A Preamble to Openbravo ERP v3

Openbravo ERP is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution on the less expensive side of the spectrum, which is valued by distribution and retail industries as well as by manufacturing, services, public-sector, and nonprofit organizations.

I caught up with Openbravo’s John Fandl recently about the company’s latest iteration of its ERP solution (version 3). In the past, we’ve mostly mentioned Openbravo as a peer to other open source ERP vendors, but it deserves to be considered in its own right.

This brief post will provide some background on the product in advance of a major update to our TEC Advisor evaluation data on Openbravo ERP. I will post again when we make our new research available.

Openbravo v3 Screenshot

Openbravo ERP targets small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and if you consider popularity a measure of success, then Openbravo is on the right track. The company counts more than 3,000 organizations currently using its application, with more than 2 million downloads. Openbravo ERP is finding more inroads in Europe, where governments are increasingly mandating the usage of free and open source software (FOSS) solutions, but the product is used by organizations around the world.

Openbravo ERP is available in community, basic, and professional editions, depending on whether you want to purchase professional support, updates, and other commercial benefits. The software is distributed for on-premise use or hosted. In the hosted case, Openbravo’s partners do the hosting or you can set the system up on Amazon’s EC2 cloud. Openbravo provides Amazon Machine Images (AMI) to facilitate this process. Alternatively, if you are using a system like Ubuntu Linux for the server, you can install from Ubuntu’s partner repository. This is to say that the basic setup ought to be a rather trivial task.

Openbravo ERP has a multitenant architecture, so its hosting partners can in fact offer it as a true software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution for their particular vertical. Openbravo ERP modules get installed for the entire instance, which means organizations using it in a SaaS situation may have less customizability than if they were using their own stand-alone version. However, Openbravo ERP can also be set up in a single-instance hosted implementation, which would preserve much of the customizability advantages often associated with open source products or on-premise installations.

As Openbravo ERP can be used in a SaaS, single instance, hosted environment, or on-premise, it renders much flexibility to your company’s information technology (IT) strategy. That is to say, it will be portable if you decide to migrate from a SaaS setup to an on-premise one, or an on-premise one to a hosted environment. Anecdotal evidence from Openbravo suggests that its hosted version appeals to smaller businesses, which otherwise would have to manage multiple sites. A small business probably doesn’t want to devote resources to managing the complexity of dispersed IT systems, so using a hosted instance appeals.

The core Openbravo ERP system has a wide range of features and functions, though not as deep as those of the products from some of the common ERP market leaders. In fact, in version 3, Openbravo trimmed the focus of its core product functionality. Of course, as we like to frequently remind people, just because a system has every feature and function conceivable, it doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your needs.

Openbravo ERP’s design enables its partners to develop specialized add-ons for extending the product’s functionality. For example, if your company requires features for its soft-drink manufacturing needs, you’d see an Openbravo partner for some process manufacturing functionality. And these partners specialize in implementing Openbravo ERP in various industries and regions. Openbravo ERP also natively integrates with other systems to round out its functional footprint. This includes things like customer relationship management (CRM) with the popular open source SugarCRM product. The same can be said for ecommerce from Magento or web content management from Alfresco. Openbravo’s “Forge” handles outside code contributions from both Openbravo’s private partners as well as the greater open source community.

Historically, Openbravo ERP’s deepest functional strength lay in the financials area, which remains within the core functional flows of the system. Openbravo ERP also provides things like inventory and purchasing management. Functionality for project management, manufacturing, and material requirements planning (MRP) were moved into the professional editions.

Expanding an Openbravo ERP system with additional modules is a relatively simple task. You can click to install from its repository of modules. Additionally, Openbravo allows you to set the level of system updates you want. In other words, organizations that live a bit more on the edge and want to adopt early-release functionality can set their systems for these updates, whereas organizations that wish to maintain the highest level of stability can opt to receive only updates that have been cleared after extensive testing and real-world usage. This type of methodology should be obvious to anyone familiar with traditional Linux package management systems, which work under a similar sort of conceptual framework.

Openbravo ERP’s Web-based user interface offers user-based drag-and-drop customizability. Although it is a graphical system, a user can also perform any critical actions through the use of keyboard commands (see figure above).

Like many well-managed open source projects, Openbravo’s product roadmap is publically available. It provides more detail about the choices Openbravo has made in its system and what is has planned for the future.

You can evaluate version 2.4 of Openbravo ERP in our ERP Evaluation Center now. Openbravo is working with TEC to provide you with new information on the changes in its most recent version, 3.0. Look for it soon.
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