Go Big: Free Enterprise Tools For Small Biz

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Are you opening a new web-store? Perhaps starting a Timothy Ferriss style 4HWW “muse”?

If you are launching an online store with the anticipation of being wildly successful, this article will explain why open source enterprise software is right for you.

Enterprise Software vs Shopping Carts

Enterprise Software provides tools for managing all aspects of your business.

A typical online shopping cart handles only the ordering part of your business. It might also have basic support for inventory and customer service.

So why would you need more than a basic shopping cart?

1. Room To Grow

Moms buy clothes their teenagers can grow into.

You should do the same with your web store.

As a teenager, I went through a growth spurt one summer. I grew an inch each month.

My mother bought pants several inches too long and would hem the cuff. As I continued to grow she’d let down the cuff inch by inch.

Moms buy clothes their teenagers can grow into. You should do the same with your web store.

Early in my career a boss explained that trying to upgrade a business’s information system while keeping it running is like trying to change the tires on a moving car. The company was moving from a hodge-podge collection of apps to a more robust solution. They actually had to shutdown for a few days to make the switch.

Having to shutdown to handle growth is a good problem to have. But it can be avoided with a little foresight.

Several of my clients have enjoyed explosive growth in recent years. Our open source enterprise solutions have played a vital role in achieving and handling that growth.

These clients started their business running on a scalable system that they could grow into and that would continue to grow with them.

Several years ago I setup Apache Open For Business (OFBiz) for Citydeals.com. The shopping cart had a trickle of orders for the first few months as online sales slowly picked up.

Eventually it reached the point where we had a multi-server load balanced solution handling 1000+ views per minute during peak periods.

It’s performed so well in its own metro area that parters are anxiously opening up new markets nationwide.

Citydeals originally used OFBiz as a shopping cart. They now also use it for the following:

  • Customer Service team tracks who last talked to customer, what was resolved, and when that contact happened.
  • Sales team uses a CRM/SFA module from Opentaps.
  • Management tracks inventory levels and views sales reports.
  • Accounting reconciles sales, returns, inventory transfers, etc.
  • Partners have a portal to check on consignment sales and reports.

The entire company with 30+ employees and hundreds of partners use this system to run the business.

The Citydeals founder has often expressed amazement and appreciation for the software. Time after time he has requested new functionality and I could happily inform him that it already existed in the system or could be made available with a little bit of tweaking.

2. Available Anywhere

I setup OFBiz for an endurance supplement company over 5 years ago. Now they’re the king of their niche. They sponsor the top Cyclists and Triathletes in the world. Their product is carried in hundreds of retail stores, they have international distributors all over the globe, and the direct sales from their website is cranking.

Apache OFBiz is web-based so works with any browser. The two owners are able to login from home and place orders and check on the fulfillment process and look-up customer/order notes.

They also painlessly switched from one fulfillment center to another. It was as easy as disabling old logins and creating new ones, then trucking the goods over to the new warehouse.

A web-based enterprise solution like OFBiz is perfect for business owners that want to outsource to virtual assistants or other service providers without being tied to them for life.

3. The Price is Right

My clients love that OFBiz saves them a ton of money in licensing.

I’ve launched eCommerce solutions for corporations ranging from a VoIP pioneer with 300 employees to a $1 billion/year world leader in their market. I worked with expensive high-end Oracle systems and was recognized by IBM as the first to commercially deploy their eCommerce solutions on an AS400e midrange server.

When I left the corporate world to go self-employed I couldn’t afford those advanced systems that cost 6 to 7 digits. But I was frustrated by the poorly built open source shopping cart software that was available.

Then I found OFBiz and was floored by the elegant service-based architecture. It was open, free and built with solid framework, data model, and accounting practices.

My clients love that OFBiz saves them a ton of money in licensing. They love that it’s wide open and they don’t have to wait for software vendors to add functionality. They can hire any java developer to make the changes they want.

OFBiz is java-based so will run on almost any type of server. It is database agnostic, so will run on any major database. There is no vendor lock-in with this solution.

Summary

  • Open Source Enterprise Software is a great solution for small businesses looking to grow.
  • Web-based solutions allow you to run your company from anywhere and outsource to anyone.
  • Open Source Enterprise Software is much more cost effective for small businesses than commercial software.

Stay tuned next week for a follow-up post titled “Wide Open – Apache OFBiz Reviewed”.

If you have any questions on this article, please leave a comment below.

Comments (7)

  1. Interesting article. But still seems like a pain to use something so complicated if you just want to sell stuff through a shopping cart.

  2. @Jared – Yes, having an enterprise system is more complicated than a shopping cart. This article is for those who expect their online sales to eventually explode.

    If you are not expecting much growth, then it would make sense to just use a simple cart. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment.

  3. Hi Sterling – this sounds like an interesting option for small businesses who want to sell a large volume of products.

    I’m looking forward to reading next week’s review and learning about it in more detail.

  4. @Catherine – Thanks for checking in. In addition to next week’s review on Apache OFBiz, I will also be reviewing other open source eCommerce platforms in the following weeks. Stay tuned!

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