Open Source Strategies

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

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Future of pictures

This is a drawing for my ideas on the future of opentaps, namely:
1. A set of core opentaps ERP + CRM applications for transacting business day throughout the enterprise
2. Bringing in analytics and search tools
to help make better sense of the data
3. Integrating with devices of all stripes, for mobile phones to robots to shop floor machinery, and of course the desktop.
4. Pulling all of these components together into a unified front end.
5. Supporting it with documentation and context sensitive help.

The big unknowns are what that front end will be and how it will be developed. Would the user interface of the future be the desktop, the browser, a mobile phone, or something else entirely different? Or would there simply be more choice of how we interact with our computers in the future, and each of us would use an interface that makes the sense to us?

It's simply too early to say. Nor do we have to. Since we're an open source project, one of our basic goals is to maximize participation--make our product usable by as many people as possible. This means that we don't get to choose the browser over the desktop or framework X over Y. We have to build for all of them.

In the meantime, we know we can do a few things right now to prepare for that future. First, regardless of what the medium of interface will be, the message still has to be the same. That message for us will always be clean, consistent, and easy-to-use interfaces driven by how our users want to work. Second, we can and will have to write user interfaces that are easily abstractable in a well-tiered architecture, so that we will be able to deliver it to our users in whatever medium they choose down the road.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Future Directions for opentaps

In the two years since we first created opentaps, we've had the opportunity to work with a number of companies large and small on implementing open source ERP and CRM solutions. In the process, we realized that most companies want the same things:
  1. Bring together all the people in the organization
  2. Automate their business processes
  3. Record all the transactions taking place in the organization, both internal and external
  4. Analyze that data to help make better decisions
As we had to the 1.0 release of opentaps, we've made a lot of progress in making this a reality. From Apache OFBIZ we have a very rich (and complex) data model and a scalable and stable framework for record enterprise data in large volume. We also now have a suite of opentaps modules which are designed around the way business users work, whether they are in sales, marketing, customer service, finance, warehouse, or purchasing.

We've also got a lot more to do. We need to bring in better open source tools for analyzing our data. We want to have an analytic tool which could be used to develop ad hoc reports and then incorporate those reports directly into the opentaps applications. We would like to have better search tools for data in opentaps and in other formats, such as Word or Excel. We would like to integrate with all the devices in an organization, from cell phones and Blackberries to shop floor machinery, scanners, robots, and CAD/CAM devices.

Above all, we need better user interfaces. We want opentaps to let every user in the organization do their job easily, without a lot of back and forth clicking, guessing what different screens or fields do, or forcing them to think in technical terms. Using opentaps to do your job should feel natural.

Last but not least, we want to turn opentaps into a platform that many more open source developers could leverage, whether they are working with Java, PHP, or Ruby On Rails. This means creating tools for exporting our business logic and user interface elements into any language or portal system. We hope that this would build a larger and stronger community of developers around opentaps. As part of this, our goal is also to help all these developers build successful and sustainable businesses around opentaps.

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