Smaller Businesses Need FLOSS

Tuesday, 2007-March-20 at 17:00

Larger corporations have, over the past several years, benefited greatly from an alphabet soup of specialized techniques. In their supply-chains, for example, they have used ERP and ERP II. Of course, sales & marketing, as well as collections and other customer-contact functions have benefited from CRM. Management in general has benefited from computerized “dashboards” that deliver BI, or real-time summaries of key enterprise performance measures. This is in addition to the continuing benefit from computerized bookkeeping, accounting, and financial systems.

Most of these tools, excepting the last, have been largely out of the reach of smaller businesses. Intuit, Inc has been successful getting its products before individuals and both small and medium-sized businesses.

Most of the other tools have been expensive and complicated to set up, requiring a consultant to customize the installation for a business’ needs and often requiring on-staff “experts” to handle the daily operation of the system. FLOSS products, such as Compiere, Adempiere, TinyERP, and openCRX are fast becoming equivalent in functionality and superior in their ease of administration to the giant corporate offerings. Most are still best installed and configured by a knowledgeable person, such as a consultant. These systems give smaller businesses the tools of their larger competitors at significantly lower prices, and with far easier operation.

One of the characteristics that is often found in smaller businesses is a less-skilled management team. It is not known how much of this is truly a lack of skill, as opposed to a lack of good information upon which to base decisions. With tools like these, smaller businesses have the opportunity to show the world that they are indeed the better-managed businesses.

Another area where smaller businesses can begin showing their superior operational skills is in choosing to implement FLOSS throughout the organization, from the server to the desktop. For example, you can replace proprietary office suite (POS) with an open source suite such as OpenOffice.org, use an open source browser like Firefox or K-Meleon (Windows-only), choose an open source mail client like Thunderbird.  The advantages are not just in the price that you pay.  The advantages are in the fact that proprietary software companies’ interests are often opposite those of the users of their products.  Whose interests do you think take precedence when the companies behind the RIAA want you to pay for each device you listen to a particular song on?

The only conclusion that makes sense is that FLOSS is in the users‘ best interests.  When those users are smaller businesses and individuals, this is even more true.

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