Open Source Strategies

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beyond Open Source ERP and CRM

It has been over three years since we began our road to build an open source ERP and CRM suite, and I am frankly surprised by how far we have come in such a short period of time. I owe a great deal both to our team of outstanding professional developers who work full time on developing and advancing opentaps and to the open source community at large for providing us with so many great tools.

Nevertheless, I think it is time to look further and higher--to look beyond open source ERP and CRM. I say this for several reasons:

First, "ERP" and "CRM" refer to software that was invented 15, even 20 plus years ago. The driving technologies behind classic ERP and CRM were the SQL database and client/server networks. This predates just about every other piece of software you use today. So, if we merely set our sights to build ERP or CRM software, we are really looking to build the past rather than the future of enterprise software.

Second, "ERP" and to a lesser extent "CRM" are monolithic pieces of software. They promise great things but require great effort as well--they are big, complex, and expensive to implement. This is not how software is any more. Modern software is much less intrusive, and you can get it in small incremental doses. opentaps needs to be more like that: easier to implement, so an organization can deploy it and reap the benefits of a full ERP and CRM system quickly and without as much effort.

Finally, it is a mistake to create just the "open source alternative" to existing commercial ERP and CRM systems. Reinventing the wheel is only so fun, even if it is "an open source wheel." It is far more interesting (and fun) if we could take all the innovation in all the open source communities and the best of open source software development methodologies to create simply the best software possible.

So, while classic ERP and CRM will undoubtedly be a key part of what the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM suite provide to our users, we should not limit ourselves based on ERP and CRM systems in the market today. Rather, let's think of opentaps as a set of tools for solving business problems, and ask ourselves:
  1. What common problems do businesses have?
  2. What open source technologies can we use to solve them effectively?
Think outside the box: How will semantic networks help solve business problems? How will social networking impact CRM? What could peer to peer networks do? And if you have good ideas, please write!

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