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Ask Slashdot: Best Open Source CRM/ERP System For a Small Business?

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the or-other-aggregation-of-three-capitalized-letters dept.

Open Source 163

An anonymous reader writes "One of my coworkers recently left the company, and I had to take over most of his responsibilities, including the maintenance and development of a homegrown CRM/ERP system. The system has evolved over more than a decade under the hands of at least four different developers and is based on Microsoft Access. Since I have been assigned this additional role, a day rarely passes without a user yelling for help because some part of the software is failing in strange and unpredictable ways, or some of the entered data has to be corrected manually in some obscure table in one of several database files. Without any exaggeration, some of the Visual Basic source code would be sufficient for several stories on The Daily WTF, and could make a grown man cry. Instead of spending further hours on optimizing this software i would rather like to start from scratch with some existing open-source CRM/ERP system that can be adapted to my companies needs. So far I have looked at and tested several CRM systems, including SugarCRM, vtiger, Feng Office (formerly known as opengoo), Zurmo and Fat Free CRM. Feng Office and Fat Free CRM look really nice and easy to use; the other ones could take a bit less bloat but are fine nevertheless. What software would you choose?"

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163 comments

Insightly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44953873)

Just went through this nonsense. Switch to Insightly. It's easy and it works better than the open source alternatives, plus you don't have to host it.

Re:Insightly (3, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 9 months ago | (#44954065)

"Just went through this nonsense. Switch to Insightly. It's easy and it works better than the open source alternatives, plus you don't have to host it."

Insightly is CRM. It doesn't do ERP.

But that brings up a good point: CRM and ERP are fundamentally different tasks. I doubt OP will find many packages that do both well. My suggestion would be to look for them separately.

Re:Insightly (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 10 months ago | (#44954787)

But that brings up a good point: CRM and ERP are fundamentally different tasks.

Yes, but the poster probably doesn't really know what he wants, and has probably never managed any sort of big project before. I have been working in the software industry for 30 years, and I can assure you that a "new guy" confronted with a complex system always recommends throwing everything away and starting over. But that is almost never the correct answer. Real world implementations don't look like the textbook examples that college students are used to, but doesn't make them "wrong". The existing implementation looks complex because it codifies hundreds of special business rules, such as discounts for the boss's friends, special commission arrangements with a particular salesperson, etc. You can't just throw out those rules, so you end up maintaining the old system simultaneously with trying to implement the new system. But your resources are split between these two tasks, so requests for fixes get backlogged, while the new implementation drags on for years. Meanwhile the "new guy" has left the company in frustration, and when the new ERP/CRM/WTF system is finally ready, it is a complete mess, and a fresh new guy recommends throwing it out and starting over. I have been around this loop many, many times.

CRM and ERP (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | about 10 months ago | (#44955721)

can anybody give some specific examples of what CRM and ERP are used for in a big company? I know what the acronym stands for, but I don't know what they mean in real life.

Re:CRM and ERP (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955807)

ERP is used for tracking all internal transactions and workflow within a company. For instance, you type in information about what you're buying to make widgets into a Purchase Orders form, and this allows you to print a report version of the purchase order that you can email over to your vendor. Then, when the stuff shows up at the doc, you enter in the quantity of all the stuff that showed up, and your inventory goes up by that amount. When the invoices arrive, you can check to make sure you're not paying for anything that didn't show up.
Every time you enter a transaction, it appears in your financial ledger as a pair of transactions - a debit and a credit. This way, the accountants constantly know where you're making money and where there might be cost savings.
The idea is that by journaling all work in a structured data kind of way, it cuts down on lots of work required to reformat and communicate that information and generally speeds up the pace of business.

CRM is a smaller piece of this where you're entering details about conversations with customers and track the status of sales proposals. It's often disconnected from the general ledger and financial statements.

Re:CRM and ERP (4, Informative)

WiPEOUT (20036) | about 10 months ago | (#44956027)

The answer is "it depends on the nature of the business".

Generally speaking, CRM covers front office business processes, while ERP covers back office business processes. However, these kinds of software are often vertically integrated (i.e. targeted at specific kinds of organisations/industries), and so at times the terms are used interchangeably.

CRM is primarily focused on the sales & marketing processes. ERP is commonly is primarily focused on getting the things you need to sell ready to sell (e.g. purchasing, manufacturing, hiring/developing employees/contractors) and managing the ordering/billing/delivery aspects of the sale. Both typically overlap in capabilities around sales.

CRM and ERP typically have different perspectives. CRM is typically customer-oriented, intended to create and build/maintain relationship with customers through managing the interaction with the customer, both directly and through sales/service partners. ERP is typically product-oriented, intended to make sure the organisation and its suppliers work together efficiently and effectively (from the point of view of being ready to meet market demand).

As a result, while large organisations typically have both, smaller organisations will have a variant of one or the other as their primary system. Smaller organisations where systemising the prepation and delivery of product is the focus will use an ERP (e.g. manufacturing), while smaller organisations where the relationship is the focus (e.g. close collaboration with the customer is required to get the sale and/or deliver the right product so the customer will become a repeat customer) will use a CRM (e.g. professional services).

