An ERP is an integrated application used to manage the information and enforce the processes of an enterprise. A CRM is the part of an ERP focused on customer-facing activities.
An ERP is usually divided in several interconnected modules providing a single consolidated view of the enterprise operation:
- Stock and inventory
- Sales and purchases
- Finances and accounting
- Human resources
- Project management
- Customer relationships
Why an ERP?
If you are a small or medium-size enterprise, you are probably operating based on a set of more or less sophisticated Excel spreadsheets, maybe with some custom and/or specialized applications, and as a consequence your operation tracking relies on a lot of manual operations (which means source of errors), with a good part of you business data in the mailboxes and personal computers of your employees. The data of your business is siloed and can not be leveraged to get synthetic real time indicators of what is happening in your company.
An ERP is about integration: this is a system where all the transactional information of the enterprise is centralized and shared according to the rights of every user. This becomes the place where every business transaction is recorded and tracked, and where the statistics, reports and indicators of your operation are available in real time.
Why an open source ERP?
The ERP market has been historically dominated by a few major vendors (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft…) focused on large companies who could afford the huge license prices and consulting costs. There is today an alternative for small and medium-size companies in the form of a few open source products with a several years of active development, a strong feature set, and a growing number of running implementations for companies of up to a few hundred users.
The benefits of this approach are cost savings (no license costs), flexibility (easy to customize and extend), and full control on your mission-critical application (you have the code and the right to modify it as best fits).
Save on the license costs,
invest on customization and training.
A comprehensive study on open source ERP was published in 2008 by the major French open source integrator Smile with a detailed analysis of the open source ERP projects, where OpenERP was identified as the best projects. With the version 6.0 released at the beginning of 2011 which was a major milestone for the project, it is now clear for anyone looking closely at the open source ERP offer that OpenERP is way ahead of the competition, for several reasons:
- A real object oriented design and a very modular architecture which makes it easy to customize and extend the data model (efficient ORM), the views (MVC web client): it is easy to adapt the application to the specific needs of each company.
- A real BPM engine allowing to easily adapt the workflows and business processes, and an SOA architecture that makes it easy to integrate with external software: it is easy to implement the specific processes of each company and to integrate with existing applications.
- A strong editor with an open attitude that lead to the development of a strong community and a rich ecosystem (more than 1000 modules, integrator partners in more than 60 countries): this ensures the stability and sustainability of the project, as well as the guarantee of a platform which is now mainstream and which is supported an ever growing pool of companies and consultants.
From an operational point of view, the strengths of OpenERP as a framework, together with a progressive implementation approach (agile methodology) mean:
- A short delay from the project kick-off to the first use in production: low budget, low risk.
- A quick (hence cost-effective) implementation of what is specific to your business: good control on the cost of the implementation project.
See here for more information about OpenERP.