups and established groups will all have different needs.

  1. Great idea :smiley:
    Maybe a hackpad or G-Doc is a good first step.

  2. Agreed, I’d rather have good concensus in step 2 with all related parties, then setting up something quickly that nobody will use.

Thanks @gsilvapt for the response, and yes I agree, some groups will not feel the direct need for this issue.

I’ll just present you a use-case as @ppkrauss was suggesting, to further explain our problem at Open Knowledge Belgium. We are a chapter with a small batch of volunteers, two commercial projects with numerous partner commercial and non-commercial organisations, several partner projects running at the moment and a whole lot of contacts in government, public agencies and so forth for policy lobbying, talks, discussions and so forth. All these contacts are harvested, not in a CRM but in my own Google Contactslist. Same applies for my board members who all have their contacts of their own regarding open in Belgium. So already you have silo’s forming with contact-data with an organisation. The real trouble is, and that is something OK-I is seeing as well, that some working groups or local groups start to hibernate. This can be because the volunteers are retiring to other activities or a lot of new volunteers are taking the wheel. The lack of a decent semi-centralised CRM means when key members of a group or chapter disappear, part of their leads and contacts disappear with them and the new members need to start over. So whenever I would leave and somebody would need to replace me, that person would have to start all over, or I would have to export my own contact list and start digging out the professional contacts from the personal ones. This is something that really slows down progress in organisations who are undergoing internal shifting. Another problem is Google contacts do not provide context metadata. Who in this list is a volunteer? And who isn’t? And is that an active volunteer (eg. did something this month) or a non-active volunteer? Or is he/she a powerful lead to push the agenda to open data in a certain way?

If I look at my organisation today, that info is spread around on numerous outdated spreadsheets hidden away in completely different folders. In a structure I can find my way in, because I have been working for Open Knowledge Belgium for the last two years, but again, for someone new it would take months to understand the whole structure and what is relevant or not.

So yeah, I believe CRM systems are a real necessity. And I believe it should be something that should be provided by Open Knowledge International because it, for example, would ensure that groups, chapters and working groups going into full hibernation would not lose all their relevant data when being started back up.

@nealbastek, feel free to respond whether I’m on the right track here :smile:.

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Thanks for clarifying! In this case, I agree. It seems an important tool for community management.

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Any progress on this?

If not then I would recommend some managed hosting for Tiki Wikis or Wikisuite.

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