A Survey of Free and Open Source Business Software

This blog is sponsored by Fred Blauer and Associates


After implementing many mid level ERP software systems for businesses in different industries, I found myself working on Systems Audit and Sarbanes, Oxley compliance projects for a number of years. When I returned to this space, after my mandates were completed, I decided to investigate and see if the open source development model had infiltrated into the business application areas like accounting, ERP, vertical and horizontal markets, and other business areas like productivity etc. I found that Open Office was dominant in the productivity class, but most of the other areas were fragmented and had a lot of players. I started my research by looking for a short list or “best of breed” in each area that I could spend some time installing and evaluating. There were too many alternatives to look at everything. I created a data base, and classified systems into small, medium, and large, and then by industry or type of product. One of the most important criteria for selection was the strength of the community behind the product, support and commercial backing.
I found some very interesting programs in the accounting and ERP space, and also for various industry sectors like manufacturing, distribution and wholesale, Retail/POS, Non-profit, Services, Real Estate etc. There were also a lot of good ones in the domains of Business intelligence, Human resources, eCommerce, CRM, Workflow, budgeting, Integration tools etc.
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Good article on “Postmodern ERP”

Here is a well written article from Software advisor which talks about the traditional monolithic Integrated ERP approach vs. what used to be know as “Best of Breed”. This debate has been going on for a long time, but the conversation may be changing due to newer cloud technologies like REST API’s for example:

What Is Postmodern ERP?

If you’re in the market for an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you’ve likely heard a new buzzword being thrown around: “postmodern ERP.”

No, your college literature professor hasn’t taken on a career in IT—this term simply describes a new approach to getting the most out of the heavy-duty business software used by larger organizations.

In this article, we’ll explain how we got to the era of postmodern ERP and what it means for your business.

Streamlined Systems Replace Legacy ERP Suites

Let’s start with some history. Gartner originally coined the term “enterprise resource planning” back in 1990 to describe a new breed of integrated software suite. These suites included software applications for:

During the 1990s and 2000s, ERP software became essential to the corporate IT infrastructure. Unfortunately, by the mid-2000s, ERP software started to get a less than savory reputation.

This bad rap was based on the price tag of ERP systems, the relative inflexibility of an integrated suite and the droves of ERP implementation failures that made news in the tech world.

Today, some commentators have proclaimed that ERP is “dead,” or that the end is at least near. And a growing number of companies are now implementing alternatives to the traditional one-stop shop offered by ERP systems.

These alternatives can include:

    • Substituting a cloud deployment:, best-of-breed application for one of the existing applications in the company’s ERP suite. For example, an organization might prefer to use a more robust industry-standard CRM system, such as Salesforce (which can integrate with most major ERP suites), instead of the CRM application bundled with their ERP system.
    • Using multiple ERP suites from different vendors, usually across different business units or subsidiaries.
    • Foregoing an ERP suite altogether and using only best-of-breed applications.

ERP Timeline

Recently, these criticisms of ERP software have prompted new viewpoints among many tech thought leaders. Enter the “postmodern” ERP system, defined by Gartnerin 2014 as:

“A technology strategy that automates and links administrative and operational business capabilities (such as finance, HR, purchasing, manufacturing and distribution) with appropriate levels of integration that balance the benefits of vendor-delivered integration against business flexibility and agility.”

The goal of a postmodern ERP strategy is to use the best applications possible in each particular area, while ensuring they adequately integrate with each other when necessary.

These systems may be hosted either on-premise or in the cloud, based on the organization’s needs.

To put it another way: A traditional ERP system is like the new car you buy every 10 years. A postmodern ERP system is like owning the same car indefinitely, but with various components that can easily be changed out as needed.

Thomas Spol, senior director at PRO Unlimited, describes the postmodern approach perfectly in an article for CIO Review:

“In the postmodern ERP world, the legacy ERP suite is deconstructed into a more [loose] set of integrated business functions. The pieces make up the whole, rather than the whole (or suite) comprising the pieces.”

Use Different Strategies for Different Types of Applications

A key facet of a postmodern ERP strategy is that it is not one highly defined, universal approach: It’s not necessarily a unified “system” you can buy from a vendor. Two similar organizations’ strategies could both be “postmodern,” yet still be wildly different from each other.

That’s because each organization defines its own postmodern strategy according to its operations and its needs, eschewing one-size-fits-all solutions.

