Understanding the ERPNext Ecosystem

By Rushabh Mehta August 8, 2017 Community 3 comments

In a bid to understand the ERPNext ecosystem better, we did a casual survey of what the current ecosystem looks like and what are the key areas and feedback that we need to understand. For a domain like ERP, the ecosystem is a key enabler of the product. Most end users will use the product through a service provider. Small businesses in manufacturing, small services and retails are still not "cloud friendly".

About the Ecosystem

As we guessed the ERPNext ecosystem is mostly made of young and new service providers who have been in business for a short while. There are a few mature service providers too, which is a very healthy sign. These are the ones who really understand small businesses.

Most of the service providers are full-stack, i.e. they provide implementation consulting as well as app development. But also a third do not provide any technical services, so there is some chance of co-operation in the community. For the most part, service providers compete with each other.

While most service providers provide a host of services apart from ERPNext, for more than 10%, ERPNext represents the the bulk of the work they do.








Closing Deals

Most people say that ERPNext lacks specific features that their customers need that helps them for closing deals, which makes sense. Business process are complex and the mature ERPs have features that have been built over the years. But I think we are filling this gap pretty fast, the rate at which ERPNext is adding new features is generally very good. Another observation here is that users always feel "our business is unique" and there is a perception that unless you have feature X, this system is not useful to me. Sometimes, this is just an indication that the customer is not really "ready" for an ERP system.

A lot of people also say that their customers expect integrations that ERPNext misses. I assume these might be with e-commerce platforms like Magento and OpenCart or portals like Amazon.

A lot of people also find it hard to understand the open source model. I think positioning is a key idea here. If a company stands to save X amount from an ERP implementation in the first year, I think convincing them to invest X/2 upfront is a difficult. Maybe we should ask experienced service providers on how to do this.

It is also interesting to note here, that almost a quarter of the respondents had no problem closing deals!


Contributing

Most service providers say they do spend time helping other users, reporting issues and patches, which is a great thing. We would love to see more of this. In terms of what stops them from contribution, it seems they don't have the time (i.e. its not a priority for them).

Yes there was an option about documentation, but when you have a choice of owning up to your own decisions or passing the responsibility to someone else, its an easy call. It would also be interesting to see what those who said "documentation" have done to improve it themselves. (Don't worry we won't find out, Its an anonymous survey!)


Big Ideas

Working to make the product more stable was the strongest message that came out. Users do not want surprises, so when new features are added, we must make them effectively hidden. In the last few weeks we have been working hard on added automated UI tests so that we can push new features with even more confidence. After that users want more features and more help for developers.



Most people were more or less happy with the way things are going so far, and even excited about the prospects of the product. People have a lot of faith in the community and what we can do going forward, if we keep improving at this rate.

Some people (less than 5%) took to the opportunity to express dissatisfaction. Some did not like our staunch open source values, but forget that they are here because of those very values. Some did not like that we (Frappé Technologies) provide hosting services, but then who would pay those bills? Also its the same model that Wordpress uses and it did not hamper the growth of its ecosystem in any way. Some were alarmed that one actually needs to pay to be a member of the foundation, but we don't live in utopia and I am sure that service provider also bills customers for livelihood. I don't think the foundation in any way has hampered the spirit of collaboration in the community. I see the foundation as yet another stake holder of like minded individuals that wants to enhance the product. Either ways, it was good that some people expressed their unhappiness, we take the feedback.

Takeaways

Ultimately people want both, speed and quality. That will only happen with better systems and when the community comes forward to contribute even more. Now that there is a steady flow of feature contributions, the next bottleneck is in reviews. That is after we completely fix the test coverage.

For those who are hesitating to contribute back because of lack of time, remember that you are the pioneers of this community and you should come forward and take lead!



Rushabh Mehta

Rushabh is a software developer and founder of ERPNext. He usually writes about the startup experience, open source and the technologies he is working on.

3 comments
Charles-Henri Decultot August 8, 2017

Great summary! I also note that a big part of these results reflect most of the discussion held on the community forum. It is the sign of a healthy community where people discuss issues in length before making a decision to move forward.

Great that you put reviews as a next priority after the test coverage. I am certain it will enable more contributions and will be more effective than more documentation (which is already great IMHO)! People learn better by doing than by reading 😉

Thanks Rushabh and Frappe Team for enabling this! 😊

Witton August 8, 2017

Good to hear some review summary of the ERPNext on market trend in general. I have been working on ERPNext since 2015. Slowly from analyst, testing, developing and now slowly introduce to my client.

Here are some of my observation with my clients towards ERPNext : 1) ERPNext is a small skill ERP solution in customer point of view. Don't get me wrong I know ERPNext can even support up to a big scale of company. What I means is that customer would always like to compare ERP system with those SAP. Oracle etc...for them ERP should used by big corporate. This is true in few years back. But it's no longer a dream for small company to use ERP system now a days.

2) Just recent years (1 to 2 years ago), the ERP become more and more popular for SMI/SME. Due to cloud solution, the reduce of the hardware costs (memory/hard disk space). I would say the ERP ecosystem still pretty new for most of the country in the world.

3) SMI/SME slowly get awareness only when they come across the need of enterprise digital transformation for their company. It still very new for SMI/SME to get to it with ERP solution.

4) The digital edge was booming just recent years. A lot of apps, online shopping cart, internet solutions, internet applications etc was grooming. Most of the business haven't really ware the advantages of the integration solution provided by ERP system. In fact, this is the CORE (Acct, Inventory, sales , HR etc...) of the entire business should focus on, instead of the other small apps, marketing apps in the market.

In general, the ERP ecosystem still very new in the market for SMI/SME. This is just a beginning I would say. I have in SAP field for more than 15 years. When I found ERPNext few years back, I know the potential is big for this solution.

Thanks and GREAT jobs to Rushabh and Frappe Team !!

Jay August 9, 2017

Closing deals. My biggest pitch, which is actually a very counter intuitive to conventional thinking is, when they ask me if ERPNext will scale and keep pace with their dreams and aspirations.

My answer to them is "I don't know". That throws them off their game and they actually listen to me. I then go on to tell them that during the implementation of an ERP system and for a few years after, the weakest link in the whole chain is the organization and its people - not the ERP system. In fact any ERP system will work for an organization that is setting out on the journey of implementing an ERP system and if any organization finds a better combination of usability and price, than ERPNext, they should just go with that option.

I go on to explain to them that, while they are instilling the necessary discipline with their people about working with an ERP system, an Open Source configuration will work best because you are not paying license fees and you can afford to spend more money on integrations, customizations and training.

And I assure them that the day I find ERPNext to be constraint to their organization's growth, I will pro-actively work with them to help them migrate away from ERPNext to any proprietary ERP system of their choice.

So far I haven't had to do that with anybody, and I don't think I will ever have to.

People that want to be part of the Foundation but don't want to pay: Please check out the Foundation Fellowship Program: https://discuss.erpnext.com/t/foundation-fellowship/26403

All in all, not too many surprises with the survey.

May our tribe increase!

Thanks

Jay

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