Welcome!

Open Source Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Jeev Trika, Derek Weeks

Related Topics: Open Source Cloud, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo, Apache, Cloud Security

Open Source Cloud: 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
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Ask someone to architect an Internet of Things (IoT) solution and you are guaranteed to see a reference to the cloud. This would lead you to believe that IoT requires the cloud to exist. However, there are many IoT use cases where the cloud is not feasible or desirable. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, will discuss the strategies that exist to extend intelligence directly to IoT devices and sensors, freeing them from the constraints of ...
Web Real-Time Communication APIs have quickly revolutionized what browsers are capable of. In addition to video and audio streams, we can now bi-directionally send arbitrary data over WebRTC's PeerConnection Data Channels. With the advent of Progressive Web Apps and new hardware APIs such as WebBluetooh and WebUSB, we can finally enable users to stitch together the Internet of Things directly from their browsers while communicating privately and securely in a decentralized way.
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
Technology vendors and analysts are eager to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful IoT is and why your deployment will be great with the use of their products and services. While it is easy to showcase successful IoT solutions, identifying IoT systems that missed the mark or failed can often provide more in the way of key lessons learned. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Peter Vanderminden, Principal Industry Analyst for IoT & Digital Supply Chain to Flatiron Strategies, will focus on how IoT de...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kausik Sridharabalan, founder and CTO of Pulzze Systems, Inc., will focus on key challenges in building an Internet of Things solution infrastructure. He will shed light on efficient ways of defining interactions within IoT solutions, leading to cost and time reduction. He will also introduce ways to handle data and how one can develop IoT solutions that are lean, flexible and configurable, thus making IoT infrastructure agile and scalable.
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
An IoT product’s log files speak volumes about what’s happening with your products in the field, pinpointing current and potential issues, and enabling you to predict failures and save millions of dollars in inventory. But until recently, no one knew how to listen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Dan Gettens, Chief Research Officer at OnProcess, will discuss recent research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and OnProcess Technology, where MIT created a new, breakthrough analytics model f...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate a...
Fifty billion connected devices and still no winning protocols standards. HTTP, WebSockets, MQTT, and CoAP seem to be leading in the IoT protocol race at the moment but many more protocols are getting introduced on a regular basis. Each protocol has its pros and cons depending on the nature of the communications. Does there really need to be only one protocol to rule them all? Of course not. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, walk you through how Oct...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Bsquare has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For more than two decades, Bsquare has helped its customers extract business value from a broad array of physical assets by making them intelligent, connecting them, and using the data they generate to optimize business processes.
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, will compare the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, e...
There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Big Data at Cloud Expo - to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA - has announced its Call for Papers is open. Cloud computing is being adopted in one form or another by 94% of enterprises today. Tens of billions of new devices are being connected to The Internet of Things. And Big Data is driving this bus. An exponential increase is...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm ...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, provided tips on how to be successful in large scale machine learning...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Roundee / LinearHub will exhibit at the WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LinearHub provides Roundee Service, a smart platform for enterprise video conferencing with enhanced features such as automatic recording and transcription service. Slack users can integrate Roundee to their team via Slack’s App Directory, and '/roundee' command lets your video conference ...
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Digital transformation is too big and important for our future success to not understand the rules that apply to it. The first three rules for winning in this age of hyper-digital transformation are: Advantages in speed, analytics and operational tempos must be captured by implementing an optimized information logistics system (OILS) Real-time operational tempos (IT, people and business processes) must be achieved Businesses that can "analyze data and act and with speed" will dominate those t...