Top Open Source ERP Software Solutions

Things change a lot in todays marketplace, especially when you are talking about Open Source ERP software. Getting real time statistics and data on your enterprise can be critical to your decision making process.

Real-time data is the lifeblood of a modern enterprise.Click To Tweet

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) software is key to meeting the demands of any modern enterprise business, as the features and benefits of these programs can lead directly to increased efficiency and profit.

The problem is, most organizations in different industries have vastly different requirements. There is no “off-the-shelf” or “one-size-fits-all” solution, especially in when it comes to open source ERP software.

Finding the right Open Source ERP solution is hard for executives and experienced developers alike.Click To Tweet

There are literally hundreds of software providers on the commercial / enterprise side of ERP software market offering industry specific and top down solutions, with a big portion of those being outdated and often too expensive.

Because of this, many small to mid sized enterprise companies look to either create their own solution, or to extend / build upon an open source ERP software package at a lower cost.

Top Things To Consider When Choosing Open Source ERP Software

There are many variables that go into selecting an ERP solution, but they can be distilled into 3 buckets:

Cost

  1. Total Cost of Ownership – How much money, time and resources is it going to take to keep the software up and running? This should be answered by someone at the beginning of your project planning phases and factored into your annual budgets.
  2. Principle Cost – What is the upfront cost to deploy and get a beta version of the software shipped so you can begin the process of getting it into production? How long will it take to actually deploy in your enterprise? What are the support protocols if service or data drops in the migration? What impact does that have on IT cost and operations? This is another set of questions that needs to be answered in your planning and exploratory phases.
  3. Incidental Cost – Look into the common bugs associated with the platform you choose. This overlaps with cost of ownership and stability, but it directly effects cost. Some solutions may be buggier and more costly to develop, deploy and maintain depending on how they were coded and the language and environment they use. The fluctuation of cost is hard to predict and nail down because the programming languages vary from platform to platform, and developers who code in Java, Ruby or Python charge more than PHP or Javascript developers.

Features

  1. Minimum Viable Product – It is best to pick a small set of the most important features and ship something fast and then iterate over trying to create a masterpiece in one shot. Software development just doesn’t work that way anyways. Go with an MVP approach and get the thing into production so you can find out what customers really want / need.
  2. Low Hanging Fruit – What features will have the greatest impact on both cost and efficiency in the enterprise? All features should be prioritized this way – by order of impact (not just what people want to make their jobs easier).
  3. Fixed Scope Bid vs Agile / Iterative – Are you 100% sure of the features you have planned, or do you have a feature set that may change depending on what customers and decision makers need? There are many pros and cons to fixed bid / fixed scope vs agile / iterative. You should factor costs for new features on the horizon that you may not have planned out in the initial scope and pick a pricing model that best suits the needs of your specific project.

Stability

  1. Business Logic – Does the solution you are looking at match your business logic out of the box, or is going to take a lot of customization to get what you need? It’s good to find something that closely matches what you need without the need for heavy / deep customization to the core software. This may cut you off from updates, so be careful to consider and research exactly how each Open Source ERP platform you are looking at works.
  2. Community – How big is the community of the platform you are choosing? Even if there is good enterprise support, how is the community support? Are there people active in the forums / repos? Do questions go unanswered? Do bugs get fixed in a timely manner? This should all be factored into your final decision.
  3. Support – What support and service level is provided by the software vendor? Do they have the capability to step in and help if you get in over your head or there is an emergency? This has to be considered with any mission critical application in your business.

There are many other things to consider beyond just these three key areas, I just wanted to cover the basics for anyone starting the process. Hopefully this gives a framework to avoid any pitfalls during your planning and exploratory phases.

The Best Open Source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Software Solutions

But which Open Source ERP software is the best? As with many of the commercial options, much of the Open Source ERP software available is ever changing and each platform has their own pros / cons and limitations.

A quick look at Google Trends of the top 5 Open Source ERP software shows where the market is headed and who the top solutions providers are by popularity current day…

This is by no means an accurate number of total market share, but is telling of the rate of adoption and demand in the marketplace.

In this post I wanted to provide the most updated Open Source ERP software currently available on the market and some of the pitfalls that you should consider with each solution.

ERPNext

ERPNext arrived on the scene a few years ago and is easily one of the best open source ERP software solutions available. Like many other solutions providers in this market, they offer some of the most competitive pricing of all ERP solutions:

  1. FREE for solo entrepreneurs (how cool is that?!)
  2.  A cloud version ranging from $300 a year to $3,000 a year in 5 user / 5GB increments
  3. An open source, self hosted option

ERPNext has the best mobile experience of all the solutions available hands down. The code is modern and very well organized built using Python and MariaDB. Developers who utilize Gtflow and package management in their workflow will appreciate the best practice software development principles implemented by the OpenERP team.

It is important to note their community version is the most extensible of any solution in this list. They have the fewest restrictions of all open source ERP software currently available.

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Apache OFBiz

Apache OFBiz still reigns at the top of the list as it provides a solid and stable framework for businesses that may be distributing and / or selling inventory. It is also without a doubt one of the most extensible and customizable solutions available, but definitely one of the more complicated to learn and deploy as well.

