Enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management with open source

Big Business


When choosing an ERP/CRM system, the feature scope and three other important criteria play a central role: scalability, vendor lock-in, and interoperability.

ERP/CRM solutions that deserve the term "professional" have almost exclusively been commercial in the past. Companies who were not willing to invest in a commercial ERP system were sidelined; only in the rarest of cases did developing an open source solution with the required functionality prove genuinely practical.

The users of a proprietary ERP solution have to accept critical limitations: They have to tolerate vendor lock-in and lack of interoperability. Errors in evaluation or implementation of such a critical IT system as ERP software can have catastrophic consequences for the company concerned. Companies who identify the weaknesses in their choice of a proprietary solution too late already have their data locked in. Unfortunately, at that point, there is often no meaningful way of turning back, given the high costs.

Fortunately, the rapid pace of innovation has produced a variety of alternatives in recent years in the open source ERP/CRM sector. Open source solutions offer the enterprise plenty of scope for testing and extending the available feature set.

Commercial licenses and proprietary software do not give users any options for modifying the acquired solution to suit their own needs. This aspect of an ERP solution has enormous significance for agile, medium-sized companies. The open source solutions that look particularly promising in this context are opentaps, Openbravo, and SuiteCRM (based on SugarCRM).

Providers of the leading open source ERP/CRM systems have recognized the importance of the cloud at an early stage and put their money on AWS. The availability of turnkey EC2 instances not only gives admins the opportunity to take the short-listed solutions for a test drive but also means they scale on demand. Companies can combine their open source ERP/CRM systems with the high scalability and performance of the cloud, without the long-term commitment to a supplier or the financial burden of licensing costs for several years. A company can set up a needs-driven ERP/CRM system that suits its own requirement profile, independent of company size.

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