Megaventory Blog - Online Inventory Management Software, Order fulfillment and Control System
This is the company blog for megaventory, an online software that helps small businesses that buy, sell and manufacture physical products to manage sales, purchasing, manufacturing and inventory. We blog about new features and updates but also about enterprise software, small businesses, cloud computing and the industry in general.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Market research: erpnext.com - The open source ERP

This is the last on this series of posts reviewing the best and most popular online ERP vendors for our imaginary MegaComp company of 9 employees and 4 locations. So, last but not least, it’s erpnext.com.


 

Features: Quite feature-rich itself, erpnext offers a lot of services a business may need and it is clear the focus is on the business instead of a particular set of functions - we're not sure whether that lack of 'doing one thing well' is a good thing though. In particular, they can help with accounting, sales and purchases and inventory management but also throw equal weight on human resources, project management, even manufacturing. They also offer a bit or CRM focusing on after-sales and of course business analytics and reporting. A wide range of functions to be sure.

Data visualisation & export: erpnext is quite versatile when it comes to manipulating data in order to extract some conclusions regarding your business - it essentially allows you to create SQL queries just by filling in appropriate fields allowing for considerably detailed reports. Data are then exportable in CSV and HTM format - nice and simple with no frills. Employees are then left to their own devices to create a graph or a chart for presentation purposes - although the dashboard does offer a somewhat better visualisation.

Usability: Given the wealth of features erpnext struggles a bit to fill most of the information in a couple of drop down menus. Each menu item leads to a number of tasks an employee might need and the corresponding reports for that menu item while on the sidebar further tools provide additional functionality per menu item. That may seem concise but given the amount of menu items the information an employee has to master quickly adds up - and you’re probably better off with a seminar of sorts for a group of 9 employees to become adequately familiar with erpnext. Lack of (or minimal) on-site help (hover panels, tips, etc) does not alleviate this.




Security: erpnext is deliberately secretive regarding their security measures but we’ve seen things we like regarding the issue - such as the email informing their clients whenever engineers have to access their data and the NDA erpnext staff signs. Other than that, regular Amazon S3 multiple backups are there as expected, granulated permissions for your employees, multiple encryption layers and last but not least the fact that their entire code base is open source, in theory at least, provides an additional level of overall quality.

Data import: Although not very intuitive to find the standard data input via CSV is available with a number of parametrisations that should be able to make the first dip in erpnext easier to manage. Other than that, there are no pleasant surprises to be found here such as integration with existing platforms or other file formats - but erpnext can’t be blamed for simply following the industry standard, or can it? The fact that the platform is open source though means it is also expandable to accommodate such features if any of your employees are technically capable and can be spared to develop a plugin (or if you can afford to outsource it).





Maintenance: A number of channels exist for supporting once you’ve chosen erpnext. From phone to live chat and from community fora (both user and developer) to a manual (or should we say.. blog) there are probable ways for your employees to relatively directly address any issues that may arise. The open source community behind it is probably the best characteristic on this front and something that competitors should envy.

Miscellaneous: The open source nature of erpnext is probably the most striking feature along perhaps with the cost - see below. Although we couldn’t find any data on usage the site itself admits to ~50 companies using the platform for their operations which is nice for a start - presumably this doesn’t include independent downloads and installations.




Cost: The pricing is very straightforward for erpnext.com and very cheap too: at just 7 USD per user per month - that's probably the killer feature of this solution. Although to properly understand the value of the price tag you really have to take the service for a spin for some time, you’d think it’d be hard to find something cheaper in the industry. You’d be wrong but we’ll let you work out which vendor is even cheaper compared to the 63USD/month you have to pay for MegaComp...

Overall, erpnext offers a lot of bang for the buck and can be one of the best options out there provided it fits your requirements and your standards. The expandability that comes together with the openness is a huge asset as well as is the fact that you can download an install your own implementation of erpnext in an environment you fully control.

This post wraps up the series of five that presented who we believe are the main players in the SaaS ERP market: megaventory, myerp, erply, brightpearl and erpnext. Let us know in the comments, if you feel a service has been wronged or has been wrongly left out.