Anyone looking to build a solution with Apache OFBiz who does not have previous experience with the software should understand that there is a steep learning curve, it is written in Java. Deploying OFBiz requires some knowledge of command line as well, so it is definitely not the best solution for people / businesses who have very little technical ability (or access to people who are).

The developers of OFBiz refer to the program as open source enterprise automation, and it can be used for planning, customer relationship management (CRM), e-commerce, supply chain management (SCM), manufacturing, POS and asset management. All of these features and extensibility also mean it has a lot of moving parts to learn. Be prepared for that if you choose to go with OFBiz.

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Odoo

Odoo, formerly known as OpenERP, is still high on the list of open source ERP software options, but that stronghold is slipping away fast. Let me explain why.

They now offer three versions:

  1. Online – An Online / Cloud version with varying ala cart pricing options starting at $25 per user and $15-$90+ per add on feature. This can obviously get pricey very fast.
  2. Enterprise – There is an enterprise version that starts at $240 per user per year and includes all of the features + dedicated support.
  3. Community – Then there is a extremely limited, older version of the software labeled as a “community version” that renders it pretty much useless.

The problem with the community version of Odoo is that at it’s best, it’s limitware. At it’s worst, it doesn’t work at all and is full of bugs. Those bugs often just lead to an Odoo sales rep  / customer service person telling you that you should sign up for one of the other paid service tiers.

Now this is nothing new, Varien / Magento, Inc. used a similar tactic (with Magento), but they always found just the right balance of keeping their community version stable and feature rich. In the case ofVarien / Magento, Inc., their Enterprise license is essentially premium support from the creators of the software and a handful of their newer features, but the similarities from the community version to the latest enterprise build of Magento were never too far off from each other.

As cumbersome as Magento can be to work with, a decent developer can still beat a community version of the software into shape and keep things moving without breaking the bank. My point is, they found a balance. I don’t believe Odoo / OpenERP has found that balance with their open source version of the product, at least current day.

The community version of Odoo is a poor product compared to it’s predecessor. There are a lot of bugs in queue that haven’t been resolved and the platform is often mocked in the development community for it’s disregard for modern coding principles.

Also, being that it’s written in Python, finding qualified developers who can code proficiently in that language and who are also familiar with Odoo / OpenERP can be really hard to find.

I don't see many small to mid sized enterprises being able to scale with the Open Source version of Odoo.Click To Tweet

I’m sure there are some great use cases of people who are doing it and I would love to hear from those people in the comments.

This happens with some Open Source software projects. You can hardly blame the developers for wanting to stay in business (and even thrive) from their hard work. With all of that said, I think the Odoo is one of the best looking ERP software products on the market, but looks can be deceiving.

The code under the hood could cost you more money than it’s worth to fix, and finding someone who has experience with the platform is a challenge.

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Openbravo

The power of Openbravo is in it’s community, with over 20,000 active members. The platform is a pure web application utilizing the latest MVC software design principles with Javascript used for front end interfaces and Java for it’s backend programming language.

There are two versions of the software:

  1. Commerce Suite – Geared toward merchandise and supply chain management.
  2. Business Suite – As the name would suggest, this version is geared toward business and accounting operations with it’s “Order to Cash” and “Procure to Pay” features.

It was built on the concept of business agility, and it is currently used by over 6,000+ organizations of all sizes in a variety of industries. This open source ERP software runs through any web browser, and it is often rated as one of the easier solutions to use.

Openbravo may be purchased according to a four-tier pricing schedule, and fees may be paid on a monthly or annual basis. Licenses may also be purchased per user, per POS terminal or for unlimited use.

Please note that you will need some type of virtualization software to run Openbravo on your local computer or server.  VirtualBox is the recommended option for MacOS or Linux while VMWare Player is the recommended option for Windows.

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MixERP

MixERP is another newcomer that has gained traction quickly with it’s ASP.net foundation and focus on human resources and inventory management. MixERP is built using ASP.net and has extensive documentation for developer to build custom functionality and modules to suite any small to mid sized enterprise business.

The community activity is scarce and adoption is thin, so expect the limitations of a smaller community if you get in a bind. The developers for this project are very helpful and committed to providing an Open Source ERP software solution in ASP.net.

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WebERP

As the name suggests, webERP is an ERP system that operates completely online. This open source ERP software can be run through any Web browser, which includes Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. Although webERP is a powerful enterprise system, the developers admit that it is best suited for manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers. Retail businesses looking for a complete system have to combine webERP with third-party POS software.

Small and medium-sized organizations will find webERP to be surprisingly simple yet very effective, but it is not powerful enough to handle the needs of large businesses. A demo is offered for a quick overview of the system, and full downloads are available through Sourceforge.

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ERP5

The developers of ERP5 claim that this open source ERP software is the most powerful system of its kind, which is immediately questionable upon viewing the generic template chosen for its website. However, once the program is downloaded and installed, some interesting features are readily apparent. ERP5 is a full-featured suite that includes modules for CRM, production management, SCM and product design. In addition, the developers have included features specific to several industries, including apparel and healthcare.