Getting back to vertical integration, if a particular CRM is targeted at the professional services industry, it may include personnel/project management even though that's normally an ERP function; conversely, if an ERP is targeted at FMCG distributors, it may include sales partner program management so you can manage you distribution channels even through that's a CRM function.

Hope that helps.

Re:CRM and ERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44956397)

can anybody give some specific examples of what CRM and ERP are used for in a big company? I know what the acronym stands for, but I don't know what they mean in real life.

CRM is your sales lead tracking and customer database. ERP is your business backbone - accounting, inventory, manufacturing process, HR etc.

Re:Insightly (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 9 months ago | (#44954263)

They all suck for specifics. _All_ of them. If it's not written specifically for your business, you're not going to be very happy. If you want something that's not perfect pretty much by definition, you might as well consider something from Apache [apache.org] .

Re:Insightly (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 9 months ago | (#44954355)

Interesting. Apache's Ofbiz site gave me an invalid certificate error.

Re:Insightly (1)

tibman (623933) | about 10 months ago | (#44954947)

Fine for me in FF.

The cert MD5 fingerprint is: 85:A3:B9:6E:6D:98:CB:FA:6B:E8:DB:3F:0F:88:F3:BC (typed by hand because FF won't let me copy/paste, blah)
SHA1: bc 5f 40 92 fd 6a 49 aa f8 b8 35 0d ed 27 5e a6 64 c1 7a 1b (woo, chrome lets you copy paste)

Re:Insightly (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 10 months ago | (#44956283)

I was using Firefox too. But it's not doing it now, so maybe it was only a temporary error.

Re:Insightly (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 9 months ago | (#44954603)

Just wow.

AFTER taking half of forever to compile, OFBiz took about 5 minutes just to start! I could have rebooted my Mac 3 times or more in the same amount of time.

Re:Insightly (2)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 9 months ago | (#44954687)

Don't complain to me. I *told* you you wouldn't be happy.

Re:Insightly (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 10 months ago | (#44956393)

Haha.

I wasn't complaining. Just making the observation. :o)

Re:Insightly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955313)

See, /. gets bought out by Dice, and suddenly someone looking for advice gets hammered by some idiot salesman from "Unsightly". Oh and it work better than all the open source alternatives, not just brand A or brand B, but all of them altogether!

FrontAccounting for ERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44953899)

http://frontaccounting.com/

Re:FrontAccounting for ERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954285)

This looks terrific, thanks for the link.

Re:FrontAccounting for ERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954597)

This looks like shit from 1998.

Re:FrontAccounting for ERP (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about 10 months ago | (#44956065)

Oh do tell us what makes something that looks like it came from 1998 "shit". I presume you have some problem with anything from before your birth. Most business software looks like "shit" of course and with good reason - its not used to play games.

Re: FrontAccounting for ERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955541)

Or try this one:
http://www.phreesoft.com/?page_id=181

Who is to blame? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44953905)

"Since I have been assigned this additional role, a day rarely passes without a user yelling for help "

So users didn't yell for help before you were assigned?
Sounds like they should assign it to someone else. ;) :) :)

Re: Who is to blame? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44953963)

Yeah, probably yelling at the other guy. Now it's OP's problem. :/

Pay for what you get (1)

asmkm22 (1902712) | about 9 months ago | (#44953915)

That includes network admins.

SAP (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44953921)

Obviously.

(Yes, this should be modded flame-bait.)

Re:SAP (4, Funny)

drainbramage (588291) | about 9 months ago | (#44953983)

That's just mean.
Sure he's a poor unlucky sap but you don't have to yell it.

Re:SAP (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 9 months ago | (#44954615)

The anonymous reader is looking for something free. SAP is short for "Send Another Payment" which is a literal translation of the original German, "Scheiß Aufs Privatleben."

Sort of.

Re:SAP (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 10 months ago | (#44956257)

The anonymous reader is looking for something free. SAP is short for "Send Another Payment"

SAP is decidedly not "free", BUT zero licensing cost is not free either.

Sometimes the most expensive option you can pick will be the free one!

The important thing to remember is software license cost is not your only cost.

Time and energy have to be invested in deploying whichever solution you pick and making it work; in other words, shoehorning the software into the role, customizing as necessary, and forcing the employees to adapt to the requirements imposed by the software.

If you're not familiar with the software then probably you are not up to it yet. Your company should probably be hiring other organizations to assist; Know your limits and seek outside help when appropriate.

Now there are plenty of commercial solutions; some of them may be a more appropriate fit for your organization than any one of the free ones.

They're worth investigation --- because whichever one you pick; your company will be investing and committing significant resources to the choice.

Being so enamored with a certain license cost, or distribution model is not appropriate for most businesses; these are "nice to haves" from a geeky point of view.

But the selection of which CRM application to use is a business decision that should not be constrained by trivialities like "free" --- whichever offering will benefit the company the most, seems the right choice. (It's probably not SAP)

TrueCloud / NetSuite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44953933)

You should just drop it from your responsibilities altogether and offer up www.TrueCloud.com as an alternative. A business shouldn't *have* to worry about that stuff.

