Thursday, June 14, 2012

O4BO as a Movie Plot

Coming to a market near you. 

Story Outline.

  • Exposition: The main character, Precious, is living a stressful life. She owns a Small Business, works way too much, and her family won’t speak with her any longer.
  • Inciting Incident: Precious is introduced to something that is going to change her life: a new job, a new drink, and a partner with a fetish for Asian Chicken.
  • The Hike Ahead: Here’s where we lay out the impossibility of change ever occurring. My goodness, it looks hopeless for Precious and her partner.  Their products are popular, so popular that they are selling too fast and its hard to keep up quality, deliverables and still keep track of the money.
  • Plot Point 1: The AHA moment where suddenly there is hope. Precious and her partner find an ERP system, and a CRM system and a Reporting system that are "free" Open Source.
  • Obstacle 1: While the software is free, when they download it, its much too hard to install and maintain and distracts from what they do best.
  • Obstacle 2: They are starting to lose control, suppliers want to get paid before they deliver any more, and accounts receivable needs a lot of attention and some invoices are just plain missing.
  • Obstacle 3: Precious’s partner is supposed to be managing the customers but had them all in his blackberry when he got mad and ran away with an Asian Chicken cook.  Precious is all alone with too much to handle.
  • Mid-Point: While sweating it out late at night trying to get the books in order, our Precious realizes that if she continues down this same path, she’s destined for a life on the streets. She pledges to make a change and commits to returning to the ERP, CRM and Reporting software with or without her partner.
  • Obstacle 4: Precious is afraid of losing control
  • Obstacle 5: Precious is afraid of paying big money for software that can help her.
  • Obstacle 6: Precious is afraid that even if she could afford to buy software installing it and maintaining it will cost even more.
  • Plot Point 2: In a stunning turn of events, Precious’s partner returns with an extra 15 lbs of Asian Chicken blubber and a link to http://www.o4bo.com Its the same Open Source ERP, CRM and Reporting software they tried before, but now all they need to do is sign up and start using it.  Nothing to install, nothing to maintain and less than half the cost of the software they were thinking of buying.  So they drink a toast to their success and sign up.
  • Climax: Precious wanders over to O4BO and starts setting things up and there is the epiphany for Precious. O4BO is always there. She’s not alone. Partner or no Partner, she has her O4BO and they love her and she has the control she wanted.
  • Dénouement: Precious gets her shit together. She stays off the workahol and rebuilds her relationship with her family. She gets her business under control, evangelizes O4BO, and even starts spending time with an Albanian Sheepdog, a much more reliable companion.

Open Source Misconceptions

To many the term "Open Source" means "Free" and if you consider that you can indeed download and use most Open Source software, that meaning is accurate.  There are however several misconceptions that Small to Medium sized Enterprise managers might have that need to be cleared up so they can make an intelligent decision on whether to use Open Source software or not.

The first misconception is that Open Source is lower quality than proprietary.  The idea comes from the old saying "there is no free lunch" and "you get what you pay for" and if you apply those to Open Source software the conclusion is that if it is free then it isn't worth much.  What non technical people need to understand is that the vast majority of Open Source software is created by teams (aka Communities) of developers that have a shared need, and by working together, they produce something they need at a fraction of the cost of hiring an equivalent sized team to develop the same software in house and proprietary.  The Apache Software Foundation includes so many high quality Open Source software products, tools and libraries that I dare say, virtually all applications developed today for enterprises and products include some open source software in it from apache.org.

Another misconception is that if you use Open Source software you must share your customizations with the community.  While it is true that some Open Source software licenses have that provision, it varies greatly and you must look at the license.  It can be tricky and if you are building a product for your own use internally in your organization, then you are normally pretty safe and you can use it as you wish.  It only becomes a factor when you try to build a product and sell it, then the Open Source software you want to use must adhere to their license and that could be tricky.  Only solution is to have your attorney check the licenses of all the Open Source software you want to include in your product.


The last misconception is that Open Source Software is unsupported except by forums.  That is certainly partially true, apache.org for example is mostly forum/community supported.  The fact is you will find many active apache.org forums to be more responsive than the paid support desks of many proprietary software companies.  It is also a fact that many companies provide ample and high quality support on a per instance or support contract basis, such as Spring Source, OpenBravo, Pentaho, and Sugar CRM and some even have numerous Business Process Outsourcing partners that can do customizations, training and other related services. 

Just because it is Open Source doesn't mean it isn't high quality, limited license or unsupported.  Some of the best applications, libraries and support groups are in the Open Source Software marketplace, and for most Small to Medium sized Enterprises, they will offer the best value.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

SaaS & BPO, Complimentary or Competing?

I am reminded of the urban myth that when Juan Trippe the founder of Pan Am was looking for investors he went to the Railroad tycoons Vanderbuilt and Biltmore and both told him "we are in the railroad business, not the airline business."  When in fact they were all in the transportation business.  What would the world look like today if Trippe had acquired investment from Vanderbilt or Biltmore?

So today we have several Software as a Service companies, selling software as a subscription service, and some professional services for support, training and even customization.  Then we have Business Process Outsourcing companies that sell manpower, and expertise in various Business Processes, such as HR, Accounting, Call Centers and programming, project management and just about anything else you can think of.

The Small to Medium sized Enterprise (SME) is always looking for the lowest cost way of doing business.  Both SaaS and BPO have proven cost saving advantages for SMEs.  With SaaS they don't have to buy expensive servers, or software or install anything at all, just sign up and start using the software they need.  With BPOs, they don't have to pay for a single person to man the phones 7x24 or higher a part time person to do data entry, they go to a BPO and sign up and start using only the services they need when they need them.  The similarities are obvious.

