ERP: Everything You Need To Know

Choosing an ERP is no small feat. In fact with all of the choices available, it’s a mystery how many organizations sort through the incredibly long and difficult process. Then just as the ERP system is implemented, it’s time to work through the integrations.

Thankfully when it comes to open source ERPS, we’ve done most of the work for you.

The Platforms:

When building your ERP and e-commerce ecosystem, it is natural to want to turn to google find the best developer, the best integrator or get a recommendation from a colleague. 

However I ask you – the best for what?  If you don’t know specifically what you are looking for, how can you find the best of it? 

Over the years, I have seen many of these types of bids on freelance marketplaces as well as some RFP’s, where either the client’s goals are not clear, or they are relying on the agency or developer to tell them what they need for their business.

This is by far the worst approach.  The general issue here is that you may find a developer, or worst an affiliate developer of a specific platform trying to sell you simply to generate commissions. 

Frankly, we are not affiliated with any of the platforms we recommend here and don’t make any commissions from those vendors.  Independent, unbiased advise is what works best.

In each of the recommendations we provide for our clients during the onsite discovery, we review the reasons as well as the thought process for those decisions.

One of those recommendations is to choose your ERP system separate from the requirements of your ERP (if applicable).  While a few ERP vendors do have e-commerce modules tacked onto their software, it is not at the core of what they do. 

On the other side, many of the e-commerce vendors have created specific integrations for some of these Open Source ERP vendors, to enable you to get the best of both worlds.

The Languages:

There are approximately 23 free and open source ERP platforms on the market.  Some of them are good and some of them not so good.

Some will have commercial support, some will have 3rd party vendor support, and some will only have community support or no support at all.  You’ll need to pay very careful attention to the level of support you’ll need for your business.

Of the 23 solutions, 12, more than half are built with Java

JAVA USE CASE

Now Java should not be confused with JavascriptJavascript is actually a programming language developed by Netscape (remember that browser) and is not part of the Java Platform. 

For the most part Javascript does not create apps or stand alone applications and usually only resides within the context of HTML, in order to provide certain levels of interactivity for web pages, that is not achievable with simple HTML alone.

Java on the other hand is an OOP (object oriented) programming language that can be used to build full scale applications.

The above is important if nothing else because finding a good Java developer is not as common as let’s say a PHP developer.  Furthermore, the cost to hire a good Java developer will be slightly higher than hiring a PHP developer, if all things are considered equal. 

We’ll dive into some of the language differences later, but for now know that when looking for talent, you will need to consider the skills of the developer and their proficiency with the language of the platform.

The second most popular of the Open Source ERP languages is Python.

PYTHON USE CASE

Approximately 1/5 of the Traditional Open Source ERP platforms are built on Python. 

Python was actually one of the first languages I learned and is known for being easier to pick up for first time coders.  However just knowing Python is of little use in the real world. 

Python is often combined with other technology stacks or frameworks such as Django.

This makes it important to hire a developer that doesn’t only know Python, but the surrounding languages in the technology stack of the software application you are going to choose.

The Third most popular language in the Open Source ERP World is PHP

PHP USE CASE

Approximately 1/6 of the traditional Open Source ERP platforms are built on this language.   PHP is one of the more common languages as many systems like WordPress, Magento, Drupal and others are built on the language. 

Given that many of these systems are built for End Users, PHP has become a well known term, when recruiting developers, or posting for jobs.  While PHP is a general purpose, versatile language, it was originally a scripting language. 

Over time, the language has grown and stabilized, to encompass solid frameworks like Symphony and Laravel.  However, some of the old traditions for PHP die hard and sometimes the code can be very messy.

The fourth and final language for traditional Open Source ERP platforms is Perl

PERL USE CASE

Only a couple of ERP’s are built with this language.  Given that it is approximately 29 years old,  there is much history with the language, built before many of the modern frameworks and use cases for web applications today.

Now that we reviewed the four languages for Open source ERPS, we will talk about choosing your language before choosing your application. 

As I mentioned, languages like Perl that are almost three decades old have a lot of legacy. On one side older languages are battle tested, stable, work consistent, and have a pretty good community. 

On the other hand developers like to work with new and exciting languages that are breaking the mold.  And as more developers move to newer or more popular frameworks, legacy frameworks receive less attention.

We will eventually need to choose one, Java, Python, Perl, or PHP

Let’s Recap

If we were to choose PHP, we wouldn’t necessarily have a hard time finding a developer, but we may have a difficult time finding a good one. 

Python, there are plenty of developers out there, but because the language is easier to pick up, the barrier to entry is low. 

But again, Python by itself is not much help without an understanding of other frameworks and languages to compliment it. So the questions becomes what has the developer used Python with? 

Java, a very powerful option for your traditional Open Source ERP system.  The caveat? Java requires a different environment than both Python, Perl, and PHP, which run on your basic Lamp stack (Linux, Apache, My Sql, PHP/Pearl/Python).  So you may need to have two separate environments. 

After reviewing the languages, we would next need to decide what other systems need to be integrated, for example, e-commerce platforms.

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