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opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM Quarterly Update

Every few months, I (force myself to) write an update about opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM, to focus myself on where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

What’s New

So here are some new things from the last few months. Technical (framework) changes include:

  • Integrated hibernate search for indexing and searching data. We will be developing a user interface for search next.
  • Replaced AspectJ with AspectWerkz as the library to support Aspect Oriented Programming (AOP)
  • Upgraded to the new version of Jasper reports, so that it is now compatible with the new version of iReport (3.5.2) as well.
  • Incorporate customer and sales analysis reports from opentaps analytics back into opentaps, accessible under opentaps CRM. In the future, opentaps analytics will work as a stand-alone application, or as a part of opentaps

Application changes include:

Looking Ahead

The first preview release for opentaps version 1.4 should be available shortly. To complete the development for this new version, we will be working on the following:

  • Upgrade to the new version of funambol for Outlook and mobile devices integration
  • Upgrade to the new version of the ofbiz framework
  • User interface for search
  • Finish incorporating opentaps analytics in opentaps

We will also be changing the license for this new version of opentaps from the Honest Public License (HPL) to the Free Software Foundation’s Affero GPL v3.

New Case Studies about Opentaps

We have posted several new case studies about opentaps, and you can read about them all at opentaps In Action

And Follow us on Twitter

Finally, we are now using twitter to post updates about opentaps, you can follow opentaps on twitter at http://twitter.com/opentaps or search for related discussion with #opentaps

New Splash Page for Opentaps

It was time to think out of the box. After four years, my “candy colored” boxes for the opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM applications:

 old opentaps applications boxes

old opentaps applications boxes

have been replaced with something better, thanks to our contributors from Integrating Web. Now you would access opentaps with http://localhost:8080/opentaps, and here’s what it looks like now:

What makes this really better, though, is that this new splash page is aware of the user’s security permissions, so only the icons for the applications that the user has permission to access are displayed. For example, the screen shot above is for the administrative user with access to all the applications, but here is what it looks like for the sales manager, who would primarily be using opentaps CRM:

And here is what it would look like for the finance manager:

You can also add links to outside applications, such as the opentaps documentation wiki or other non-opentaps applications you use. Finally, all these links and their icons are configurable in your database, so you can add or remove applications, change the icons and descriptions, etc.

Follow opentaps on twitter

I’ve been experimenting with twitter for the last month, and it seems to be a pretty good tool for posting updates about new features, tutorials, and documentation. You can follow opentaps on twitter at http://twitter.com/opentaps, and search for opentaps related discussion with #opentaps

Ajax Web Email Now Integrated with Orders and Invoices

For opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM version 1.4, we have integrated the Ajax Web e-mail client from opentaps CRM with purchasing and financials, so now you can use it to send e-mails of your invoices:

and your orders, including both sales and purchase orders:

As well as use it to write e-mails to your contacts directly from opentaps. PDF’s for your invoices and orders are generated from opentaps automatically using jasper reports an attached to your e-mails.

Has Open Source Made Venture Capitalists Irrelevant?

Many entrepreneurs view venture capitalists with a reverence reserved for royalty, so it be surprising to hear that it’s been rough for the royals too. A recent article in The Deal entitled “Honey, I Shrunk the VCs” tells us just that. Return on venture capital funds have fall into single digits, and out of several thousand funds out there, only a few hundred are making active investments. The rest can be expected to disappear as their portfolio companies “unwind.”

The culprits?

  • Too much money chasing too few good ideas: After stellar returns in the late 1990s, venture capitalist raised unprecedented amounts. Unfortunately, this was not matched by a similar number of good ideas for them to invest in.
  • Higher hurdle for IPOs: Sarbanes-Oxley and other regulatory changes have made it harder for companies to go public through an IPO, and more portfolio companies now have to be sold to “strategic buyers” such as Sun or Cisco. Returns on sales to strategic buyers are usually lower than those on IPO’s.
  • Fewer VC’s needed: Most interestingly, the current generation of startups simply need less money. For example, a Web 2.0 startup might need $50,000-$70,000 per month, compared to $1 million a month for a Web 1.0 startup during the late 1990s.
  • I believe open source has contributed to #3 from this list. Whereas ten years ago, startups bought Sun servers and ran (and paid for) Solaris and Oracle, not to mention commercial software development tools, today’s startups can get up and running with Linux, MySQL, PHP, Java, and Eclipse. Even Solaris is open source and free now. Thanks to open source, it’s easier to start an online business than ever before, so there’s less need to get “funded.”

    But open source is still moving forward. Consider opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM. This is an open source suite of business applications, including CRM, accounting, inventory, warehouse and supply chain management, which is freely available. Could these free applications lower the cost of startups in biotechnologies, clean energy, or resource management? I hope so.

    More importantly, though, because opentaps is open source, you can study it and modify its source code to suit your needs. This means that it’s not just a set of free applications, but also a toolkit or framework. Could that help create new and innovative applications that we haven’t even dreamt of yet? I hope so.

    Now, I don’t think venture capitalists are irrelevant. As long as starting something is hard (and it will probably always be), we’ll need smart people who could help us sift through our ideas and push us forward. But I do hope with open source, making great ideas come true gets a little easier.

    New Quote Screens for opentaps 1.4

    For the upcoming version 1.4 of opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM, we have a new set of screens for creating and managing quotes. Creating a quote will be much simpler. We’ve eliminated a lot of the fields that you probably won’t need ( and most likely won’t understand), so it’s just this:create-quote

    After creating a quote, you can add items to your quote with multiple options for price and quantity. This is nice when you want to quote your customer a lower price for buying more. You also don’t have to specify a product when you are creating the quote items. You can leave the product ID field blank and just enter a description of the product or service you are quoting:

    When you e-mail your quote, you will now be using the Ajax e-mail feature in opentaps, with your quote automatically added as an attachment:

    When your customer is ready to order, there is a new “finalize” quote screen. On this screen, you will set the product ID and quantity/price for all your quote items, and then you can create an order from your quote:

    The new GWT editable grid in opentaps

    For opentaps Open Source ERP + CRM version 1.4, we have a new “editable grid” based on the Google Web Toolkit that should make entering invoices and orders a lot easier. Here’s an example of how it works.

    As you can see, there are now two ways to enter new items into invoices. You can use the traditional form to enter a new item, and then the server will refresh the page with the list of updated items. Or, you can switch to the new [Grid View] and type in the products or the invoice item types and their quantities. opentaps will make a server-side call to get the price and insert it into the grid, and you can keep going without waiting after entering each new item. opentaps calculates the invoice total from the items you have entered into the grid, but these items are kept locally in your browser and not stored on the server until you click on [Save All].

    Of course, the old forms are still there, and you can always switch back to the [Full View]. The full view is better if you need to enter other information, such as the accounting tags, for your invoice items, or if you have a modified version of these forms from older versions of opentaps. opentaps will remember whether you prefer the grid or the full view and pull up the correct one when you get to the create invoice screen by default.