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.
When I started installing the various systems, I used the Virtual Box environment to create virtual machines for testing. When I started evaluating the systems, I found that they ran on several different Open source stacks, or platforms, but were generally independant of the operating system, and were translated into several languages. It was very hard coming up with a short list because there were so many products, and they all had advantages and disadvantages.