A SURVEY OF OPEN SOURCE ERP SYSTEMS

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1 A SURVEY OF OPEN SOURCE ERP SYSTEMS Shouhong Wang Charlton College of Business, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Dartmouth, MA USA ABSTRACT ERP systems have been widely used in business organizations. Open source ERP systems are ideal products for small and medium-sized organizations. This note provides a survey of six popular open source ERP systems on the market, and discusses our findings. Keywords: Open source, ERP systems. 1. INTRODUCTION ERP systems have been widely used in organizations. An ERP system integrates internal and external management information across an entire organization, embracing finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and service, inventory management, CRM, etc. Its purpose is to facilitate the business processes of all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside organizations. An ERP system can run on a variety of hardware and network configurations. ERP systems typically include the following characteristics. An ERP system is an integrated system that operates in real time. An ERP system has a common database which supports all applications. An ERP system is a set of modules with consistent appearance. An ERP system can be used for all types of large business organizations; however, significant work of configuration or even customization is needed to fit specific requirements for individual organizations. For instance, the configuration facility of an ERP system would allow the client organization to choose currency system, metric system, LIFO or FIFO for cost accounting, and so on. Usually, the information system development team should include specialists trained by the ERP system provider for the ERP system configuration and customization. Recently, there are many open source ERP systems. Open source ERP systems are usually designed for small or medium-sized organizations. A business model behind open source ERP systems is the win-win relationship between the business community, the partner network, and the software editors. The partners are intended to create the market around the open source ERP system and to create services. The software editors are responsible for the quality and the vision on the development of the ERP system. The business community generates activities and contributes to the growth of the ERP system. All modules produced by the software editors, the partners and the community are to be open source. The user of an open source ERP system does

2 not automatically receive system support and services directly from anyone. However, an open source ERP system has its active social network that can create service offers and deals. Selection of an open source ERP system is important to a small and midsize organization which has intention to implement an open source ERP system (Johansson and Sudzina 2008; Pobanzaou and Raymond 2011). Also, as open source ERP systems can be very useful for educational institutions to teach/learn ERP systems for many reasons such as accessibility and low cost, many MIS educators would like to see a review of open source ERP systems. There is a lack of surveys of open source ERP systems in the literature, because such a survey is commonly not considered to be a part of academic research. There have been many surveys of open source ERP systems on the Internet. However, the reviews of open source ERP systems on the Internet are mostly posted by private companies, which could be biased. Using the Google search engine, we have found on the Internet only one relatively thorough review generated by academic scholars (Herzog 2006). However, it is at least five years old, and needs to be updated given the fast development pace of open source ERP systems as well as the IT environment. This note provides a survey of six popular open source ERP systems. As Microsoft Dynamics is a major ERP system for small and medium-sized organizations and is a strong competitor of these open source ERP systems, Microsoft Dynamics is overviewed briefly. After the review of the six popular open source ERP systems, overall findings are discussed. 2. SAMPLING AND COMPARISON CRITERIA The selection of samples of open source ERP systems for this survey went through two stages. In the first stage, general searches on the Internet were conducted to find 25 open source ERP systems that were well recognized by the industry (e.g., on the Wikipedia). In the second stage, each of these open source ERP systems was examined in great detail based on its demo. If an open source ERP system did not provide informative demo on the Internet or its demo was obviously inferior, it was not selected for further comparison. As a result, six open source ERP systems were used in this comparison. Considering the current development of the IT environment, the trends of social networks, and the converging ERP systems functionalities, we applied the following four criteria in comparing these six open source ERP systems. (1) Readiness for cloud computing being a Web-based system. (2) Completeness of commonly required ERP functionalities. (3) Easiness of configuration on any operating systems. (4) Active and large social network for users community support. 3. REVIEW OF OPEN SOURCE ERP SYSTEMS In this section, we use many screenshots for visual illustration. As discussed at the end of this

3 note, weberp is considered to be the best one based on our review. Thus, common ERP functionalities are illustrated by the screenshots of weberp. For each of other open source ERP systems, only screenshots with unique features are displayed Microsoft Dynamics as a strong competitor of open source ERP systems Microsoft Dynamics (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/default.aspx) provides affordable scalability for small and midsize business. With benchmarked performance up to 2,250 users, Microsoft Dynamics provide a variety of functionality across financials, supply chain management, and customer relationship management. Its database management system is Microsoft SQL Server. The ownership costs for Microsoft Dynamics applications are much lower than other ERP systems such as SAP and Oracle. Microsoft Dynamics certification program offers solutions designed to meet the needs of specific industries. As Microsoft Office and Windows have already widely been used in many organizations if not all, Microsoft Dynamics seems to be easy for system integration for these organizations. Microsoft is considered to be one the most reliable software provider in the world weberp weberp (http://www.weberp.org/) is a Web-based open source ERP system. It is implemented by using PHP and MySQL. There have been more than 128,000 downloads of the system to date. It supports multiple languages. Besides the official Web site of weberp, there are two main types of support of weberp. (1) Community Support - There are mailing lists that consist of all the developers and users of weberp. The weberp mailing lists can be accessed via the nabble forum (www.nabble.com), and are the best places to inquire about any issue you may have with using or developing weberp. The users archives and developer archives of the mailing lists contain valuable knowledge. (2) Commercial Support - Several companies offer commercial support which may be preferable for ordinary business organizations. weberp is easy to operate. The Main Menu has a standard display of three categories: Transactions, Inquiries, and Reports and Maintenance.

