Many ERP systems are developed under open source software license agreements. The ERP category on the aforementioned open source hosting site Sourceforge holds almost 200 open source ERP systems [Sourceforge, 2014]. It is hard to judge on the basis of this listing alone to what extent these systems are full ERP systems with which data integration and support for best practices can be realized. It is even more difficult to predict which systems will survive and which will only have a temporary existence. An
ERP system that is generally expected to survive is Compiere [Fermont, 2003; Kuipers, 2004]. Another system that has already been there for years is Fisterra. TinyERP was considered a good choice for continuity in 2005 [Kuipers, 2004]; the name of the system has been changed to OpenERP, and it is indeed still available on Sourceforge. In 2007 OpenBravo had the most active community of all open source ERP systems, in 2010 vTiger was downloaded most, and in 2014 the top ive most popular systems were downloaded more than 16 000 times weekly. However, nobody can predict whether this will still be the case in five years’ time.
According to Janssen Lok et al. , two important criteria determine the suitability of an open source ERP solution for businesses: the professionalism of the community and the critical mass of the user base.
The professionalism of the community can be measured on the basis of the information on open source hosting sites. On these sites, a large number of key performance indicators is registered per open source project. The numbers of open and resolved software errors, requests for support, and change requests are reported, as well as the number of registered developers and other members of the community.
Technical information is also available: the architecture platforms on which the software will run, the programming language in which it was written, and the underlying database management system all can be found on the hosting site. The information is readily available and gives a good overview of the professionalism of the community.
The critical mass of the user base is considerably more difficult to measure than the professionalism of the community. Exact data do not exist, because most open source ERP systems do not have an extensive sales and marketing organization, and no license registration is available. Moreover, sources of information that exist for proprietary software, such as seminars, trade fairs, and reference visits are hardly available.
One potential source of information could be the websites of the various open source ERP systems, but these sites also do not announce information about organizations that actually use their ERP system.
In general, it is assumed that open source software only has a limited share of all organizations that use ERP. The organizations that select open source software are often those organizations that have always developed their own software and want to continue doing so after an ERP implementation [Gruman, 2007]
In above image an example is presented of an organization that consciously selected an open source ERP system. A medium-sized Belgian hospital had to replace its existing applications a couple of years ago. In addition to mandatory applications for hospitals, the organization also wanted to implement an ERP system. A choice had to be made between a number of proprietary ERP systems, and the open source ERP system Compiere. For various reasons, such as cost savings and flexibility, the open source solution was selected. The implementation was finalized within a short time period, and meanwhile the software has been used to the organization’s full satisfaction. Currently the hospital uses a mixture of open source and proprietary software. Fifty percent of its software can be adapted by the hospital staff at any time, the other half can only be changed by the supplier.