Welcome!

Open Source Authors: Miguel Valdes Faura, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Sematext Blog, Yeshim Deniz

Related Topics: Open Source, Java, SOA & WOA, Cloud Expo, Apache, Security

Open Source: Article

Five Pitfalls to Avoid with Open Source ERP

Do you want your ERP system to be a hobby and passion

Don't you just love spending millions of dollars to license a commercial ERP package? And then I bet you feel warm and fuzzy about hiring a bus-load of expensive consultants to come and tell you how to run your own business, following so-called ‘best practices' built into an inflexible ERP package. And just when you thought you were going to realize all the benefits of ‘off-the-shelf' software, you find you have thousands of lines of custom code lashing together old systems you didn't dare remove, third-party bolt-on solutions to plug gaps in the ERP software vendor's package, and customized reports, forms and enhancements no-one ever thought someone in your industry could ever need.

Open Source - an Escape from the Commercial ERP software Nightmare?
Then along comes open-source ERP. Kudos to OpenBravo, Compiere/Consona, OpenERP, xTuple, opentaps etc.

Open source (for those who don't already know) means that you get free software, you can extend and modify the source code, you pay no license or maintenance, and you don't need an army of external consultants. Amazing! Too good to be true!

Er, actually, it is too good to be true. Open source ERP is great for some people, but not for everyone. Here's why.

Five Pitfalls to avoid with Open Source ERP

  1. Open source ERP systems were often built on a shoe-string budget and, despite their commercial advantage, sometimes the number of active customers (not downloads) is in double digits. That means 25-100 other companies before you who have tried and tested the software. Not the tens of thousands of companies who have experienced the joys and pains of a top-tier commercial ERP system like SAP, Oracle or Microsoft Dynamics.
  2. Support is not included in the free software option. So if you encounter a bug (and based on the limited number of active users, you are quite likely to) then you are on your own. Of course all open source ERP vendors offer a support option, at a cost. At a minimum you need this and it should be the basis of any budget comparison.
  3. Most ERP open source software vendors now offer a basic version which is open source, and a version with "bells and whistles" on a paid basis. Compiere started this trend by updating their user interface to web-technology and then charging money for it. Hang on a minute - if the bell or whistle is so important, then how can you do without it? Is the open source version really useful without these bells and whistles? Is the difference in the free vs. paid version going to get bigger or smaller over time? Sorry to burst your bubble, but I have not yet found an open source ERP vendor that is a registered not-for-profit charity. They are in business to make money, and one sure-fire way to make money is to charge for things like features that you probably, honestly speaking, need.
  4. Open source by definition allows customers, partners and ex-employees to take the source code and turn it into a new offering. Sometimes the new open source package addresses a number of gaps in the earlier package; sometimes the author of the new package is greedy and wants to make a fast-buck without writing their own system, or sometimes the new system results from a personality conflict. Either way, it means that your ERP vendor might not have actually written the open source ERP package they claim to be expert in, or perhaps not all of it.
  5. Open source ERP vendors are not making much money. No profits must mean lower prices, so a great deal for the customer, right? Wrong. The one thing you need out of your ERP vendor is for them to stick around. You are literally betting your business on their software application and you are going to need to rely on them for years, maybe even decades to come. The last thing you want is your ERP vendor to go out of business, be acquired by another ERP vendor (who you can bet will slash future development on their step-child) or decide to invest their time and energy pursuing something else.

Open Source ERP Is Not for Everyone
To be fair, open source ERP is great for some people. There are many happy customers using open source ERP. Most of them have bright and tech-savvy staff on hand who are not just willing, but even relish the idea of rolling up their sleeves and fixing bugs or designing enhancements. That's why open source users are so vocal on forums as compared to commercial software users. They are the pioneers on the front-line of new technologies, blazing the trail of open source ERP adoption and adaptation. And they're proud of it.

Are you that kind of company? Or are you in business to do something else, like, er, what you set up your business for in the first place?

The Community to Complexity Conundrum
Some open source software is spectacularly successful, Java itself being the poster-child. Go to sourceforge.net and you will find tens of thousands of cool open source applications, downloaded millions of times every day. Here is an important factor to consider: community to complexity. It works as follows: The most successful open source software has a huge community in proportion to its complexity.

For example, open source software like Java, which started out life as a simple language became huge purely because of the community. On the other end of the spectrum, ERP is arguably one of the most complicated enterprise software applications imaginable ....but because it is so specialized it simply does not have the community large enough to match its complexity.

Some technology leaders bend this rule by investing millions of dollars into their own open source offerings to gain traction, such as what Sun did with Java or Google with Android. Open source ERP vendors don't have the funds to do this so they must rely on their small community battling with a hugely complex open-source set of applications.

Is Your ERP a Hobby or a Tool?
So the take-away is this: Do you want your ERP system to be a hobby and passion, or something that just works in the background? Do you want to get into the nuts and bolts of the package or get something that is easy for non-tech savvy subject matter experts to deploy and use?

More Stories By Richard Minney

Richard Minney is co-founder of iBE.net,, a developer of business management software for SMEs. He has nearly 20 years of ERP experience as a developer, consultant and project manager. Previously he was executive VP for Product Innovation at HCL-Axon, responsible for the company's successful ERP add-on solutions business. Before that, he was co-founder of Feanix, a $20m SAP systems integrator with clients like Sikorsky Aircraft and Pratt & Whitney. He spent nine years at U.K.-based Druid Group plc, building SAP’s first industry add-on solution for aerospace and defense. He began his career at Ford and Rolls-Royce. He has a Masters in computer integrated manufacturing from Cranfield University, and a MA in engineering from University of Cambridge, Oxford. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what the future may hold. Mike Kavis is Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Pa...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness, and in-car entertainment and this excitement will bleed into other areas. On the commercial side, m...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity.
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
As enterprises move to all-IP networks and cloud-based applications, communications service providers (CSPs) – facing increased competition from over-the-top providers delivering content via the Internet and independently of CSPs – must be able to offer seamless cloud-based communication and collaboration solutions that can scale for small, midsize, and large enterprises, as well as public sector organizations, in order to keep and grow market share. The latest version of Oracle Communications Unified Communications Suite gives CSPs the capability to do just that. In addition, its integration ...