Inside Compiere's open source ERP

Open source ERP is slowly but surely beginning to catch on, and Compiere is at the forefront of the movement. We talked to the product's co-creator to find out more.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- You might think that Compiere Inc. is the new kid on the enterprise resource planning (ERP) block. But large businesses like early adopter Goodyear Dunlop Tires Germany have been using the open source program since 2000. Compiere co-creator Jorg Janke said most of his company's business users hail from outside the U.S., though that is beginning to change. Janke talked to SearchEnterpriseLinux.com about his company's...

product at the Open Source Business Conference. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:

...now people are confident that Linux and open source Web services are OK. Basically, the same thing will happen with open source ERP.
Jorg Janke
co-creatorCompiere Inc.

There still seems to be a lot of resistance to Compiere in the corporate world. Why?

Jorg Janke: People need to be conservative about choosing ERP software. If you implement ERP and it doesn't work, you have severe business trouble. That is why people are fairly resistant. Remember that Linux started with unimportant things like Web serving, which were not crucial at that time. Now, for sure, Web serving and Web services are more crucial, and now people are confident that Linux and open source Web services are OK. Basically, the same thing will happen with open source ERP.

Has the U.S. been more resistant to open source ERP than the rest of the world?

Janke: We started developing in '99, and we had our first implementation in 2000. The first adopters were in Latin America and Europe, and there are lots of implementations in India and China. A major reason for that early acceptance is economic. In many areas, Compiere gave access to ERP where it couldn't be afforded before. Within the past two years, interest in the U.S. has increased. Most of the U.S. companies, unlike some in the rest of the world, are interested in signing up for support. They want to make sure that this, that open source, is reliable.

When you were creating Compiere, what did you decide would be different from existing ERP products?

Janke: I have been in the industry for 20-plus years, and there are things that always come up in software development and implementations that require last minute changes -- changes that we in development did not anticipate. The reality is quite different. We saw this happening anytime software is put together with what people do in the real world, so we said why not enable it to flip and flop, and let customers make a decision about what they want.

In Compiere, you can change everything any time. If you are halfway through the implementation, or even if you are in production, you can change the chart of your calendar, your reporting, etc., any time.

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What's up with Linux and ERP?

Does it require a very knowledgeable IT shop to make use of that flexibility?

Janke: There is always a learning curve when you start using software. You start by saying, 'OK, well, this is good the way it is.' Then you learn more and say, 'Well, if I were to do this and this, there would be quite a few additional benefits.' So, people try something, and then may say, 'No, it doesn't work.' Then, people can switch it again. With Compiere, you can do lots of experimentation, even if you are in production, without loosing the base or 100% availability.

So, you're talking about a fundamental difference in infrastructure than that of major proprietary ERP systems today?

Janke: The main reason for that is that Compiere was built and designed as packaged software. We knew people would change it. Every application is changed to a certain degree when you get it in production. Most of the ERP applications used today have built their architecture as a custom application that doesn't think about multi- currency, multilingual, multifunction, multi-text, etc. So, you have to introduce these types of things at a later point in time. We started out knowing that we need to support these types of things, so we have the appropriate infrastructure for that. That's a big difference.

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