Broadly speaking, a postmodern approach actually includes two or more separate strategies—one for each category of applications the organization uses. According to Gartner, most ERP applications can be broken down into either the “administrative” or the “operational” category:

ERP Application Breakdown

Administrative ERP Applications Operational ERP Applications
  • Finance
  • Human resources
  • Indirect procurement
  • Manufacturing
  • Supply chain management
  • Order management

Organizations should identify an appropriate and distinct strategy for each category of applications they use, rather than using the monolithic strategy of a traditional ERP implementation. Thus, a postmodern ERP system will likely be comprised of applications from two or more vendors, and may include multiple deployment models.

For example, if you work for a midsize industrial manufacturer, your postmodern ERP strategy might be as follows: Your core financials and human resources are housed in one integrated suite, hosted on-premise.

Your manufacturing and sales operations, meanwhile, are served by a suite ofcloud-based MRP and CRM applications, provided by various other vendors that can better meet the specific requirements and needs on the operational side of your organization.

Such an approach brings several benefits: For one, it ensures your company is using the applications best suited to each particular job.

What’s more, if something major happens with your company—such as a merger, acquisition or rapid business growth—you might need to upgrade certain systems, such as your financial and CRM applications. However, your other applications can probably remain intact.

With the postmodern strategy, this is generally much easier to accomplish: You can easily replace or upgrade only the specific applications affected by the change. But with an integrated ERP system, you would have to replace the whole suite of applications, or customize or upgrade several components.

Of course, keep in mind that postmodern strategies rely on the integration capabilities of individual applications and suites provided by different vendors. Make sure the systems you purchase work well together; more siloed applications may not suffice for this type of strategy.

Is a Postmodern ERP Strategy Right for My Organization?

Many praise the aforementioned benefits of postmodern strategies. For example, Gartner’s Denise Ganly writes that “using a traditional ERP system” in this day and age “is like building a house on sand.”

She maintains that the benefits of ERP “should be preserved where it makes sense to do so,” but that businesses shouldn’t deploy an on-premise suite from a “single mega-vendor” just because that’s the way it has always been done.

Instead, organizations should opt for a strategy that will provide them with long-term agility over short-term operational efficiency.

In general, growing midsize to large manufacturing firms with multiple locations or subsidiaries are best suited for a postmodern strategy, due to their complex operational requirements, broad geographical reach and need for greater business agility in often highly competitive environments.

Conversely, smaller organizations with limited operational application needs might be better suited to a traditional ERP suite.

For large or growing organizations, a postmodern ERP strategy is the way of the future. Still, you should carefully consider what your business needs are now and in the near term before making a purchase.

Taken from here:


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ERPNext Aims to Simplify Enterprise Resource Planning

From eweek magazine

By Nathan Eddy  |  Posted 2015-05-27

ERPNext offers free accounts for up to five users, and once the business grows, small businesses can opt for pricing plans that start at $300 per year.
ERPNext, an open source enterprise software developer launched an ERP suite that is designed to function more like the apps that users deploy on tablets and mobile phones. Features include a Setup Wizard and support to help small businesses, tools to aid in customer relations and selling, including opportunity tracking, order recording and email management, plus tools that let users raise material requests and track orders and inventory. Other features include manufacturing and production planning; billing and payments management, including customer billing and supplier invoice management; project management tools with time logs, tasks, billing, and tracking, and tools for tracking employees’ leave, attendance, expenses, and payroll. “Ease of use is a great contributor for sure. People’s expectations from how software should be designed is based on their use of smartphones popular applications like Facebook,” Rushabh Mehta founder of ERPNext, told eWEEK. “Also SMB clients don’t have time for training so there is a very small window by which they can get hooked to the application. Having said that, implementing ERP applications can be very time consuming and takes a lot of discipline. Ease of use can help you get so far, but in the long run, it is the discipline that counts.”
Mehta said selection is the earliest challenge small businesses face when deploying an ERP strategy. “There are so many options out there and there is no clear market leader. So people tend to spend a lot of time evaluating various ERP applications. This is where cloud makes sense,” he explained. “With cloud ERPs and especially with ERPNext where we offer a free five-user plan, small business can take their time to evaluate ERPNext the way they want.” Other features include a “Help Desk” to let small businesses receive and respond to customer complaints. It also issues retail point-of-sale tools to record bills, payments and inventory reductions by location and a website builder with support for product catalogs, shopping carts, blogs, customer portals, contact forms and Google Analytics tracking. ERPNext offers free accounts for up to five users, and once the business grows, small businesses can opt for pricing plans that start at $300 per year. “ERPs have been very slow to evolve, but that will change for sure, but I am not sure how fast. One reason is that ERPs have been traditionally only for medium or large businesses,” Mehta said. “And these companies can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, on these applications. This means that there are elaborate implementation and training programs for users leading in applications that are heavy and hard to configure. The established ERP ecosystem has no interest in killing this hen that is laying golden eggs.”
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25 Google Drive Tips You’ve Probably Never Heard Before

Some great tips for Using Google drive – Taken from this article here

Recently I moved over from Dropbox to Google Drive and found a few unexpected benefits. At first I had a little trouble managing the space since the 1TB on my Google Drive was bigger than my HDD, but after I got that sorted I started to learn some of the deeper features of Google Drive, some of which are pretty cool. Below is a list of the top tips and tricks I have learned from playing with Google Drive over the last few months.

