by Ray Jenson, Founder of Red Heron ERP
Dear Interested Parties:
The current perception of many top-level executives (including myself, until just a couple of years ago) is that Free Open-Source Software (FOSS) is typically worth what you pay for it. I'll have to admit: with the bulk of the packages that I've seen, especially where there is a lack of documentation and the source code isn't legible, that reputation is not unearned. Add into this the lack of understanding about software engineering, and the reputation can be compounded.
But over the past two or three years, FOSS has grown leaps and bounds, largely due to experts in software engineering who see what FOSS could be, and who want to help it to reach that potential. They typically work for free with the understanding that future expansion may give them some pocket money later on. In some cases, such as with BitTorrent and other technologies which are fast becoming fundamental parts of the Internet, the profit is enough to live on (though more "subsistence" than "luxury" in most cases).
When my own company, the Red Heron Corporation, began planning the Red Heron ERP, we discovered that each server license would cost USD$10,000 and each module could be close to $200 in addition to the server license, in order to be able to profit. Those who needed an ERP like ours couldn't afford one; and those who could afford one didn't need ours, particularly because they were already locked into one that was commercial and viable for their uses. The system we were using, a well-known commercial ERP package, severely lacked in the areas of payroll and fleet asset tracking, though it excelled at accounting.
We needed our own software, as did many of the clients we serviced, but a small company such as ours couldn't afford to purchase it. The software on the market, except for that which the big boys (read: Fortune 500 companies) tended to use was overkill in some areas, and simply unsuitable in others. Without naming names, we couldn't find any software anywhere that could accomplish what we needed in one package. Nor did it allow the company to change as it grew.
The solution we needed would take hundreds of programmers—thousands, possibly. And our fledgling company hadn't scratched the "20" mark with regard to the number of people we had. It was time to find another solution.
Open Source offers that solution, since it opens up the source code to anyone who is able to understand it. However, simply making a software package open source doesn't mean that people will jump right on board. Several stumbling blocks have prevented this project from moving forward. These stumbling blocks, I might add, have been entirely due to a lack of previous forward momentum, and failures on the part of myself and other project personnel to plan adequately. In order to create our software, we needed it working.
I have worked on the basic core system for about the past 3 years, as of December of 2007. I have worked hard to make the system flexible enough to accept drop-in modules, yet secure enough to operate on a public web server. There have been lots of failures, including 4 computer systems, 2 monitors, and my own attention to detail. In addition, my own time has been taken away for other projects, as I've since closed Red Heron Corporation. Nonetheless, I have made slow progress on this package, and as I prepare to give everyone the first taste of it, I'm sure there will be additional delays. For this reason, I can't give any kind of a date with regard to release of the pre-alpha system. It works, though barely.
Not to mention, the software's interface is ugly.
I am releasing this to Open Source not because I think it will make a profit. I am releasing this package with the idea that small-to-medium-size businesses (SMB's) are what the future needs. The Fortune 500 companies of the future are going to be those who move the fastest, not those with the most employees. The ability to work anywhere is going to be vital. This software can help make it happen.
When the software is released, this page will once again change. And I'm sure I'll go through at least two or three more logo ideas before I settle on one. But the important thing is that the software is nearing its first phase of testing, and will be available soon for people to download and look at.
Feedback is imperative to the success of Open Source. Even negative feedback helps us, so long as it's constructive and tells us more than "your product sucks". The same is true of all packages. Those who are unwilling to listen to the feedback of others will ultimately fail to succeed. The same is true in business as it is in FOSS.
And yes, I'm the same Ray Jenson who is involved with the Pirate Party, but that's a different project.
I hope to hear from those interested in joining my project's QC team.
Founder, Red Heron ERP