Re:TrueCloud / NetSuite (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 9 months ago | (#44954113)

Uh yes they should worry, if they want autonomy as a business. While the current system sucks, replacing it with some remote company that doesn't give any more fucks than it has to to keep the contract is not the answer either. The 'cloud' is a not a magic fix-all no matter what the idiotic hype says.

Re:TrueCloud / NetSuite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954323)

There is no better way to instantly increase risk and reduce business continuity potential than to host your mission critical data on some strangers servers.

Re: TrueCloud / NetSuite (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955903)

no worries. that pile of hacked together junk will never make it to anyone else's servers.
and if you hadn't upgraded your access to that ribbon bar crap, your 6 year old dust bunny "server" wouldn't be having thes problems.
Just buy everybody ssd's. That will make you a hero long enough to get another job where you will have a chance of learning from people who make better choices.

Re:TrueCloud / NetSuite (1)

coastwalker (307620) | about 10 months ago | (#44956163)

Its definitely not free, but it seems to work as well as any other ERP I have ever come across. The cloud means the support is outsourced but availability and functionality are fine. Frankly I am surprised by how well it works, I am very suspicious of IT bullshit - having worked on both sides of the fence.

Why, Opentaps, of course! (4, Informative)

Prune (557140) | about 9 months ago | (#44953945)

I'm amazed it wasn't mentioned in the summary.

It's what we use. Very powerful and flexible and it covers most ERP areas. It also gives you easy path to running in the cloud if you want to do that, though we're running it on our own machines.

Out of the box solution is going to have pushback (5, Insightful)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 9 months ago | (#44953967)

Any out of the box solution that you try and move everybody to is going to have a lot of pushback. Since this was developed in house, it is most likely that every user's needs were catered to in a very specific manner. What you will probably find in trying to push something that you want to install and use, is that people will expect you to have the ability to change things very rapidly. You will hear a lot of "Well this is how it worked before you switched it."

Getting the information from your old system to an out of the box solution is going to be a huge hassle, and you will probably end up losing a lot of data in the process. You should look into having a developer improve or streamline the current system instead of trying to push a one size fits all solution down everyone's throat.

Granted, every organization and every situation is different. I would stay away from anything that you can't host in house, because you'll be blamed when the company goes belly-up and loses all of your information.

Re: Out of the box solution is going to have pushb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954069)

Solving this kind of situation has been my job for the last 12 years. Standard software (proprietary or open source) is not going to do the job. Why? The level at which you can configure the software will be wrong (more correctly: not adjusted to your bussiness needs). You will end up spending more resources configuring than would be needed by rebuilding the system.

Re: Out of the box solution is going to have pushb (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954385)

This is probably true, thought, not always necessarily the case. A good software review and needs assesment would need to be done, however, this is probably the case in most instances that I have been involved in.

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (4, Informative)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about 9 months ago | (#44954237)

Getting the information from your old system to an out of the box solution is going to be a huge hassle, and you will probably end up losing a lot of data in the process. You should look into having a developer improve or streamline the current system instead of trying to push a one size fits all solution down everyone's throat.

I agree with this, except for a blaring situation: the existing solution is a hodgepodge of VB and Access code. I'm dealing with something very similar at work...

One of our clients recently acquired someone else. Among them was a custom Access "application". It *must* be launched from a standalone executable, which *must* be run as administrator, and as best we can tell, requires a metric ton of DNS redirects because it pulls data from all over the network using server names instead of FQDNs or IP addresses, has a wheelbarrow full of security warnings due to extensive use of macros, fails in any version of Access except 2003...and cost the company over a quarter million dollars ten years ago. The amount of duct tape and string that this thing is being held together by is ridiculous, and it NEEDS to be moved into some sort of legit server/browser situation, since it literally will not run without reordering one's entire system around it. Now yes, we could (and are) tracing out those servers so we can add DNS entries to allow for domain traversal, but it still won't run on anything except Access 2003 without extensive rewriting, and the consulting firm that made it is no longer in business so we can't just "call the vendor".

Between the two options of "add more duct tape" and "deal with all kinds of pain and agony to make it somewhat standards compliant and run in a browser using some MS-SQL and HTML/PHP/ASP.NET*", it makes more sense to invest our time in a manner that will make it continue to run long after Access 2003 fails to install anymore.

*Yes, I know, the Microsoft database/web platform situation isn't exactly "standards compliant", but remember that we're coming from a Microsoft Access database, so getting data into tables is significantly easier than MariaDB or Postgres...and even if we end up in a similar situation where we can't upgrade the database beyond, for example, Server 2008/SQL Server 2008/IIS 7.0, at least that's server-side, can live in a virtual machine (and thus the hardware can be upgraded in time), and it's an internally facing setup anyway so security doesn't need to be as crucial a focus as if it were being pounded from the outside. If we're still there in 2018, that's fine - end user desktops can be changed whenever and it won't be nearly as big of a problem.

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (1)

Splab (574204) | about 10 months ago | (#44956211)

Erm, why would you ever(!?) prefer hard coded IP addresses over domain names?

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (1)

oatworm (969674) | about 10 months ago | (#44956325)

You wouldn't - but you'd really prefer to not use NetBIOS names under any circumstances. Otherwise, SERVER1 is always going to have to resolve somewhere, regardless of domain, regardless of network topology, and that somewhere better be where the database expects to find useful data.