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Cloud ERP 1.0 vs Cloud ERP 2.0 – Two Generations Divided by Mobility

Re-blogged from the Versaccounts blog

“I recently made the following point about Cloud 2.0 products like VersAccounts Limited Small Business Cloud ERP on LinkedIn

“An important difference between Born in the Cloud 2.0 products like VersAccounts Limited Small Business ERP and 30 year old Heritage Software is that 100% of VersAccounts Limited Small Business ERP is available on any mobile device as part of the base capability.”

Since then, several people have asked me why I had referred to the VersAccounts Small Business Cloud ERP system as a Cloud 2.0 application and what the heck Cloud 1.0 was?

So here it is.

The distinction between Cloud 1.0 and Cloud 2.0 is huge. Because what divides them is huge.

Cloud 1.0 and Cloud 2.0 ERP products are two distinct generations of software that are divided among other things by Mobility.

Cloud 1.0 ERP products like Netsuite, and Cloud 1.0 Accounting products like Intacct were “born in the cloud”. In the early days of cloud almost 15 years ago. They are the “cloud pioneers” so to speak.

Cloud 1.0 applications were built when there were no smartphones. Mobility was not a concern in their UI design, nor was it in their underlying architecture.

The key differentiating benefits and focus of Cloud 1.0 ERP applications over the previous generation of software – so called On-premise software – was that that someone else hosted the Cloud 1.0 application freeing the customer from purchasing, setting up and managing the underlying IT required to run the software.

In addition the subscription model of payment introduced into the mainstream with Cloud 1.0, allowed the customer to “pay-as-you-go” with no big upfront capital outlay.

Nearly 15 years later the focus is on the next generation of software products and several additional benefits over and above hosting and subscription that they deliver.

A key new benefit is Mobility.

Unlike Cloud 1.0 products like NetSuite and Intacct, Cloud 2.0 products like VersAccounts Cloud ERP for Small Business were developed in the last 5 years when smartphones had become ubiquitous and tablets had arrived. Mobility was on everyone’s mind.

So Cloud 2.0 products are not just “born in the cloud” like Cloud 1.0 offerings. They are also “born for Mobility”.

The result is that the technologies and techniques used to build Cloud 2.0 applications enable the creation of application Cloud 2.0 application User Interfaces (UI) that are “responsive”. This means these UIs are built to automatically adjust what they display and how, and how one interacts with them, to suite the form factor and capabilities of the kind of device they are being used on – desktop, tablet, smartphone. No need to build one UI for the desktop and another for a tablet, and yet another one for a smartphone.

As a result the entire Cloud 2.0 application is accessible directly from any device, desktop or mobile.

Not so with Cloud 1.0.

In fact it is the opposite. Cloud 1.0 applications are not directly accessible on mobile devices at all.

Instead, separate mobile “add-on” products are built to run on mobile devices and then they are connected up with the Cloud 1.0 application. The functionality of these mobile add-ons is typically limited to a particular role (say a field sales person who needs a mobile application for order entry on his tablet) and a small set of workflows associated with that role.

This is the same approach taken by “On-premise” software vendors who desire to add some mobile capability to their applications.

Add-on applications also cost extra.

In addition, many Cloud 1.0 vendors also provide “mobile platforms”. These are “tool boxes” of software components and infrastructure to help mobile add-on developers develop these add-ons and connect them to the Cloud 1.0 application.

Mobile platforms are not required by Cloud 2.0 applications as the Cloud 2.0 application itself is the mobile platform.

Net/Net Mobility is not inherent in Cloud 1.0 solutions, just like it is not inherent in On-premise offerings. However it can be added. But the add-ons are limited. And they usually cost extra and are expensive.”

About the Author

Sunil brings over 25 years experience delivering embedded, on-premise, cloud, and mobile products to market and creating successful global businesses around them.As CEO of VersAccounts, his mission is to bring enterprise level ERP solutions to small and medium size businesses.