ERP5 can be downloaded and installed free of charge, but the process can be quite a challenge, especially for those using a Windows operating system. Some users are sure to experience problems, and complete documentation and instructions are not yet available.

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Opentaps

Opentaps is a fully integrated ERP and CRM suite that supports e-commerce, inventory management, SCM and financial management. In addition, this open source ERP software offers a robust reporting and business intelligence system, and it can be accessed and operated through mobile devices straight out of the box. Opentaps works very well for retailers and provides several tools designed to help with converting leads into sales.

The CRM applications are also very useful for targeted marketing campaigns, and sales personnel can be tracked through a unique commission management system.

Opentaps is a Java-based application that was founded on two Apache projects: Tomcat and OFBiz. The Professional Edition costs $600 per user per year, but a minimum of 10 users is required to purchase the software.

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Dolibarr

When it comes to open source ERP software, Dolibarr is a competitive and modern product with an active community of users. Dolibarr is completely free, and it can be used as a standalone program from any computer or server, or it can be used online through a dedicated or virtual private server. Documentation for the software can be found on a wiki website that is frequently updated by both developers and veteran users.

Although the base program is free, many users opt to purchase additional modules and plugins from the Dolibarr store. Some of the most popular plugins are for project management, digital documentation, pricing tables and telephone management.

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Compiere

Consona, the developers of Compiere open source ERP software, claims that this is the most affordable, adaptable and modern ERP solution available today. The software is used by organizations in over 40 countries, and the inclusion of a full CRM system makes it worth testing. The ERP side of the enterprise edition can handle warehousing, purchasing, manufacturing and financial management while the CRM side takes care of sales, e-commerce, service and customer history.

In addition, the software can run locally or through Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which makes it the first ERP software to be delivered in this manner.
Compiere can be evaluated free of charge with the limited community edition, but the full enterprise edition has an undisclosed cost associated with it.

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ADempiere

Development of ADempiere began in 2006 by a splinter group of Compiere developers. While the developers of Compiere were focused on open source ERP software that could be sold under commercial licenses, the developers of ADempiere wanted to get back to community sharing, which is the basis of the open-source movement.

In order to establish this ERP system, several communities of specialists were formed, including those dedicated to coding, testing, writing, business systems and administration.

ADempiere can be downloaded through Sourceforge, and a three-click installation wizard is available for Windows users. Other versions can be downloaded for Mac and Linux.

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PostBooks

PostBooks open source ERP software was developed by xTuple, a company dedicated to providing companies of all sizes with low-cost, easy-to-use business technology. The founders of xTuple firmly believe that commercial software developers are out of touch with the needs of the business community, so they turned the company’s focus toward open source software.

PostBooks began as a program for manufacturers, but over the years, a full set of accounting and CRM applications have been added. In addition, PostBooks includes a powerful open source report writer called OpenRPT.

PostBooks is the free version of xTuple’s ERP software, and it can be downloaded by anyone at any time. However, several commercial products are also available based on the same open source code, including xTuple Standard, xTuple Manufacturing and xTuple Enterprise.

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9 Comments

Leave Comment

 

    • Taylor
    • January 2, 2014
    Reply

    I think you should also include, front accounting in the list that is not only accounting software but also includes several erp modules i.e. purchase, sales, accounts, manufaturing etc. From the given list, I like openerp, dolibar and compiere but you did right as putting openerp as first because i think, it is better than allo others :)

    • Altin
    • November 19, 2013
    Reply

    Very good post. I personally had hands-on on the top ones an I really appreciate Openbravo ERP, because of it flexibility, agility and easy making your own modules.

  1. Nice list!

    I’d also suggest Tryton, a fork of OpenERP driven by the community instead of partners. It has several other improvements.

    For smaller companies there is also ERPal, which is built on Drupal.

      • Anonymous
      • December 3, 2013
      Reply

      ERP built on Drupal !!?? Are you serious? A lot of developers say writing applications in Drupal/Wordpress/Joomla is like building a boat but starting from a car. I can already imagine the Code Quality before downloading this ERP.

    • Tanto
    • June 5, 2013
    Reply

    Very Good Article, Mr. Steve..!
    I need it to establish ERP Web for my Client.

    Thanks a lot

    • Kunal Asodaria
    • May 26, 2013
    Reply

    The reason why this post is on Google top results is it’s unbiased contents.

    It addresses quality facts for Open Source ERP. I won’t be surprised if Steve can start preparing list for Ecommerce or Portals or BI tools and share it.

    • Brien Coffield
    • May 23, 2013
    Reply

    Thanks for the summary, it was helpful in deciding which ERP system to use. Again, good article, and thanks.

    • Venkata Si
    • April 26, 2013
    Reply

    Great article and a good composition. I had similar thoughts about these products and you have summarized them very well.

    Good to stay connected Steve.

  2. Reply

    Nice article, Steve!

    I must admit I didn’t check each and every one in detail, but it seems like all the Open Source ERP systems I have seen cover Sales, CRM, manufaturing, inventory and the like.

    I have yet to find any that have solutions on Asset Management (not financial asset), Asset Information Management, maintenance work orders, maintenance planning, etc. Have you come across any?