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5 Reasons IT Experts Should Try Open Source ERP

by Yossi BH, http://opensourceerpguru.com/

5 Reasons IT Experts Should Try Open Source ERP

What is ERP?

ERP stands for Enterprise Resources Planning. The goal of ERP applications is to fulfill the operational requirements of businesses of all sizes. Before ERP was invented, companies used to run several dedicated software packages to manage their daily operations. The first business applications were used to handle accounting tasks. Later, software was developed to manage manufacturing, purchasing, inventory and sales. The problem was integration - getting all these different systems to work together was a nightmare. It still is.

Then came ERP. The big promise of ERP was to solve the integration nightmare by providing a software suite that covered all business requirements within a single software piece. ERP applications were initially adopted by large manufacturing companies. The software helped them improve manufacturing quality and efficiency, streamline their supply chain, reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

ERP's Challenges

There was one problem, though - ERP was very expansive and took too long to implement. Expensive means that an ERP implementation can cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars for a multi-year contract on a global scale.2-3 years implementation projects are a great success, 5 years is average,10 years is close to disaster. Despite the challenges, many ERP projects are extremely successful. It is sometimes argued that without these applications the wave of global growth between the years 2003-2007 could not have happened.

ERP solutions were traditionally used by very large enterprises. But for the past 5 years, a new breed of ERP solutions has emerged-open source ERP. If you look for ERP on sourceforge.com , you'll find more than 400 related projects. Most of these projects are dead. But others are becoming a true alternative to proprietary, closed-source ERP solutions.

Why should you try open source ERP?

There are good reasons why IT experts should take a look at these solutions:

  • These solutions provide a lot of functionality but are relatively simple to implement. Within a timeframe of 3-6 months you can get a business up and running on an open source ERP solution.
  • Open source ERP is cheap. Hell, it's FREE!. Well, it's not really free. You can download, install and use the software for free. But most companies using any ERP system will want 24/7 support, bug fixes and free upgrades. Almost all open source ERP vendors offer some kind support package. The prices are very cheap, comparing to other offerings, somewhere around 50-100$ per user per month.
  • Open source ERP solutions are easy to learn-since this software is free to download and is well documented, open source ERP is a great way to get to know what ERP systems do and how they do it.
  • They are challenging-as a former Unix sysadmin, I can tell you that playing around with these software is fun. Most of them are written either in Java or Python and run on several types of databases and application servers. Nothing beats a long night of downloads, installs, head banging and a working ERP system!
  • They are becoming increasingly popular amongst small-medium businesses-the SME market is huge. It is expected that this year SME's will spend 40B$ on business software. Since implementing these types of ERP is relatively simple, many SME's are looking to replace Excel, Quickbooks and a 10 years old VB application that the son of the boss wrote with a robust, comprehensive, well supported and documented software solution for their business. Since these solutions are relatively young, there is not enough expertise around them. I believe there will be an increase in demand for skilled systems administrators who know how to install, configure and maintain open source ERP solutions.

What now?

There are about 5-6 open source ERP solutions worth trying out, most of them written in Java (Openbravo, Compiere, Apache OFBiz,Adempiere), and Python (TinyERP,PostBooks). Download, install and try them out.

To summarize, open source ERP is becoming increasingly popular amongst small and medium business world-wide, opening up new opportunities for IT experts to expand their knowledge base and consulting experience.

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Tue Jul 22 17:37:06 2008: 4439   anonymous

Idalica.com configures, customizes and supports 4 that were mentioned in this article.
Adempiere, Compiere, Open Bravo and Apache OFBiz. Each of these products have their strengths. It is amazing to see the sharp increase this past calendar year in corporations pursuing these open source products. Open source is gaining huge momentum.
One cool thing is that their are now several courses where companies that support these open source products share their knowledge with the I.T. staff of corporations looking to implement it. (link)

Tue Jul 29 00:51:57 2008: 4447   BigDumbDinosaur

This article looks more like advertising than information, but since the software itself is Open Source, I guess I'm splitting hairs or perhaps being overly-critical (slap me, Tony, if I am).

Be that as it may, the software may be "free" but the implementation sure won't be! Most of the cost of ERP is in getting to run to the client's satisfaction, not in paying for the software itself. The Open Source world isn't going to finance your IT budget when you decide to take the ERP plunge. And, speaking as someone who has been there and done that (get ERP up and running), I see ERP as a classic example of "design by committee," a text book case of bloatware pushed by developers who mostly don't know squat about running a company. In many cases, ERP is too much like dispatching a battleship to sink a rowboat. ERP in one form or another has been around for some 30 years, and like stale pizza, hasn't improved with age.

Kerio Samepage

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