It won't be long before you start seeing SaaS companies offering BPO services, and BPO companies offering SaaS subscriptions....or will they go the way of Juan Trip and the Vanderbilts and Biltmores?


Friday, June 8, 2012

Outsourcing? Problem or Symptom or neither?

Reading Andrew Nusca's Blog post Tech industry outsourcing: problem, symptom, or neither? I think we need to look at things from many sides.  For example, does Walmart help or hurt a small town?  A Walmart brings jobs, and lower cost goods so that those small town people get more for their money.  Some would argue that the smaller stores cannot compete and they may lose jobs, or go out of business because of Walmart.  The answer there is that competition is part of business and people go to buy where they get the most value.  The smaller stores can choose to compete on price or value, and many small towns have chosen to turn their main street into a boutique mall of specialty shops and restaurants which draws people in and essentially doesn't compete with Walmart for the commodities.

It is no different with Tech industries.  As Andrew points out, a large number of companies like Apple, Inc, IBM, Cisco, etc. have large over seas operations, partly out of cost savings, but also to provide a footprint in emerging economies for their products and services.  Many of these companies and smaller companies go with Outsourcing companies such as the large BPO industry in the Philippines and India, for a number of reasons.  Is that Bad?  Certainly the Philippine citizens that have jobs don't think so, and the companies that leverage those cost savings to be competitive in the other markets in the world don't think so. 

While big companies of all types outsource just about anything like Walmart, Apple, IBM, etc.  There are ALSO a very large number of boutique companies doing VERY well that outsource almost nothing.  Like the small towns that turn their mainstreet into something special so too do these tech companies and even today most tech startups are in the US.

Internet companies that sell services over the web, may be seen as outsourcing companies, and the negative connotation that sometimes carries, is unfounded because there is little difference in my view between a Software as a Service company offering low cost high value software on the web, and the local phone company, power company or water company offering a service to their customers.  Who knows or even cares where they are headquartered, managed, operate or do development?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Sugar CRM is the right choice.

O4BO has a new partner with CRMWorks Asia. While I could tout all their Expertise, Products and Services and probably will in future blogs, I want to concentrate on one of their Blog Posts "Two exciting press releases"  In that blog post they highlight two customer success stories,  Koozai and GForces.  Not only do these two customers report much reduced costs, they report improved effectiveness.  To get more info, and find out why Koozai and GForces abandoned Salesforce and moved to SugarCRM see http://bit.ly/GBnUL4
SugarCRM makes AlwaysOn On Demand Top 100 list for the third year in row! See news =>  http://bit.ly/GCrCiD

Clearly, Sugar CRM is the right choice for Small to Medium sized Enterprises.  For those SMEs that do not have an IT staff and maybe even some that do, then O4BO and CRMWorks is the right choice for the following reasons.

  • Subscription Service, pay for only what you need, by user by month.
  • Nothing to install or maintain, just sign up and start using.
  • Costs are less than half that of SalesForce.com or any other CRM service.
  • With O4BO and CRMWorks Asia, you can customize your CRM system with custom modules, portlets and even have us write your own customizations.
  • No Vendor Lock in.  If at some time later you want to move off O4BO, you can take your data and your customizations with you, let's say you need to hire an IT staff person anyway and this would let you bring the system in-house, no problem and you can continue your support with us or CRMWorks Asia as you need it.
  • Integration, as great as Sugar CRM is, and how much greater it is with CRMWorks Asia custom modules or O4BO portlet, having Sugar CRM integrated with OpenBravo ERP, or Pentaho BI and Analytics just brings additional value, convenience and power. 
We are sure that you will see the value we bring and join us.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why download OpenBravo?

Why do so many people download the Open Source application called OpenBravo?  Currently its tens of thousands of people do just that.  No doubt many are techies that want to see the sources for any number of reasons.  I would say that a significant percentage maybe even a majority are small to medium sized enterprises that need Enterprise Resource Planning software, or Accounting and one or more of the integrated modules.

Then why is it that the current estimate is that 90% of those downloads never go into production?  There is no hard data to support it but from my own experience and in talking with OpenBravo and other Open Source vendors that have shared their opinion, the reasons fall into two categories.

One reason cited is that it is too hard to install and maintain.  It requires a dedicated server with internet access, and a database and web server, and those typically add up to an IT staff person to manage it, or to lease a server with that setup.  Both of which mean $$$ as well as a distraction from their Core Competency whatever that may be.

Another reason cited is that as Rich as OpenBravo with all its modules is, many Small to Medium sized Enterprises simply don't need what OpenBravo and its modules offer or perhaps more accurately their needs are unique and to make OpenBravo fit their needs requires again IT staff or outsourcing of developers to make the needed changes...$$$ again and distraction again.

Our approach at O4BO is to make it as easy as possible to get started with OpenBravo by hosting it and selling it at a low price as a subscription service.  With nothing to install or maintain and no need for an IT staff person or outsourced server, we address that Hard to install and maintain reason.

If OpenBravo doesn't quite fit your needs, we address that in a couple of ways.  One is that we include a portal and you can configure the portal however you wish and add portlets that may help it fit your needs better.  We offer professional services to add these custom portlets or to create customizations for you on our subscription service and lastly OpenBravo integrated with Pentaho gives you many additional integrated features not available in OpenBravo that you would download.

For less than one hour of an IT staff person you can have one user with full access to OpenBravo for an entire month.  Now that's value.