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (1)

thechanklybore (1091971) | about 9 months ago | (#44954311)

I have to agree with this. I tried (and tried and tried) to move my company's ailing VB-based CRM system to a OOTB solution, but none of the platforms I tried (Sugar, VTiger, and a few others) really did what we needed. Either too much or too little complexity and customisation with each.

In the end I gave up and spent a week designing, and then another two weeks implementing, the first version of a custom-built solution using Zend Framework (yes sorry, feel free to snarl at my framework/language choice, but it's great for quick prototyping and RAD). Obviously I've had endless feature/bug fix requests ever since, but after initially trawling the SugarCRM code it became clear that any amount of customisation on their awfully confused and verbose code would be so troublesome, and that our needs as an small business were so specific, that getting any of the other solutions into shape was going to be an entirely joyless exercise.

If they'll give you a few weeks of time to do it yourself, and you follow good coding practice, you'll end up with something far more lightweight and fit for purpose.

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#44954543)

"Getting the information from your old system to an out of the box solution is going to be a huge hassle, and you will probably end up losing a lot of data in the process."

It is absolutely possible for someone that has a clue how to work with databases to get the information from on to the other without losing anything. Unles the origional system was written in VB6 and is using some wierd ass system you cant run SQL queries or stored proceeders on.

Get the data out as a dump, and a little perl or python and you can get it into the new DB easily after a few tests.

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (2)

oatworm (969674) | about 10 months ago | (#44956361)

Assuming the schema matches. Which, by the way, is an extremely bold assumption when you're dealing with pulling data out of a custom Access solution cobbled together over the past decade and pushing it into an out-of-the-box solution.

Having seen a few custom Access jobs in my time, I can tell you first-hand that, more often than not, you're lucky if the data is normalized, much less organized in any sane, sensible way. I've seen tables where there are "Serial Number 1", "Serial Number 2", and "Serial Number 3" fields, for example, because "nobody has more than three pieces of equipment". So, now you're faced with having to get that data halfway normalized, or at least document how you could normalize it, and then you have to map it up against the new solution's schema and hope and pray they have a set of tables that are designed to hold the data you're looking for.

Re:Out of the box solution is going to have pushba (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 10 months ago | (#44955583)

Just switched to a process driven system intended to funnel requests through their workflow.

It works for what it was designed to do. But once data goes in, it stays there. What was that thing I did for that user? Don't know, can't find it. That guy who left, he wrote something that solved a problem, was there any specific error checking that made it work? No idea.

Historical data was not a selling point, and was not considered by the people who bought it, and now I'm stuck with it.

The worst case is tracking - why was this changed? Who asked for this? We have ticket references - but they were for the old system, and no way to access it, or get the data. Ticket 12345 could have been seen by the head honcho, or the janitor. A backup probably exists, but there was no migration strategy. Migration is a great selling point - but most of your data won't fit.

OpenERP? (2)

div_2n (525075) | about 9 months ago | (#44953993)

It's been a long time since I took a look at it, but it's been around quite a while. I don't see it in your list, so it's probably worth you at least checking it out.

Re: OpenERP? (1)

jordg (133593) | about 9 months ago | (#44954459)

I have a similar situation. I use dbconvert to put what useful data from
  access to postgres. export spreadsheets from Recon/quickbooks. Read data into OpenERP massaging on the way. I have had to modify OpenERP to suit our specific needs. I would recommend using version 7.0. The doco is better and the API is also much improved. There is a steep learning curve but that goes to all ERP systems.
OpenERP handles both CRM and ERP, which falls within your requirements. But don"t be naive and think that porting these in house apps is easy. It is not.
Plan well, get expert help and training and OpenERP will cost less than many alternatives.

Re:OpenERP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954679)

On the face, OpenERP is a fantastic looking piece of software. Once you get under the hood though, it can be a nightmare. And it only supports accrual based accounting.

Sugar CRM (2)

brokenin2 (103006) | about 9 months ago | (#44954009)

It's a little flaky, but no more than systems you pay a lot of money for..

Of course, it really depends on how well it meets your requirements..

Re: Sugar CRM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954273)

I would second Sugar, we use it in house as a ticketing and billing system. It's very easy to customize fields, forms, and full modules to your line of business. There is also a non-free add-on called Enhanced Studio which lets you insert arbitrary code (php or javascript) anywhere where you would use the module studio to insert fields. The same thing can also be done in sugar's code but is more difficult as you have to follow sugar's "everything is an object" coding style, but you can also add function calls that would happen immidiately before or after data is saved to do things like send emails. Sugar additionally exposes a SOAP api allowing you to use it as a back end to any number of custom applications.

Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954013)

Why not ask your users what they need and then decide based on that rather asking Slashdot?

Re:Obvious (4, Insightful)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#44954133)

I take it you've never worked with end users.

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954467)

I have and for certain if you just up and switch software on them without feedback you will get way more headaches than what this guy is seeing now.

Re:Obvious (2)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 9 months ago | (#44954531)

I agree. That's why you do research. You need to bring to the table the best possible options. Users know what their job is, but they don't know how to tell a good system apart from a bad one. You don't pick for them, but you need to narrow it down to prevent the paradox of choice problem.

