Simple vs Easy

This is a guest post by Anand Jeyahar. You can read his blog at http://www.b

 · 3 min read

This is a guest post by Anand Jeyahar. You can read his blog at

I recently came across this short note on simple vs easy. It triggered off a couple of thoughts on the nature problems faced on a ERP product development and the reasons for the nature of ERP market as it is right now. As I am currently an outsider to the ERP field altogether, feel free to point out flaws in my hand-wavy theory.

  1. Complexity of features: There are a wide variety of features usually associated with a ERP product. There is also a need/requirement for inter-operability between these features. Simplifying a product means, pruning a lot of these features and sometimes pruning the level of depth of inter-operability between them.

  2. Migration to a new ERP: This is one area where that post strikes at a core problem. Namely, the user is very familiar to the old ERP and has trouble learning or trying out a new product. Not to mention the Data schema migration involved. Which is classically a big PITA problem.
    Infact, this is one of the areas, where there arises a communication gap between user's needs and the developer. The user says he wants (invoicing/accounting/etc..) process to be simpler. When for the most part, he means he wants it to be easier/more familiar to something else he has used. But simpler from the developer's view point translates to less fields to manually fill (aka default values). Less fields altogether and a sleek clean looking form.

  3. Getting on the TreadMill: Adopting a ERP software is to adopt a set of standards and operating procedures to the way your business is run. Typically, this is run so as to help the business scale/grow across people, places, offices, cultures etc. As Rushabh points out in his blog, it is a boring, regular commitment to an exercise regimen.

I would like to use this rivers of money metaphor from Venkatesh Rao here. So a business is like a river/stream of money. It starts out as a wild, turbulent flow of water rushing down from the mountains looking for a place with lower altitude and taking the shortest cuts and routes whenever possible, combining with other streams nearby, gathering force and momentum, till it grows into a big river and flows into the plains at a steady and relatively laminar flow, irrigating the lands it passes through, till it nears the sea, where it again splits into multiple branches and merges into the sea.

Most startups are at that wild, mountain stream stage. A ERP software becomes the most important at the plain stages, where the flow is reasonably laminar/predictable enough to feed vast agricultural lands, irrigate them and encourage more economic activity around them. At the wild stream stage, the requirements are slightly different. There the function of ERP software is more akin to Dams to generate hydel power and regulate the flow of water to the agricultural area.

My hypothesis:

ERPNext simplifies most of the features and follows "explicit is better than implicit" model. Most users of existing ERP software are not aware of the depth and complexity of these inter-operability and when migrating to erpnext they are surprised by the simplicity. But very soon, are disappointed by the lack of the familiar and implicit inter-operabilities/assumptions they had gained from previous ERP software.

Therefore I suspect majority of ERPNext users are businesses that are in a phase of transitioning from a wild mountain stream into the steady,laminar flowing river of the plain agricultural lands.

What do you think?

Do let me know, where my analogy/metaphor breaks down. Also please point out the details i have missed, that invalidate this theory.

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.

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