Email: Sunil (dot) Pande at versaccounts.com
Phone: +1 855 445 2281 Ext 701

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Bossie Awards 2014: The best open source applications

(Check out the authors)

By Infoworld Staff, InfoWorld | Sep 29, 2014

InfoWorld’s top picks of the year in open source business applications and middleware. While many of these application projects have been around for years, they have not been sitting still. They’ve been creating mobile-friendly front ends, adding industry capabilities (like retail for example), providing integrations with other systems, and invariably, expanding the deployment options with SaaS editions. You’ll find plenty that’s new in this year’s crop of open source apps.

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Posted in Accounting/ERP, Business Intelligence and reporting, Business open source, CRM, eCommerce, Erpnext, Industry Specific, Openbravo, Openerp, Retail/POS, xtuple | Leave a comment

After the Fork: Financing Open Source Software

One of the key moments in the history of free software was the rise of companies based around open source. After the first wave of startups based around offering distros and support for them – Red Hat being perhaps the most famous and successful example – there followed a second wave of companies offering open source versions of key enterprise software, many of them described in the early posts of this blog.

But things have moved on. Nowadays, open source is fast becoming the standard for business software, apart from a few old dinosaurs moaning about the meteorites. However, with that maturing of the marketplace, it is inevitable that some early open-source companies have changed. For example, a post from SugarCRM earlier this year entitled “SugarCRM in the Next 10 Years” revealed that the open source version would be available, and supported until 2015, but no longer actively developed:

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Portland OR USA and Dublin, Ireland. August 21st , 2014 VersAccounts* Ltd.

http://www.versaccounts.com today announced that former Sage UK/Ireland executive Liam Mullaney will lead the expansion of VersAccounts, a provider of small business mobile cloud ERP and accounting solutions, into Europe. Liam Mullaney, former CEO Sage Ireland, is accredited with growing Sage to be the dominant market leader for business management solutions in Ireland. A longtime supporter of cloud technologies, he also pioneered the development of Sage’s cloud payroll solution for the UK and Ireland using the Ruby on Rails platform.

“We are really thrilled to have an executive of Liam’s caliber and seniority join the VersAccounts team,” said Sunil Pande, CEO of VersAccounts Ltd. He has the deep experience that VersAccounts needs to grow its business globally. More important, though, is Liam’s creative and lateral thinking and his culture of always focusing on the customer. These qualities perfectly match the VersAccounts way of doing business.”

“I am really excited about helping VersAccounts meet the needs of the $2.5B small business ERP market that remains poorly served today,” said Liam Mullaney. “These are rapidly growing companies that have complex operations. They need a full function ERP but can’t afford it. So they make do with accounting software, spreadsheets and manual processes. VersAccounts’ mission is to change this by disrupting the traditional pricing of ERP systems and making them affordable to these small businesses through the use of cloud and mobile technologies.”

The pricing model is disruptive and so too is the route to market: VersAccounts will only operate through a partner channel and it’s 50/50 all the way. “It’s so refreshing to operate a simple pricing and partner model with no channel conflict and a customer first approach every time!” said Liam Mullaney.

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Can Xero Bring Clarity to the Chaos of Add-Ons?

News: Xero Expands Add-on Directory into Software Marketplace

Xero has 350 add-on programs with nine new ones added in the past three weeks. That is three new programs each week!

It is virtually impossible for accountants to keep on top of new add-ons and have time left to do their accounting too.

The updated marketplace and a better search option are a welcome addition, but will it make a substantial difference?

Yes – if you have the time, you can test features and functionality by getting a trial account. But you will find it quite hard to access critical factors.

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Why Enterprise Cloud is Just the Warm-Up

For years, headlines about cloud computing have focused on infrastructure for the enterprise. Stories typically focus on the vendors – Amazon Web Services, Azure, Google App Engine, OpenStack, etc. – or on the benefits such as scalability, reliability, cost efficiency and of course that enterprise buzzword, “agility”.

But there’s an equally large, if not larger revolution occurring in small business where the catalyst is cloud software more than infrastructure-as-a-service. The greatest improvement over desktop or server software is this – the cloud promises easy access to the latest business technology.

What does this mean? In practical terms, a business owner armed with just a credit card and an internet connection can use nearly any cloud program in the world. Often for free on a 30-day trial. The implication of this commonly accepted fact is so enormous that many fail to see the significance.

Think about the hurdles an SME faced in the past if it wanted to trial a customer database or inventory program. A test server had to be ordered and installed by a consultant paid on an hourly rate. The software itself needed to be requested separately and loaded onto the machine, with data exported from the existing application and imported into the new one.

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QuickBooks Bitcoin Payments

Intuit Is Now Testing Bitcoin

There are two major barriers that prevent typical small businesses from taking bitcoin payments:

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