We earlier profiled iWebNotes, a Mumbai based SAAS based ERP Solution for SMEs and the team has just shared with us that they have decided to open source the entire application (Github). Apart from changing the brand name to ERPNext, the team shares interesting perspective with us on the decision to open source the code and benefit post-this-decision.
Decision to move to Open Source:
We have always been an Open Source shop and our Google Code repository dates back to October 2009. Recently though we have moved to Github (https://github.com/webnotes). The why was never really a question. Keeping the altruism aside, since there were so many ERP players, it was also a way to stand apart. I realized there is a scope for a modern Open Source ERP and never looked back.
Though we have had minimal contribution from the community as far as code is concerned, there are a number of intangible benefits:
1. We get great technical advice: We have around 50 people on our technical mailing list and some of the best suggestions have come from the community. This is advice we would have never got if our code was not open.
2. You can’t hide anything: If you are developing you own code, there are bound to be many dark areas. Parts of your code that work okay but is a nightmare to maintain. Once the code is open, the very fact that other people might see this code makes you keep it clean and re-factored. It also gives you incentive to comment it and document it.
3. Customers have an option: If you use the SAAS of some of the big companies like SalesForce or basecamp, there is really no exit. Here, the customers have a security that they can move anytime to on-premise hosting. So the fear of lock-in is reduced.
4. Hiring: Our last 3 team-mates have joined us because they were able to see our work more clearly. For startups, hiring is a big problem because we can never match the glamour of an Infosys or IBM or Google. But lately a lot of good programmers are moving towards Open Source and freelancing and this is where we benefit.
5. Good-will: Open Source also generates a lot of goodwill among the customers and general public, because at the end, you are contributing something to the community. The work may seem bad at first, but there are some people will benefit from it.
6. Distributed Development: Open Source development encourages you to document everything communicate in writing. This enables the team to be geographically anywhere and still keep up-to speed, a skill / culture we would have not developed if we were not Open Source
Our product is designed for small and medium businesses (SMBs) in Manufacturing, Distribution, Retail and Services. We have a full stack of modules from Accounting, Inventory, CRM, Payroll, Support, Projects and more and customers vary from single user to 50 cr companies.
The product is also very flexible and companies from countries as diverse as the United States, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Malaysia, East Europe and of-course India are using our product.
We also have very rich set of features (you can do multiple Payments across multiple Invoices) and many advanced Inventory management features like Serialized Inventory and Batch Inventory. Our accounting features includes Cost Centers and Budgeting apart from the regular tax reports and Payables and Receivables.
You can also set rules, like restrict users not to pass transactions more than a certain amount, by roles, credit rating etc. We also support field-level permission setting.
Though the product is still not ready for the general public, we welcome early adopters to give it a spin and I am sure they will be pleasantly surprised.
What’s your take on the startups’ decision to open source its product and the benefit post this decision?