The ultimate ERP sales pitch every customer gets to hear goes something like “our ERP system provides a complete solution to all your business requirements”. We all know that’s not true, but this is still the number 1 reason why companies invest in ERP solutions – they expect to get a single application to run their entire business.
It is practically impossible to develop a single application that will answer ALL the needs of all customers. What ERP vendors do, is develop an application that supports core business processes, aiming at the lowest common denominator in terms of business processes and data model. Even core business processes (order-to-cash, procure-to-pay) can vary widely from organization to organization (think manufacturer vs. service company).
The solution? extension modules. ERP vendors were smart enough to realize they cannot provide everything every customer wants.Vertical solutions are a great example- hotels, airlines, communication companies, government agencies, all have very specific needs. So the vendors developed an extension framework, allowing 3rd party software developers to build their own modules.
These modules are independent of the core application, can have their own data structures, business logic and user interface. The framework is designed in a way that poorly developed modules will not interfere with core functionality. The framework should also provides means for the developer to make sure that the extension doesn’t break after an upgrade.
Extending Open Source ERP Applications
Most open source ERP vendors do not have the manpower required to develop vertical solutions and other customer specific functionality. An extension Module framework is an important driver of wider adoption of these relatively young solutions.
Openbravo’s next release, 2.50, will introduced Modularity, a framework that allows 3rd party software developer to build their own OB extension. The release of 2.50 is pushed back a bit (I love open source transparency!!), but for good reasons. Openbravo is having an early testers program for extension developers, so if you are interested in participating, contact them. As soon as some modules are available, we will write about them here.
Extensions to Compiere are developed through.. Compiere extensions. Developers get read and update access to the data dictionary. Business logic is written in Java or native C (Ouch!) , and rules can be created and even modified. A good source to learn more about Compiere extensions is Compiere From The Source blog. Additional Compiere extensions are provided by CBI, a Compiere partner.
Apache ofbiz was built from the grounds-up as a modular framework. Ofbiz makes extensions development so simple (through a set of XML files and scripting tools, minimizing code writing to minimum), that they actually encourage developers to build their own completely new business application, based on Ofbiz. That is different from the the traditional approach of developing new modules on top of existing, untouched core ERP. Because of their unique approach, Ofbiz has yielded many happy offsprings: Opentaps, Nogia ,SourceTap CRM, Atlassian JIRA, as well as others. This movie provides a nice introduction to the OFbiz framework.
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