Businesses with more than a handful of employees have a lot to balance including pricing, product planning, accounting and finance, managing payroll, dealing with inventory, and more. Stitching together a set of disparate tools to handle those jobs is a quick, cheap, and dirty way to get things done. That approach isn't scalable. It's difficult to efficiently move data between the various pieces of such an ad-hoc system. As well, it can be difficult to maintain. Instead, most growing businesses turn to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
The big guns in that space are Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft Dynamics. Their offerings are comprehensive, but also expensive. What happens if your business can't afford one of those big implementations or if your needs are simple? You turn to the open source alternatives.
What to look for in an ERP system
Obviously, you want a system that suits your needs. Depending on those needs, more features doesn't always mean better. However, your needs might change as your business grows, so you'll want to find an ERP system that can expand to meet your new needs. That could mean the system has additional modules or just supports plugins and add-ons.
Most open source ERP systems are web applications. You can download and install them on your server. But if you don't want (or don't have the skills or staff) to maintain a system yourself, then make sure there's a hosted version of the application available.
Finally, you'll want to make sure the application has good documentation and good support — either in the form of paid support or an active user community.
There are a number of flexible, feature-rich, and cost-effective open source ERP systems out there. Here are nine to check out if you're in the market for such a system.
If your manufacturing, distribution, or e-commerce business has outgrown its small business roots and is looking for an ERP to grow with you, you may want to check out xTuple PostBooks. It's a comprehensive solution built around its core ERP, accounting, and CRM features that adds inventory, distribution, purchasing, and vendor reporting capabilities.
About Opensource.com (Red Hat)
Opensource.com publishes stories about creating, adopting, and sharing open source solutions. Follow us on Twitter @opensourceway.
This article is updated from a previous version authored by Opensource.com moderator Scott Nesbitt.