Welcome!

Eclipse Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, David H Deans, JP Morgenthal

Blog Feed Post

Should You Customize Open Source ERP?

When I first found out about open source software, I felt the sky was the limit — with the source code, I could do anything now! But after working on open source ERP for the last seven years, I’ve come to realize that customizing software, even open source software, should not be taken lightly. I recently spoke with Phil Simon, long-time enterprise software veteran and author of The Next Wave of Technologies and Why New Systems Fail, and asked him for his thoughts on when you should customize open source software such as ERP and CRM. Here’s what he had to say:

Customizations and Open Source Applications

One of the issues that I have routinely seen over my years as a software consultant concerns customizations. On many a project, the functionality of a COTS application did not meet one of my clients current business practices. Invariably, this would beg the question, “Should we customize the system?” In this post, I’ll look at this from the angle of open source applications.

Reasons for Customizations

I could reinvent the wheel here, but there’s no point. The best post that I have seen on this comes from my friend, John Henley of Decision Analytics. Henley details some advantages to customizing an application. They include:

  • Core competencies
  • Your other front/back-office systems require it
  • You want additional fields and/or different field sizes
  • Regulatory requirements

Henley notes an interesting paradox of customizations. Specifically one trap that almost every organization falls into is that of customizing under the false pretense of core competency when in fact what they are doing is customizing to make their ERP to look and work just like the system it is replacing. The second edition of my first book, Why New Systems Fail, takes a deeper look at open source applications, as they continue to make inroads against traditional on-premise applications from the SAPs and Oracles of the world.

In the book, I write:

    Organizations considering customizations should look carefully at their available options, ideally with the help of experienced business and technical consultants. It is imperative that they carefully consider the short- and long-term implications of these customizations, lest they be stuck with an unsustainable status quo and paint themselves into a corner.

Against this backdrop, I can’t help but wonder: Are customization decisions fundamentally different for clients with COTS apps versus those with OS ones?

Five Considerations

It’s an interesting question. To answer it, consider the factors:

Who Will Support Your Customizations?

Let’s be honest here. The vast majority of “standard” support agreements between clients and on-premise software vendors do not cover customizations. For example, if you want to change the way that the program calculates employee taxes or runs a P&L, you can certainly do so. However, if you read the fine print of your support agreement, you would have violated its terms. You can call support for help, but expect to be billed for assistance.

One of the main advantages of open source is that it allows you to customize the software more easily. That’s a major value proposition of OS: they understand that businesses have different needs and don’t have such rigid rules about customizations. Don’st expect unlimited bites at the apple, however. Open does not mean free; if you need support for your customizations, read the support agreements carefully to determine what will and will not be covered. OS projects could be supported by the original developer, like OpenTaps or SugarCRM, which is equivalent to a vendor. Will your vendor support your customizations without incorporating it back into their core product? Not always. Alternatively, they could be supported as part of the open source project by the community, but in that case, your customizations would have to be open sourced as well. Finally, since the source code is openly available, a third party could potentially support your customizations, but the process of getting another group to work with your source code might not be so easy.

Too many customizations is ill-advised in either environment

One of my favorite IT books of the last year is Roger Sessions’ Simple Architectures for Complex Enterprises. Sessions writes about Kevin Drinkwater, CIO at Mainfreight. Drinkwater is “widely recognized for his innovative approach to IT and for the cost effectiveness and agility of his solutions.” In a nutshell, Kevin understands the need for simplicity and, to this end, has a long history of minimizing or removing complexity from many environments. While aiming for simplicity doesn’t guarantee “success”, it sure decreases the chances of failure. In other words, regardless of whether your organization goes with COTS or OS, aim for simplicity. It’s just simpler for everyone involved.

Upgrades and ticking clocks

Here’s a—and perhaps the—major advantage of OS apps. You control the application. You are not beholden to a vendor’s forced upgrades. Many first-time clients of major vendors foolishly expect that the customizations will work after an application patch or upgrade of versions. Don’t. Again, you are not compelled to upgrade with open source.

Ease of customizations

There are too many different types of customizations, COTS apps, OS alternatives, and programming languages for me to make some type of sweeping generalization here. Just make sure that you do your homework. Don’t assume that an OS customization is easier because it’s OS. Spend some time to understand how easily your application can be customized, and how maintainable those customizations are over time. Note the two are not necessarily the same thing–some applications make customizations easy to make but very hard to maintain.

Not all customizations are created equal

We’ve all been here. Some VP or Director is accustomed to seeing a report in a certain way and, like a bulldog, won’t let go until s/he wins. Changing the sorting on a report or the name of “front end” field is fundamentally different than changing batch programs behind the scenes that affect thousands of transactions each cycle.

Conclusion


There’s no one right answer about whether an organization should customize its app (OS or not). Just think about the factors discussed in this article before going down this road. Make sure that your organization budgets the time and financial and human resources to effectively handle the customization. Finally, test whatever changes you have made before going into production. Most OS projects are modular in nature: it’s required for the parallel development style of an OS project. In that sense, technically the average OS project should support add-on modules and customizations more easily than proprietary apps. Of course, each project’s technical structure is different. First check everything carefully.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Si Chen

Si Chen is the founder of Open Source Strategies, Inc. and Project Manager for opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM (www.opentaps.org).

@ThingsExpo Stories
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
Recently, WebRTC has a lot of eyes from market. The use cases of WebRTC are expanding - video chat, online education, online health care etc. Not only for human-to-human communication, but also IoT use cases such as machine to human use cases can be seen recently. One of the typical use-case is remote camera monitoring. With WebRTC, people can have interoperability and flexibility for deploying monitoring service. However, the benefit of WebRTC for IoT is not only its convenience and interopera...
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...