Monday, June 12, 2006

Meeting around the Olympic Torch

Recently I had a meeting with a new customer, interested in adopting OFBiz for a subsidiary company abroad.
When I entered in the conference room, I was surpised to see, standing in the center of the table, the Olympic Torch of Turin’s 2006 Olympic Winter games:

It was there to remember that the Company implemented the special technology needed to light the torch with an inexhaustible fire.
However they told me that the technology was not enough when the anarchists, protesting against the Olympics, stole the torch (for a few seconds, and not this item) in Trento.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Implementing ERP systems and end user docs

As one of the core developers of the Open For Business Project (OFBiz), an open source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, it often happens to me to read emails from users disappointed by the lack of the 'right' documentation they need in order to easily implement the system in their company.

Even if it's true that OFBiz's documentation can be improved, there is a lot of it already available (for free): quick start guides, reference manuals, videos, wiki based documents, the mailing list archieves etc...

However very often none of the above seems to meet the expectations of these guys, mainly IT managers that are in the process of evaluating the software, because they have problems to map their company's internal processes to what is available in OFBiz.

Nowadays, you can set up a web server even if you are not a system administrator; this is not true for setting up an ERP system for your company because this requires both technical and business level skills.

SAP, Oracle, Intentia and many other big ERP vendors ship their softwares with a lot of end-user documentation (well, some of them, not so much as you could imagine...) but I've never heard of a company that even tried to deploy these systems without the support of a consulting company.

In short, the underlying and real need is for free consulting, not for free documentation.

Deploying an ERP system only reading its documentation is much like translating a book, written in an unknown language, with the only help of a dictionary.