Re:Obvious (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 9 months ago | (#44954577)

I want a pony, I want a sports car, I want ice cream, I WANT EVERYTHING AND NOTHING AT THE SAME TIME!!!

And then next week all of their decisions change yet again.

Never EVER ask the users.

Re:Obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44954889)

Sure you ask the users. How will this guy know that the replacement software will even do what the users want if he never asks them how they are currently using the system?

Apparently the mods are all a bunch of anti-social neckbeards to rate such stupid posts as informative.

Haven't used it, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954067)

OFBiz is Apache's solution. http://ofbiz.apache.org/
OpenTaps appears to be a frozen version with vendor support. http://www.opentaps.org/

I've heard horror stories about supporting OFBiz on the backend, but that's likely because our job titles were "system admin," rather than J2EE. G'luck!

Re:Haven't used it, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954351)

Thanks for the link, that looks cool. Hate java, but it's cool to see another one of these.

You're screwed. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954073)

What software would you choose?"

You don't have the manpower to move to anything else. You implied it.

If you don't have the manpower to support what you have, what makes you think you can move to something else? It's a LOT of work.

And we're talking about F/OSS stuff here - you know: download, install, curse, run, curse, set up, curse, ask for help and told to "RTFM". curse some more, reinstall, ask a questions and then told to "RTFM", reinstall, curse, port, merge, ask a question and told to "RTFM", curse, and then say "Fuck IT!" and go back to your old solution or hire a professional firm to do it - i.e. NOT F/OSS.

Get serious about your selection process (5, Insightful)

SplatMan_DK (1035528) | about 9 months ago | (#44954081)

You write "CRM/ERP" like the two are related in some way, but apart from both using a database they do extremely different things.

A true ERP system is orders of magnitudes larger and more complex than any CRM system, and while you can find examples of ERP systems with embedded CRM modules the reverse is not true. No CRM vendor - free or otherwise - has produced an ERP system.

Don't mix the two. It is like comparing a train with a motorcycle. They both have wheels and transport people, but beyond that ...

Before you proceed any further I strongly suggest you read up on the meaning of those two TLAs. And you need to analyze your needs - not just pull a new IT system out if your (or slashdots) a**.

Here is what you should be doing.

1.) Understand what these systems do. Wikipedia and the various vendors own descriptions are a good place to start.

2.) Make a list of your business needs. Do you need Marketing functionality in your CRM? Or Sales Forecasting? How about ERP - do you need product life cycles agent? Shop floor time registration? Production management? And what about support? Hosting?

3.) Make a list of your technical requirements. Like if you need toolbars that plug into MS Office, integrations with other systems, and your options for management reporting tools.

4.) Collect information about the system vendors and products you think mach your needs.

5.) Make a gap-fit analysis between the vendors you have identified, and your list if business requirements.

6.) You end up with a winner.

This will take a few days; but at least you'll be doing things right. Your company will be stuck with your choice of system for yet another decade so you need to be professional and serious about all this.

- Jesper

Re:Get serious about your selection process (3, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about 9 months ago | (#44954429)

While it's true that there is a large market for CRM systems that do not require ERP, there is a significant market of ERP users that require CRM support from their ERP.

However, I do agree that the odds of finding a single solution that is good at both is unlikely. The author would be better off looking for seperate systems that support easy customization and extension so they can be tied together. While this will require some work, the odds of success are much greater.

One thing I would recommend: make sure the systems use a real database like PostgreSQL, DB/2 UDB, or Oracle. Those four support "SELECT...FOR UPDATE" syntax properly, which makes it possible to implement embracing locks between two seperate databases for a dual-system solution. MySQL with appropriate extensions and table configuration will work as well, but the odds are that either or both of the systems selected won't be coded to use those extensions, making it a very risky proposition. Sybase ASE and Microsoft SQL server do not support "SELECT...FOR UPDATE" syntax properly, so you can't implement embracing locks with those databases, despite their performance and popularity -- they cut corners and require a completely different (and more difficult) style of coding to achieve the same effect.

Ideally you want databases in the back end that can support two-phase XA commits rather than coding embracing locks, but that limits your database options even further, and comes with it's own set of technical challenges.

Of course if you can get away with generating a "report" from one system that is "imported" by the other, batch-style rather than having deep integration between the two, your job will be much easier. Don't let the wish lists of your users obstruct the focus on meeting the core needs of the business. Just because someone wants to hit a function key and be taken to the appropriate screen in the CRM system from the ERP doesn't mean that they have to have that functionality to do their job.

Remember, the most important thing to do is to get management buy-in on the risk and expense of the data and functionality migration. If you don't have buy-in from management and the ability to say no to unrealistic or unnecessary user demands, you're dead before you started.

Re:Get serious about your selection process (2)

msobkow (48369) | about 9 months ago | (#44954449)

Typo: "those three" databases, not those four.

The selection of a database is key to success when dealing with systems integration. Don't let the rah-rah fanbois and sales reps tell you otherwise.