4 Sales dashboard It lists orders, quotations, and summaries of sales orders, invoices, prices, and other report links. Receivables dashboard It links to receipts, invoices, statements, overdue records, daily transactions, and others.

5 Payables dashboard - It contains vendor related links similar to receivables dashboard. Purchases dashboard - It shows the status of various purchase orders and shipment entries. Inventory dashboard It shows inventory related transactions and reports. It also allows the user to add, update, or delete inventory items.

6 Manufacturing dashboard - It links to work order entry, materials inquiries, and other reports. It allows the user to perform MRP calculation. General ledger dashboard - It links to all entries of customer and supplier invoices, refunds, payment, bank statements, account inquiries, and others.

7 Asset manager dashboard - It has asset related links that allow the user to add or delete asset, change asset location, and other operations. Before an ERP system can operate, configuring must be done to set many attributes or parameters (e.g., structures, terminology, access rights, etc.) of the system for the organization to meet the specific needs in the best possible way. weberp has a central dashboard for links of configuring functions. The following screenshots are examples of configuring weberp. Set up dashboard It links to configure operations for entire ERP settings.

8 Configuring - The use of Installation Wizard 3.3. Compiere Compiere (http://www.compiere.com) is a Java based system. There have been over 1.35 million downloads of Compiere. Compiere is a Web-based open source ERP system. There is a free community version without support as well as commercial editions that provide complete support and guarantee, training resources, and other services. The following is several samples of the user interface.

9 3.4. PostBooks PostBooks (http://www.xtuple.com/) is based on the award winning xtuple ERP Suite. Its foundation is open source PostgreSQL database and the open source Qt framework for C++. It supports multiple languages. Its ERP functions are quite typical. The following is several samples of the user interface.

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11 3.5. Opentaps Opentaps (http://shop.opentaps.org/) incorporates several open source projects, including Apache Geronimo, Tomcat, and OFBiz for the data model and transaction framework; Pentaho and JasperReports for business intelligence; Funambol for mobile device and Outlook integration. Opentaps applications which provide user-driven applications for CRM, accounting and finance, warehouse and manufacturing, and purchasing and supply chain management. Interestingly, it has Asterisk PBX integration. The following is several samples of the user interface OpenERP OpenERP (http://www.openerp.com/) is open source ERP suit that supports enterprise modules, logistics, accounting and finance, HRM, CRM, project management, and other business processes. It is complete package with commercial version available.

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13 3.7. OpenBravo OpenBravo (http://www.openbravo.com/) is a web based ERP solution. It originally was based on Compiere. It supports standard ERP features like production information, inventory, customer information, order tracking, and workflow information.

14 4. DISCUSSION Obviously, the major advantage of open source ERP systems over commercial ERP systems is free to use. However, the disadvantages of open source ERP systems are also apparent, such as lack of support and lack of active maintenance. While providing common ERP functionalities, each open source ERP system has its unique characteristics. Nevertheless, based on our review of several popular open source ERP systems with various features, weberp seems to the best among others in the four critical aspects: web-based and readiness for cloud computing, ERP functionalities, easiness of configuration, and users community network. (1) weberp is a pioneer of cloud computing where the application can take place anywhere on the Internet and be delivered to the business through the cloud. It requires only a Web browser and PDF reader to use. The system is easily available online and even the download size is comparatively less and other system requirements. (2) weberp provides common ERP systems functionalities, with emphasis on accounting, support various business processes of wholesale, distribution, and manufacturing in order entry, taxation, general ledger, accounts payable/receivable, inventory, purchasing, banking, production, contract costing, fixed assets management, etc. (3) weberp can be easily configured on any operating systems and the computer processing requirements are light. weberp can be run over an internal LAN. It can also be run on a third party web-hosting server external to the business which needs only a router and connection to the Internet to use weberp. (4) weberp has built up a good network for users community support. Several software companies offer commercial support for weberp. The future work of this study includes a stronger literature review and rationale for considering the factors to evaluate the different open source ERP systems, and detailed ranks the open source ERP systems based on the survey. Acknowledgement: Mr. Sreevatsan Narayanan has made valuable contributions to this survey study. REFERENCES* [1] Compiere: <http://www.compiere.com>. [2] Herzog, T., A Comparison of Open Source ERP Systems, June <citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?>. [3] Johansson, B. and Sudzina, F., ERP systems and open source: an initial review and some implications for SMEs, Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 21(6), [4] Microsoft Dynamics: <http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/default.aspx>.

15 [5] OpenBravo: <http://www.openbravo.com/>. [6] OpenERP: <http://www.openerp.com/>. [7] Opentaps: <http://shop.opentaps.org/>. [8] Poba-nzaou, P. and Raymond, L., Managing ERP system risk in SMEs: a multiple case study, Journal of Information Technology, 26(3), 2011, [9] PostBooks: <http://www.xtuple.com/>. [10] weberp: <http://www.weberp.org/>. [11] Wikipedia: List of ERP software packages, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/> (* All Web sites cited are accessed in October 2011)

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