In the last year, the major achievement was the community involvement, whether it is in terms of the number of communications in the forum or pull requests from community members. Currently, there are around 25000 users in the forum, and some of them are really very active. Every day around 80 questions is answered there. Similarly, in the past two months, around 60 pull requests have been sent by the community members. It looks like the platform is set for community contribution and we just need to encourage them by merging pull requests or replying via forum.
Though all is going well in terms of community involvement, the case is not the same for our cloud hosting platform. Our revenue model fully depends on the cloud platform. Though we are making a profit, but still there is lack of enough growth in that direction. And if we have to grow as a company, the situation must be improved. Let's do a post mortem of our cloud platform.
To analyse the situation, first we have to understand who are the cloud users. What they actually need and why they choose the cloud over self-hosting? Mainly, the small and medium businesses who are currently using accounting apps like Tally, Quickbooks etc and want to migrate to ERP for better tracking of their leads, stock, sales and purchases. Those who have multi locations and want to connect them via web-based applications. But they do not have in-house servers or capable resources to manage the servers. Hence, they prefer to choose cloud model, as it is hassle free and cost savings for them.
There are millions of such SMEs who falls in the above category and most of them need a good ERP. The market is already there. There are a very few web-based ERPs in the market which are feature rich, easy to use and comes at a low cost. And there is no doubt that ERPNext is one of those few. Then why we have only 400 (approx.) paid cloud customers? How do we reach to 10000 paid customers?
Is it because we are not reaching those potential crowd? Though we don’t have any sales person in our company, I doubt that is the case. We get a good amount of traction via organic search, which leads to average 70 new signups per day. We have almost 25000 such leads in our database who had tried erpnext demo or trials. Then why don’t they converted to paid customers? The ERPNext Cloud subscriptions are the most affordable compared to others, hence pricing factor also ruled out.
We have identified some areas for improvement which can make the situation better.
1. Simplicity, Ease of Use
ERPNext is already simple compared to other software in the same category. But still there are a lot of rooms for improvements. Unlike self-hosted users, the cloud users are those who are not generally tech savvy people. We have to design all that features keeping that in mind. Ease of on-boarding is another area where we can improve a lot. After signing up, it must be very easy to start using erpnext with real data.
As erpnext follows self-implementation model, good documentation is also a key factor for success. We should create a very good documentation for all the features and keep it up-to-date. Now-a-days people like to see videos over reading, hence, we should also allocate more time in that direction.
3. New Features
We should focus more on making those features which are a greater impact to the mass crowd like Fixed Asset Depreciation, Country-wise Chart of Accounts etc. Also, there should be enough reports to extract data for preparing statutory reports.
4. Multi-Lingual and Localisation
Currently, ERPNext is available in around 30 languages, we should add more language options. And we have to motivate more community members to verify translations. We also need to identify features which might be essential for a specific country.
We have already added a lot of options for customization via user interface like Custom Fields, Customize Form, Print Format Builder etc. We should add more options like those. Still there might be a small use case for a business which can prevent them to adopt ERPNext. Currently, there are many development partners who are very active and can implement those customizations. We just need to give a way to install custom apps on our cloud platform.
We should develop a good portal for Customers and Suppliers, from where they can directly access their related data. Those customers and suppliers might like ERPNext and can be converted to direct erpnext customers in the future.
7. Integration with other apps
All the users who are currently using that app become potential leads of erpnext. And more leads means more paid customers.
So, what are the bottlenecks of implementing all of the above? The main problem is time and resource. Apart from the above problems, there are around 1000 Github issues, customer support, review of pull requests and issues on the forum. We are only a few people and there are a lot of things on our plate. And all the above problems are hard problems and hiring more people does not solve the problem immediately.
The key to success will be the prioritisation of the tasks. We should prioritise those tasks, which will benefit a large number of users and have a long term impact. If we need to take some hard decisions, we should be ready to take those. We have already taken a decision to discontinue “VIP” plan, in which the time and the feature were mostly restricted to that customers. The prioritising is not easy, we are still learning it.