Re:Get serious about your selection process (1)

mtutty (678367) | about 9 months ago | (#44954463)

Came here to say essentially the same thing - GET REQUIREMENTS. No matter which road you end up choosing, the requirements will make choices much clearer, and their objective nature will give you a buffer against the business folks who agreed to them, but want the flaming logo on Wednesdays.

I did this a few years ago for a decent-sized telecom, that wanted to get rid of dozens of home-built systems in favor of telecom-specific ERP type software (usually called OSS for this industry). The RFP was a bust (no vendor selected), but those requirements guided the next 18 months of systems development, COTS adoption, integration and legacy retirement. In the end, even the business folks acknowledged that without the written requirements, they would not have been able to make any of the advances we made.

ERP for "small business"?! (1)

ebyrob (165903) | about 10 months ago | (#44955509)

I just have to point out a bit of a seeming discrepancy here. From the wiki article on ERP:

> However, information tools like ERP are expensive, and not a practical method for medium or small business owners.

Go with with the pros use (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954093)

Go with MS-SQL Express. It is free and it has been very, very good to me. Access? Only for beginners. You have been at it 10 years now so you can move up to big boy software: MS-SQL Express. Did I mention it was free? It is free so enjoy. If you want to continue to use VB you may but I recommend also moving up to big boy software, MS .NET, and c sharp. You will need to hunker down and learn to rid yourself of your VB ways, but you need to learn new skills if you want to play with the big boys.

To cap: Stop using Access. Stop using VB. Advanced IT uses MS-SQL Express. And .NET for customization. Go with the IT pros use.

Re:Go with with the pros use (-1, Redundant)

djupedal (584558) | about 9 months ago | (#44954163)

Go with MS-SQL Express. It is free and it has been very, very good to me. Access? Only for beginners. You have been at it 10 years now so you can move up to big boy software: MS-SQL Express. Did I mention it was free? It is free so enjoy. If you want to continue to use VB you may but I recommend also moving up to big boy software, MS .NET, and c sharp. You will need to hunker down and learn to rid yourself of your VB ways, but you need to learn new skills if you want to play with the big boys.

To cap: Stop using Access. Stop using VB. Advanced IT uses MS-SQL Express. And .NET for customization. Go with the IT pros use.

Did you just get here from the v e r y distant past or what? Someone w/mod points pls. send this SOB back where they belong . . .

Re:Go with with the pros use (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44954959)

Freshly minted MCSE is my guess. Dime a dozen.

Re:Go with with the pros use (1)

kermidge (2221646) | about 10 months ago | (#44956391)

I thought it was satire.

Re:Go with with the pros use (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 10 months ago | (#44955967)

Clueless fellow who doesn't even understand what he's replying to.
The OP did not write it. He inherited it. VB was not his choice.
This isn't "How do I go rewrite this crap" but "I'm all for tossing every vestige of this out the door; does anyone have a replacement?"

And while we're at it:
SQL Express?
Go with Postgres or something else that scales in terms of systems rather than wallets.

Tustena (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954141)

Don't overlook Tustena. It is a horrible name, but good product.

http://sourceforge.net/projects/tustena/

or

http://www.tustena.com/en/

Now you know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954173)

this co-worker left.

and access? seriously? anything you choose to replace it will be better. ANYTHING... even sticky notes.

Look into tree.io (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954255)

It's quite nice, written in python and uses Django 1.5. MIT license.
https://github.com/treeio/treeio

Of course, it is not nearly as full featured as decade old projects, but on the other hand, assuming you can program in python, it could be an excellent starting point for highly customized version for your company.

OpenERP (2)

liquidcable (1604923) | about 9 months ago | (#44954261)

OpenERP

Dont waste your time (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954279)

For the CRM stuff why bother rolling your own - sign up with Salesforce.com and pick the appropriate plug-ins to keep the coworkers happy.

Unless you are s/w developers it's a hell of a lote less ballache than roll your own

Salesforce.com (1)

BaronM (122102) | about 9 months ago | (#44954445)

...or some other SAAS solution. Really, there is almost no reason to do this on-prem anymore. If you are idealogically open source, then sure, you are legitimate exception. Just be sure the "you" in that case is "your organization", not "you personally".

Obvious choice (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about 9 months ago | (#44954563)

I was always a fan of CRM114...

Re: Obvious choice (1)

BaronM (122102) | about 10 months ago | (#44955045)

Masochist.

Depends on your resources and your requirements. (1)

Harlequin80 (1671040) | about 9 months ago | (#44954631)

Will an off the shelf system meet the needs of your business?

You obviously already have a database that was built in house. It probably did what it was first meant to do well but scope creep over the years has totally destroyed the original vision (been there, done that).

Given that, could you feasibly do a re-write? Migrate to a better back end, to a better language. Can you break the current system into bite sized parts and convert them little by little?

Sugar, SalesForce etc etc etc are great IF they suit your business. There is one thing worse than a flaky database/CRM. It's one where your staff won't use it, so they have all gone to running their own spreadsheets.

If your management team is willing to invest in the project you have years of usage cases to draw upon and a 10 mile long feature list.

