Ideas on Enterprise Information Systems Development

This blog is devoted to ideas on Enterprise Information Systems (EIS) development. It focuses on Lean Thinking, Agile Methods, and Free/Open Source Software, as means of improving EIS development and evolution, under a more practical than academical view. You may find here a lot of "thinking aloud" material, sometimes without scientific treatment... don't worry, this is a blog!
Every post is marked with at least one of Product or Process labels, meaning that they are related to execution techniques (programming and testing) or management techniques (planning and monitoring), respectively.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Free/Open Source ERP (FOS-ERP) - Part III

Free/Open Source ERP (FOS-ERP), Process, ProductIn 2007 I wrote a book chapter on the differences between FOS-ERP and proprietary ERP (P-ERP), published as part of the Handbook on Research in Enterprise Systems in 2008. This post is part of a series that revisits this paper. Please refer to the first post of this series to better understand the structure used in this comparison.

Requirements and Preliminary Design

Given that most software development (and customization) today is done (or should be done) through interactive and incremental life cycles, the requirements, preliminary design, detailed design, and implementation phases are performed in a loop.

Following its list of priority requirements, the adopter can model its main business processes – as part of the Preliminary Design – in order to check how the different ERP systems fit to them. At this point, FOS-ERP need  to be evaluated using the criteria traditionally used to evaluate ERPs in general, as well as criteria related specifically to Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in general, such as maturity of the community and the levels of support.

An interesting point regarding FOS-ERP is that, although it can produce a smaller financial impact, it may bring a bigger knowledge and innovation impact. The access to the source code in FOS-ERP can drive to a much better exploration of the ERP’s capabilities, thus allowing a better implementation of differentiated solutions. Of course, software development resources must be available to reach this, what means that for smaller organizations this is usually not possible.

From this standpoint, the strategic positioning of an adopter in relation to a FOS-ERP seems to be of greatest importance, given the possibility of deriving competitive advantage from the source code. Therefore, the adopter must decide to behave as a simple consumer, only obtaining the solution from a vendor or the community, or become a prosumer, by mixing passively acquiring commodity parts of the system with actively developing strategic ones by itself. Thus it is clear that when an adopter considers FOS-ERP as an alternative, it should also consider developing parts of the system to fit its requirements – taking into account that this kind of positioning represents allocating managerial and technical resources for development tasks in a FOSS environment.

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