Open source tools for running a consulting business

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Open source software is changing the way corporations do business and it should be changing the way consultants do business too.

What is open source software?

What is open source software? Most simply, it is software with an open source code. When the source code is open, it means that the licenses to use the software are often open as well — users have the ability to update, tweak, change and even contribute to the core platform.

It makes software a more collaborative experience; often bringing a community with it. It also means, when compared to traditional commercial, the software is often quicker to innovate, offering higher quality, better support, flexibility and often times even more security.

In fact, 99% of Fortune 500 companies are using open source software because of the benefits.

In comparison: Traditional or commercial software is closed source code. You have no access to the source code and could not implement changes to the system. In many cases, you are giving away much of your data as a result.

How do open source tools benefit consultants?

Consulting businesses operate in an ever-changing landscape of technology and best practices. As the industry evolves, consultants need to adapt their toolset to deliver high-quality services to their clients. One trend that has been gaining momentum over the past few years is the use of open source tools. Open source tools offer several benefits, including cost savings, flexibility, and a community of developers constantly improving and updating the software.

One other way that open source projects benefit consultants and other businesses is through project drive. As an open source project moves from project into a company, you will likely end up working closely with the maintainers/owners of the project. This is a level of personalization and software knowledge that can’t be replaced by commercial platforms.

For example, if you joined our Discord channel here at Leantime or interact on our github, you’re going to likely run into myself or Marcel. Marcel is the technical arm and brain of the platform; knowing the ins and outs intimately. I live in product, project, and the business side. Between us and the amazing folks that have joined in to contribute both in Discord and to the software, it’s more than you’d find in the “usual” places.

For the rest of this article, we will talk about types of open source tools needed to run a successful consulting business and call out some of our own favorites.

Types of tools to consider for your consulting business

Open Source Project Management Tools

When you’re managing one or two small projects, you can often get buy with tools like sheets, trello, or a simple to do list. As your business grows and evolves, the complexity and number of the projects begins to shift and grow.

The more clients you have, the more team members you have, the more work you have — the more likely something is to fall through the cracks. This makes having a good project management tool an invaluable partner in keeping all these things organized.

For ourselves, though, and in our own consulting careers in the past, we’ve found that traditional project management tools are often overwhelming when you need to spend more time working than you do tracking. This is, in large part, how we got where we are — we couldn’t find a project management system that worked for my own ADHD brain and Marcel needed something simple enough to manage his clients while we worked together.

Whether you’re a solopreneur or a growing consulting agency, there are a few things you may need to prioritize in a project management system: Are your clients able to use the system to track their own project progress? What kind of overview is available? How easy is the system to use? What type of clients am I working with and do they need specific tools?

There is some range in open source project management tools available but I will caveat — the open source community, while changing, has been predominantly driven by engineering fields. That has often resulted in tools that can be more engineering (and agile) driven and the project management space has not been an exception to this in many ways:

  • Leantime – a modern hybrid take on project management; using best practices across lean, design thinking, and agile while focusing on a simple UI that works for business, creative and engineering minds.
  • Redmine – is one of the older systems in the space. They have integrations and can be used to run multiple types of project management but may require more thinking to approach it.
  • OpenProject – calls itself a base to traditional, hybrid, or agile project management. Can be hosted or self-hosted and advertises significant security.
  • Taiga – is a self professed agile project management system. If you’re a technical consultant, this may work well but it’s worth noting that they don’t allow time tracking so you’ll need to find a way to track time outside the system.

Open Source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools

Customer relationship management tools have morphed over the recent years into many different approaches; essentially, anything that allows you to track customer information, reach outs, and more can be called a CRM. Even some commercialized project management systems have joined this space and mainstream go-to names include systems like HubSpot.

A CRM tool helps ensure a seamless experience throughout the customer journey. Open source CRM tools like SuiteCRM and Odoo offer features like lead management, customer segmentation, and customer analytics. These tools are customizable and offer integration with other open source software, such as email marketing tools like Mautic and CRM integrations with popular email clients like Outlook and Gmail.

Some tools to consider:

  • SuiteCRM – handles sales, service, and marketing. They also offer custom module development and tools.
  • Odoo – is a modular approach to CRM; offering different “apps” depending on the features you’re needing
  • OroCRM – based on PHP, it’s considered fairly flexible for development so may make a great option if you’re skilled in PHP.
  • VTiger – Other articles report their free open source features lack on analytics but their paid has plenty of modern options.

Open Source Content Management Systems (CMS)

A CMS is essential for creating and managing content on your website and blog. You need a way for customers to find you. Open source CMS like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla are popular choices as they are free, flexible, and offer a wide range of plugins and themes.

These tools offer features like drag-and-drop interfaces, content scheduling, and user management. Consultants can also integrate their CMS with other open source software, such as email marketing tools, social media management tools, and analytics tools.

Alternative open source CMS include:

  • Strapi – A funded Series B company, though open source, is a Javascript based CMS. Having used it myself, it’s grown into some flexible qualities and offers the benefit of being a headless approach.
  • ConcreteCMS – Like to create pretty documents? This CMS is ideal for you, then. It makes creating a website easy and is open source.

Open Source Analytics tools

Analytics tools are essential for tracking website traffic, user behavior, and performance metrics. Open source analytics tools offer features like real-time tracking, custom dashboards, and goal tracking. These tools are customizable, offer privacy-focused analytics, and integrate with other open source software, such as CMS and CRM tools.

  • Matomo – Identifies as a google analytics alternative in the open source space. Both a cloud & hosted version
  • PostHog – We’ve used posthog in the past to help with things like heatmapping to see how the website is being used. It’s a great alternative.
  • Umami – Focused on Data privacy, Umami is another Google Analytics alternative.

Conclusion: There are open source systems to meet your needs

In conclusion, open source tools offer several benefits for consultants, including cost savings, flexibility, and a community of developers constantly improving and updating the software. You may also find that this support is a notch up from commercial systems.

The types of open source tools needed to run a successful consulting business include project management tools, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, content management systems (CMS), analytics tools, and collaboration tools. By leveraging these tools, you’ll be able to streamline your workflow, manage customer relationships effectively, and deliver high-quality services to your clients.

Looking for a project management system that is easy to use and friendly for engineering and other teams too? Try a free account here at Leantime or download and run your own self-hosted platform.

Other articles you may be interested in:

Gloria Folaron is the CEO and founder of Leantime. A Nurse first, she describes herself as an original non-project manager. Being diagnosed with ADHD later in life, she has hands on experience in navigating the world of project and product management and staying organized with ADHD.

astronaut riding on a dinosaur pointing to text that says welcome to the wonderful world of open source

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If you like Leantime and want to support us you can start by giving us a Star on Github or through a sponsorship.