You’ve Picked a Platform, Now What?
No matter what platform you decide to use for your technology needs, your choice in partner is as important if not more important than the technology choice itself. Picking the wrong partner can be costly (in both direct expense and lost opportunity cost), frustrating, and time consuming.
Picking an open source platform has many benefits from licensing, customizability, and flexibility. One of the greatest benefits of open source software is having a community of users all over the world working on and with the software in order to make it more stable and functional. As with all communities though, not all members contribute equally. You want to make sure your service provider is an active, strong, contributing member of that community. This is about more than just practical technical capabilities; it is also about softer things like a broader understanding of where the software has been and where it is going.
The platform we have chosen to specialize in, and do the majority of our development in, is Apache Open For Business (or OFBiz), a platform that has been leveraged by companies like United, IEEE Computer Society, Herman Miller, and so many others in the US and globally. OFBiz is a top-level project of the Apache software foundation and provides a framework focused on enterprise process automation including components of ERP, B2B2C digital commerce, order management, warehouse management, and many more.
A Cautionary Tale
I can’t tell you the number of times I have spoken with companies unsatisfied with their provider of choice and feel trapped, cheated, and out of options. One that stands out in my mind is an upstart retailer of bedroom furnishings and accessories focused on college students.
I received a call out of the blue late on a Friday afternoon from one of the owners. She was at her wits end. After months and months of work and multiple missed launch dates; they still did not have a functional digital commerce store. Summer, their high season, was fast approaching and she and the other partners were afraid they were going to miss their window, a potentially catastrophic event for a new business. She did not know where to turn as they did not want to throw away the significant investment they had made in OFBiz, but they had no confidence that the developer they were working with could deliver a working site.
After a lengthy conversation where I gave her an overview of our company, our philosophy, and a list of successful projects; and she gave me a history of their project and a summary of their business needs; we were in business together. We promptly took over the development of their site and were able to have them live in a matter of weeks.
Finding the Right Provider
OFBiz is a very powerful development framework with the ability to handle just about any business process or workflow that can be defined. With that power though comes a level of complexity that is not for the feint of heart. It is crucial to pick an OFBiz provider who understands the data model and is capable of taking your business requirements and putting them into a functional system.
While we humbly submit ourselves to be the best OFBiz provider in the world, we acknowledge that everyone needs to find the right fit. There are a number of great providers all over the world. We would like nothing more than to help you find the right partner, and get your project off in the right direction. What is good for the OFBiz community is good for all of us. So, take the time to do your research, talk to multiple providers, and interview some of their customers. A small amount of due diligence up front, can save you hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of dollars (or more) over the course of a project.
Patrick Gibbons is VP of Client Experience at HotWax Systems. With nearly a decade of experience working with OFBiz, has a deep understanding of E-commerce, ERP, and warehouse management. Patrick has helped numerous clients worldwide implement OFBiz, improve business processes, and increase profit while decreasing customer and employee frustration.