Open Source Strategies

A blog about open source software and business models, enterprise software, and the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Suite.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

opentaps version 0.9

This coming week, we will be releasing opentaps version 0.9 at MySQL Users Conference 2006 in Santa Clara, CA. This release is a major milestone in our quest to bring forth a powerful, flexible, well-architected, and truly open source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) application. It is the culmination of a three-year effort by myself, our team here at Open Source Strategies, Inc., and the entire global community of Open For Business (OFBiz) developers, contributors, and users.

What Does it Do?

Imagine if you had a very complex business. You sell custom design services to your customers, manufacture products for them, and then warranty your products. At the same time, you also sold off-the-shelf complementary products. Your products are sold online, in retail stores, and by a direct sales force to larger customers. Those larger customers require design documents and contracts.

Now imagine that your business had multiple manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, and physical stores. In different countries. With different languages, currencies, and tax laws.

Your sales force needs to track leads, convert them to accounts and contacts, track the whole sales cycle from opportunity to closing, manage their appointments, log calls and emails, and create sales forecasts. Your manufacturing plants need to schedule production, track raw materials usage, and log production times and quantities produced. Your warehouses need to track incoming and outgoing shipments, tag inventory, and prepare picking lists and shipping labels. Your warranty department needs to track requests, schedule service calls, and look up service history on each individual product. Your marketing department wants to know the conversion rates of different campaigns. Your finance departments wants status of your customers' accounts, set credit limits, and get financial results for all the subsidiaries of your organization.

opentaps is one system that could meet all of those needs.

By combining the outstanding OFBiz framework and applications, to which we are now one of the major contributors, with our own Financials and CRM modules, we have created a system that could support the ful cycle of business processes in an organization. Everything from customer acquisition (CRM and Marketing) to order taking (eCommerce, Point Of Sales, Order Entry) to the "middle" (Inventory and Warehouse, Shipping, Manufacturing, Purchasing) to Financials and Accounting.

All of this is supported in one fully-integrated application suite. There is no gorilla glue, duck tape, or Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) to hold it together. Instead, a single unified database with 730 tables captures all the activities in the organization. The application is built around a Service Oriented Architecture, and there are now over 1500 "services" or business logic components.

There is also no need to piece together your infrastructure stack. The 60+ MB download from sourceforge includes the Apache Tomcat server embedded into it, so all you have to do is unzip and start. It can be deployed with any major database, including open source databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL, on either Linux or Windows. Out of the box, it supports web and Swing user interfaces, web services, workflow, and remote-local synchronization. This combination allows you to deploy it across multiple servers over the Internet, bringing together a large and dispersed organization.

The End of the Beginning

opentaps version 0.9 is a milestone, but I see more as the "end of the beginning" rather than the completion of our quest. In particular, I'd like to see the following in future releases:
  • Better error message handling: Right now, some of the error messages on the screen are cryptic, like "Commit transaction failed" or "cost_comp_weff integrity violation". You'd have to scroll through the logs to see what really happened and be fairly familiar with the system to know what it means.
  • Support for multi-tenancy: Many people ask us if OFBiz or opentaps could be set up as a mall (think Yahoo! stores) Right now, the answer is no. It is a big application designed to support one organization with many operations, rather than many organizations squeezed into one server. I have, however, been thinking about multi-tenancy this weekend, and I think it shouldn't be too hard to extend the core framework to support it.
  • CRM: Full project management, time tracking, and invoicing. Right now support for this is in the framework, but I'd like to make the user interface more intuitive.
  • Financials: More reports. Right now we have basic financial statements, AR/AP, accounts, and reconciliations. I'd like to have more reports that allow us to run our businesses better, which leads me to the next item on my wish list.
  • Business intelligence: I'd like to integrate an open source business intelligence tool so business analysts can easily create custom reports to get useful knowledge about their operations. Right now, the system logs a tremendous amount of data (down to the exact history of each visit to the online store.) If we could tap into all of this data to provide real-time knowledge about what's going in a business, we could deliver a lot more value to our users.
Ultimately, though, it's the users of an open source project that drive its future, so rather than tell you what I want, it's my turn to listen and find out what you want. Thus, our main mission, even above those listed above, is to build a larger and better collaborative community around opentaps and OFBiz.

Come See Us at MySQL UC 2006

We'll be at MySQL Users Conference 2006 this coming week. We got a great spot in Community Pavilion C3, right in between Eclipse and phpMyAdmin. I'll also be giving a talk Tuesday, April 25, 2006 at 2 PM in Ballroom A. So please come see us!

Bookmark and Share

Monday, April 10, 2006

opentaps at MySQL UC 2006 got the first scoop, but we'll be officially unveiling opentaps version 0.9 at the MySQL Users Conference 2006. This will be a landmark release for us, the first one combining the Open For Business applications and framework with our Financials and CRM modules to create a complete open source ERP+CRM suite. The combined suite would give e-tailers, retailers, and manufacturers the ability to manage their entire business, from customers to orders to inventory and manufacturing to accounting, all through one web-based application.

Best of all, not only is the opentaps suite open source, but it could also be deployed with open source databases such as MySQL on open source platforms such as Linux or FreeBSD. There's no dependencies on commercial databases, operating systems, or browsers. As a result, we think this would give our users maximum flexibility and the lowest total cost of ownership.

So, if you're attending the MySQL Users Conference 2006 at the end of April, please come to the opentaps table (Community Pavilion C5) or to my talk "Opening Up Enterprise Software" on April 25, 2006 at 2 PM. We'll be doing demos, handing out some CD's, and showing you how to set up a full ERP+CRM suite using the MySQL open source database. This would be a great opportunity for us to meet and hear from some users in person, a treat since we mostly get to work with you on mailing lists.

If you can't attend or can't wait, you can preview it right now by downloading an OFBiz weekly build and checking out our Financials and CRM modules out of our SVN and building it yourself. But please come see us if you can!

Bookmark and Share