Why no payroll in Open Source ERP systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954667)

I have worked with a proprietary ERP system for the last 10 years, I always thought it would be cool to freelance and implement opensource ones. However a big stumbling block I have always ran into is no Opensource ERP or even Open Source Accounting package has a payroll module.

I know it is open source so I could write one but I am a horrible coder for anything complex. I just wounder why many will implement things like manufacturing and service management but no payroll? Do most companies really outsource the payroll? Very few that I work with do.

Re:Why no payroll in Open Source ERP systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955203)

If you are in the United States, and don't outsource payroll, you will mess up on taxes paid to the IRS at least once every six months. By outsourcing it, that firm is responsible for paying for the error, not your firm.

Furthermore, the IRS has a nasty habit of auditing firms that do not outsource payroll every two or three years.

Get other people involved (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44954691)

You make it sound as though you are going to make this decision on your own; if so, this is a bad idea. You need to get management and users (especially users!) involved in the decision making, and keep them involved during the implementation. If you don't do this, you will be forever blamed, criticized, and resisted for bring in "your" system, and it will always be compared unfavorably to the old system.

Involving others, especially end users, has real benefits:

1. They will see things you did not see, or did not consider important.
2. They will be much more willing to take time and effort to learn and use a system they had a voice in choosing.
3. When others start carping about how the old system was better, they will be advocates on behalf of the new system, and will have the time and knowledge to explain why the change was necessary.

If you do it right, your evaluation team will evolve naturally into an implementation support and training team. Also, be prepared to make some compromises - the system which looks ideal to you from support standpoint may have serious drawbacks to the users. Narrow your choice down to a short list which all on the team can agree will work, and then make a final choice based on consensus.

xTuple (1)

sphealey (2855) | about 10 months ago | (#44954773)

xTuple is a possibility, as are a number of midrange packages depending on your industry (e.g. Visual Manufacturing for machine shops / small make-to-stock operations). But you really need to get a handle on your requirements and budget first. Budget includes not only dollars but willingness of director-level managers to second key players onto the implementation team for as long as it takes. If you can't get that, well, time to get the resume to the headhunters.

If you tell us what your line of business is and approximate headcount (fixed + field personal) and annual turnover I/we can give better suggestions. But it isn't something that can be done offhand (I've been doing this since 1996).

sPh

Re:xTuple (1)

idunham (2852899) | about 10 months ago | (#44955995)

I'd say +1 on xTuple, but you've got far more insight than I.

I was about to suggest that myself; my brother demonstrated it recently at a smallish manufacturing company he works for. IIRC, they ended up going for the commercial version.

X2Engine or OpenObjects (1)

skaag (206358) | about 10 months ago | (#44954827)

SugarCRM is very mature, and has a built-in "Developer Studio" where you can create new modules, add new fields, and so on. The only downside is when you need to do complicated stuff, then you need to hire a PHP developer to write custom actions for you. Another missing feature in the Community Edition is a proper Workflow Engine.

X2Engine comes with a workflow engine which is an awesome feature when you need status that function based on a certain logical business process.

And of course for me the ultimate system is OpenObjects (formerly known as OpenERP), it's a fantastic and quite complete system, but requires Python knowledge. But it has fantastic client software (desktop) for most popular operating systems, which makes some users feel more comfortable with it (it does also have a web interface, which is also very, very good, and all clients implement the same user experience pretty much so you feel at home with all of them).

SFDC, Workday, done. (3, Interesting)

nbvb (32836) | about 10 months ago | (#44954839)

Forget maintaining / rolling your own. Doesn't make ANY sense, especially when this thing got dropped in your lap.

Salesforce.com for CRM.
Workday for ERP.
Sleep at night. Priceless.

Re:SFDC, Workday, done. (1)

nbvb (32836) | about 10 months ago | (#44954851)

Replying to myself, but just to prove the theory .... even huge companies are going this route.

http://www.citeworld.com/social/21940/salesforce-chatter-communities-hp [citeworld.com]
http://allthingsd.com/20130319/seven-questions-for-the-man-shaking-up-hps-operations-john-hinshaw/ [allthingsd.com]

Re:SFDC, Workday, done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955379)

The company I work for replaced our custom CRM system with Salesforce. We took a step backward (functionality wise) of approx 15 years.
The promised enhancements take forever to be delivered, and when they do they never work how we want.
12 months down the track everyone agrees it's still a P.O.S compared to our previous system.
No-one is sleeping well here with the SFDC nightmare.....

eGroupware & pERP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44954849)

eGroupware & pERP

The obviously stupid question. (1)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about 10 months ago | (#44954921)

Let me ask it here -- just what is an ERP supposed to do?

-- hendrik

Re:The obviously stupid question. (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about 10 months ago | (#44955687)

An ERP system allows you to run your business. It's generally a suite of applications or modules that cover production, ordering, inventory management, accounting...all the things that make the business run. The system can be something relatively simple and generic that can apply to almost any company in a basic way, or it can be extremely complex and highly customized, specific to only a single company.

A successfuk ERP conversion (2)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about 10 months ago | (#44955263)

There was a paper presented at a Lisp/Scheme - related conference a few years ago about how someone managed to wrestle an ERP system (whatever that was) into submission.

