Planning an Open source ERP customization?

An Open Source ERP is a system that allows the user to access the source code. By making this source code available to the public the system then allows the buying company to use and maintain it with the help of its own IT department. The firm can also modify and customise the source code to make its operations efficient and dynamic. The firm can save the amount that will have to be paid to the ERP vendor for further customizations. But one must note that to make this ERP work, a well-trained IT staff is required for which the firm will have to invest a good amount of money. This flexibility makes open source ERP an ideal choice for small and medium businesses where the number of customizations also are not too many. Not every requirement can be customised and made available for the firm. It is equally important that the firm understands this prospect and carefully analyses the requirements. Based on the importance and the priority of the requirement the customisation can be asked for.

Let’s take a quick look at the advantages of using Open Source ERP:

  • One of the key benefits of using this ERP is that there is no external entity involved in maintaining your system. This cuts the dependency on the ERP vendors and saves not just costs but also precious time which can be used for operational purposes. With a good IT support, all ERP related activities can be performed within your firm itself.
  • With your in-house staff, you save exorbitant fees that are offered to the consultants for customizations, support and maintenance activities. The number of licenses taken is also less. Firms can use open source databases and applications and save further investments.
  • The developers working in your firm can enhance the source code with their expert knowledge and make the existing ERP even more efficient in terms of quality and functionality. Even regular upgrades can be done which saves you the effort of running behind the ERP vendors.

Few Open Source ERPs:

  • Openbravo
  • Opentaps
  • Open ERP (Odoo)
  • ERP5
  • Compiere

There are thousands of vendors who provide with Open Source ERP but the intelligence lies in choosing the ideal one. Let us now go through some of the guidelines that the firm has to keep in mind before going ahead with this huge decision.

  1. Each customisation will come at a cost that the firm must be ready to pay. For start-ups or smaller firms, this will prove to be a challenge. If the customisation is not covered under the warranty then it becomes expensive. Hence, firms must consider this while striking a deal with the ERP vendors.
  2. Firms must also consider the fact for every new customisation requirement it needs time to develop the code. By the time the code is developed, the firm might have found a different means of handling the situation making the new code completely obsolete. Hence it is extremely crucial that the business understands the dire need of a customisation and only invest in such genuine situations.
  3. The IT staff must be highly capable of maintaining the customizations in the long run else it needs to hire external consultants to do the same. If the firm is looking for external partners then it’s important that the consultant is well aware of the nature of the business and is capable enough of guiding throughout the process of the implementation of the customisation. If the firm is looking to develop the code with the help of in-house staff then it must ensure that they have suitable talent and resources. Any new joiner must be equally trained on these customizations as they are not generally available. Investing in the training of the newcomers is another investment of time and money that needs equal attention.
  4. Another factor that must be considered is the suitability of the new features on various platforms used by the firm. Compatibility is crucial else it can disrupt the workflow of the organisation.
  5. When the firm opts for a specific customisation suitable to its operations it must understand that it has to handle it all on its own. This becomes a sort of liability. If the customisation works efficiently then it doesn’t create a problem but if there are any issues in dealing with the security, repairs and bugs. So the firm must be cautious and must think of the technical and operational glitches that might arise during the implementation phase or at a later date.
  6. New upgrades consume time. In an Open ERP customisation, it is commonly known that it takes several weeks and months to develop the code and required IT support. So if the firm wants an enhancement or a newer version then it must be willing to pay that extra buck and also be okay to give it a decent amount of time.
  7. Multiple customizations simply lead to complex systems which might tangle several sources. Over time this makes the system rigid and tough to crack. The firm can mess it to such an extent that they start feeling that the whole process of customisation is incorrect and the entire ERP must be replaced. But this is a hypothetical situation. So, if the firm is able to identify the right customisation, it will prove to be an asset to the firm.
  8. A customisation simplifies the process and can really contribute to the ease of using the ERP. But not every customisation that you need is supported by the vendor. The legal agreement must be therefore read carefully and completely understood. Both the parties must be aware of the extent of customizations available for the price paid by the firm. Anything apart from that will be charged more as it is famously said open does not mean free.
  9. A new interface is created which is used by the firm and its employees. Moreover, even the employees can use only the data that they want to use and avoid the rest. But the firm must also ensure that the data is secure and well-protected. Weak customizations can easily compromise this. The firm must make an extra effort to build a flawless customisation that will enhance the business operations.

An Open source ERP customisation can provide great benefits to the firm. But it is crucial to identify how a chosen customisation can ease the business operations to the users. It must also prove to be a long-term value addition to the firm. With these simple guidelines, the firm can definitely beat the competition.

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