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Re: LedgerSMB 1.4.0 Beta 1 released

On Sat, Dec 15, 2012 at 11:19 AM, Troy Benjegerdes <..hidden..> wrote:
On Sat, Dec 15, 2012 at 06:13:11AM -0800, Chris Travers wrote:
> The LedgerSMB development team is proud to release the first beta release
> of LedgerSMB 1.4.0.  This represents a significant amount of effort and a
> significant amount of code reworked.  This release integrates a budgetting
> module, better reporting, and much more.  Highlights include:

> New Business Reporting Unit System (Chris T)
> * Replaces Projects and Departments
> * Business reporting units may be nested
> * Allows one to do funds accounting, track jobs separately from projects,
> etc
> * Report on any combination of business reporting units (up to one per
> class)

I'm quite interested in the budgeting, and business reporting unit system,
and one of the things I need is a good story about why LedgerSMB is better
than things like Quickbooks online or Freshbooks, or any of the other accounting
systems out there.

One of my business partners asked me if there was a video about the advantages
of LedgerSMB.. so does anyone have any 'marketing' oriented material, or even
just an interview with some small business owners about why they like this
system over others?

I have a flier I can send (PDF or LaTeX sources) to anyone who wants it.  Maybe I should add to the svn repository?

For me, I'm completely sold on 100% open-source for everything my business
runs on. I just need to have something halfway flashy to nice looking to
explain to others why this is a good idea.

Before I get into selling this to you and helping you sell it to others, let me mention one big obstacle.  I think one important part of sales is being able to see the other side of the tradeoff.
At the moment open source accounting and ERP is a bit of a niche market and it is important to understand what we can do well and what we can't do so well, as well as to understand the differences.  I think we will get there, but I wouldn't say every business should be running open source financial software yet.  In general I think your business should run 100% open source financial software if either of two things are true:

1:  The financial regulations of the business are relatively unburdensome, and you can do compliance yourself (or outsource this to a service provider), or

2:  The financial regulations of the business are relatively unique and you have to do compliance yourself (or outsource this to a service provider).

What this means in practice is that those who run LedgerSMB currently and have payroll needs either do the payroll themselves or they outsource that service to someone else.  This isn't necessarily bad but it does suggest a major limitation and why we are still niche software here.

The limitation is that no development service for a fee model can reasonably handle complex and changing regulatory compliance requirements.  The commercial vendors manage this through license fees, but of course that's not compatible with open source software generally.  This accounts for the lack of open source software in the ERP mainstream and it is a problem Erik and I are actively tackling in the 1.4 timeframe.  We will probably be working with a large number of local businesses on offering subscription update services (of open source software) for regulatory-compliance-related aspects like payroll.  We expect distinct payroll solutions to be built during the beta period and available shortly after release in initial markets.

So with that in mind, here's the other side of the tradeoff:


This is especially true as we transition old code to better frameworks.  It is relatively easy to make the software do whatever you need done.  What you lose in terms of having to deal with regulatory compliance that some vendors may do for you, you gain back by being put back in control over your own business processes.  This is, for a very large number of businesses, a benefit which makes everything worth it.  Because there are no software license fees, this brings the sorts of benefits that larger businesses get from large-scale ERP's to smaller to midsize businesses.


The simple fact is that it is easier to integrate LedgerSMB with the rest of your software environment than it is Quickbooks or other solutions, and it is getting easier.  This means that more automation is possible without making a mess of things than is with the proprietary solutions.

For example, one of my clients processes thousands of invoices a day in LedgerSMB with a small accounting staff (I think there are just a few people involved in this process) by importing them from another system, reviewing the data in aggregate, and approving it.  Integration is a key component of being able to scale a program up as a business grows.


I am defining ownership here as the right to control usage of the software.

Finally there is the idea of who effectively controls the usage of the software.  With commercial off the shelf software, the right of ownership is limited by the EULA, and this is quite a bit more true when subscriptions are involved as they may simply stop working.  Ownership of COTS is thus relatively limited where use is concerned.  Ownership of open source software though is unlimited where use is concerned.  

Of course with ownership and flexibility comes responsibility.

Best Wishes,
Chris Travers