It started out as hundreds of thousands of lines in C or C++ (I forget which).
They decided they wanted to add a scripting language to it.
They picked Gambit/C, an implementation of Scheme that can be compiled to C, and can also be interpreted.

Gradually, when they had trouble with particular parts of their huge system, they discovered it was often easier to rewrite them in the scripting language than to fix the C code. Gradually, over a few years, hundreds of thousands of lines of C code were replaced by about 30,000 lines of Gambit. And it ran faster in the scripting language (which could be compiled, after all) than it had formerly run in C. And it had more features.

If you can accomplish a major rewrite an improvement incrementally, you can probably achieve continuity of operation that would be difficult any other way.

Now I don't know how Gambit would link with Microsoft's BASIC. But there's probably a way, and perhaps you should look into it.

You might want to communicate with Marc Feely, the Gambit/C author about the possibilities.

The Gambit/C mailing list is at https://webmail.iro.umontreal.ca/mailman/listinfo/gambit-list [umontreal.ca]
Yes, there's a server misconfiguration that may prompt your browser to give scary messages, but that's the URL.

The main page of the Gambit wiki is at http://dynamo.iro.umontreal.ca/wiki/index.php/Main_Page [umontreal.ca]

-- hendrik

Re:A successfuk ERP conversion (3, Informative)

bidule (173941) | about 10 months ago | (#44956269)

Actually you are mixing 2 stories.

JazzScheme backend was redone in Gambit/C and Cairo about 5 years ago, that was the "hundreds of thousands of lines of C code were replaced by about 30,000 lines of Gambit." The project owner is Guillaume Cartier, but Marc Feeley and some of his students were involved.

The ERP project build using JazzScheme flopped some time ago for the usual reasons.

What are your requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955347)

What software would we choose? Probably something completely different than what you need because our needs aren't your needs. You are going to have to talk to the people who use the existing system and see what their requirements are. Then you take those requirements and see what product fulfills them. Every company's requirements are different so a different company will choose a different product. No one here can help you with this as we don't work at your company and can't talk to the people who depend on the existing system.

We've been using OpenERP 7 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955353)

As a small company we've been using OpenERP 7 for quite a while and it works for most of the tasks. We've been rolling out features very carefully and slowly, 'cause OpenERP is a big beast.

Beer is the answer! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44955515)

I suggest maintaining a good relationship with your ex co-worker involving him answering the odd email from you and you giving him beer.

ADempiere (1)

Holistic Missile (976980) | about 10 months ago | (#44955761)

Definitely worth a look. Open source version of Compiere - ERP/CRM and more. You don't mention what line of business you are in, but this is a flexible system you can tailor to your needs. I am in the process of implementing it for a hobby (photography) that has recently become (if accidentally!) profitable. Postgresql backend, native client and web client. Great price, too - free (as in beer and speech)!

Support is available, as well.

Pronto.net (1)

DeathElk (883654) | about 10 months ago | (#44955891)

pronto.net [pronto.net] . Not Open Source although you can get a developers license that allows you to compile 4GL programs. If the business is worth running, then it's worth paying for mature software and support. Very rich suite of applications, including CRM, inventory, warehouse, project costing, POS, payroll, ARAP, plant maintenance, hire, assets, RFI, etc

First: SRS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44956025)

You are putting the cart before the horse.

First of all, do a Requirements Analysis, write a Software Requirements Specification and get your boss to sign off on it..

Openbravo (1)

Zibodiz (2160038) | about 10 months ago | (#44956249)

Openbravo is an ERP solution that is open source with premium (paid) services available. They'll try to force the premium services on you, but if you run your own server, you don't need them. I downloaded it and played with it a little a couple of years ago, but never bothered to set it up. We have a very small computer shop and it was simpler to write my own basic database interface (besides, I'm one of those idiots who enjoys coding and likes to make things 'just right', so I created my own software from scratch for our 3-employee business -- darn you OCD!)
I do, however, use their foss POS software and like it pretty well. I've had to make a few alterations to fit our business, but it's by far the best I've used. I strongly considered writing my own POS software as well, but the discomforts of using theirs were outweighed by the headache of credit card APIs and PCI certification.

Whisky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44956251)

For a small business, just ply your customers with whisky, that should keep them happy.

Filemaker (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44956341)

Laugh all you want, but Filemaker has come a long way. Vendors who bid to replace ours walk away in shame.

Google Filemaker ERP CRM

The poster is looking for a magic bullet (1)

plopez (54068) | about 10 months ago | (#44956359)

An therefore is asking the wrong questions. The first questions should be:
1) What does the current system do?
2) What should the current system do?
3) What is the value in what it does?

If what the current system does has no or little value, then throwing it away without a thought is not a bad idea. If there is value in it then what is it that gives the job it does value? What is there that the system cannot do that should be done? Also, one should ask what are the potential negative consequences from migrating to another application.

Basically The first step is to analyze the business and the current system. Then and only then will the correct software become apparent. It may be that the current software is the best solution and all effort, including hiring a temp contractor, might be best spent revamping that system.

Remember, ERP migrations have a huge failure rate http://www.zdnet.com/2013-erp-research-compelling-advice-for-the-cfo-7000011619/ [zdnet.com]

So be careful

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