Solving complicated problems for your business doesn’t mean you have to splash out on a million dollar enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Oracle and SAP may dominate the field, but there are plenty of free, open source ERP options that can help get your business in shape.
Before we dive in, a word to the wise: putting an ERP in place is a headache. Most implementations go over budget, take too long, don’t deliver on the plan, and just generally make businesses miserable.
Don’t fall into those camps. Having a clear plan, a clear problem, and clear goals is the recipe for ERP success. Even a “free” ERP costs your business time and money.
The following options are presented in alphabetical order.
1. Dolibarr ERP
Dolibarr ERP is super popular, and I feel genuinely remiss for not having added it to this lineup earlier. So far this year, it’s already been downloaded 129,000 times from SourceForge, putting it light-years ahead of my Linux-based keno simulator, “Keno Speaker.”
Dolibarr in action (Source: Dolibarr.org)
Dolibarr comes with everything an ERP needs, including accounting, CRM, HR, and inventory modules. If you want to expand functionality into the weird or incredibly specialized, Dolibarr offers apps through its Dolistore—you can also just build your own, if you’re so inclined.
Due to its popularity, Dolibarr is updated pretty constantly and has a very active user forum for troubleshooting and general discussion. On that note, it’s also a very popular program internationally, meaning Dolibarr is likely to be available in your language—assuming you speak a European language, that is.
Dolibarr is a great option for businesses with in-house tech teams and those that want to be a part of a bigger ERP community.
Cloud installations are possible, though you might be better off outsourcing to one of Dolibarr’s hosting partners. You can read reviews of Dolibarr on the project’s Capterra listing.
ERPNext is an open source solution with the modern user in mind. ERPNext is designed for small and medium businesses (SMBs) and is presented as a series of apps. The whole system is designed for the less technical among us, which is both a blessing and a curse.
ERPNext’s simplicity means that it’s easy to set up, using simple forms to enter information about your business and walking you through the whole process in typical setup wizard style. It’s a feeling that quickly becomes familiar, as the ERP is clean and user friendly.
Of course the downside is in expanding the ERP to fit specific needs for larger or more complex businesses. While there are built in tools for designing specific forms and reports, adding more complex elements requires diving head-first into the code.
ERPNext is free for five users when hosted online, or free for any size business when installed on your own servers.
iDempiere is a full-fledged ERP, with everything from invoicing to POS integration to warehouse management to forecasting. While iDempiere is open source, installing an ERP is never truly free. Chuck Boecking, an ERP specialist, suggests budgeting between $20,000 and $100,000 for businesses earning $10 million to $100 million.
iDempiere, like most open source programs, relies on community support for troubleshooting. Businesses may also call in specialists with experience in iDempiere.
The software provides just about everything an ERP could, including product planning, warehouse management, and payroll, among many others.
While it requires more setup than some of the other options on this list, iDempiere is one of the most robust open source options available.
MixERP is free and open source, built on the ASP.net framework. In its free iteration, you manage hosting and upgrading, but you’ll have access to support for $49 per issue. It’s a nice mix between do-it-yourself and complete outsourcing.
The free version comes with all the bells and whistles, including inventory management, sales management, accounting, and HR tools to keep your business running smoothly. It does lack manufacturing and payroll management options, though, so larger companies will need to use one of the cloud or on-premises, paid versions.
Odoo offers one application for free for unlimited users when hosted online, and adding additional apps will typically run you from $12/month-$72/month depending on the app. However, if you install and maintain the software in house, Odoo is totally free.
Odoo’s distinction is that the whole system revolves around a collection of apps. The software has apps to cover everything from warehousing, manufacturing, and sales channels, to timesheets, websites, and purchasing.
You can bolt on access to apps for a monthly fee that help you build a website, install eCommerce portals, run a CRM, and on and on. The benefit of this system is you don’t end up running a bloated system when you could be running a slim setup.
Odoo’s obvious downside is the limitation on the number of free apps or, as with other open source software, the need to have enough in-house technical expertise to set it up and run it yourself. Luckily, adding more apps isn’t prohibitively expensive. With its scaled approach to users and features, Odoo provides a solution that can grow with your business.
Openbravo is a retail-focused ERP based on a modular system. The software comes in three “flavors” depending on the needs of your organization. Openbravo Community edition is the free release, offering a stripped down version of the paid Enterprise and Professional editions. These editions include some premium, commercial modules — like financial management and inventory management — that many businesses find necessary.
Openbravo Community edition is the free release, offering a stripped down version of the paid Enterprise and Professional editions. These editions include some premium, commercial modules such as financial management and inventory management that many businesses find necessary.
Moving up to the Professional or Enterprise editions will set you back, so talk to Openbravo for a quote before you make a final decision.
Like Odoo, Openbravo’s open source meets commercialized product approach gives users a place to go for support besides just community forums. Of course, support comes at a cost, which can put a damper on the lower cost option that open source often offers.
VIENNA Advantage is an open source ERP out of Germany. The core product includes an ERP and CRM that the rest of the solutions revolve around. The platform is web-based, so you can access it across devices and without having to worry about some of the nitpicky compatibility issues that plague small businesses.
The Community eEdition is a free option for “developers, technical companies and microenterprises looking to deploy a basic set of features.”
There is no built-in support for this edition and you’ll have to have someone with strong technical skills on-hand to get things running smoothly.
That said, once installed, you’ll have access to a ton of free modules. These include document management, accounting, and reporting tools.
If you end up loving the product and want to move management over to someone else, Vienna offers two cloud-based, hosted solutions. One for SMBs and one for enterprise clients.
xTuple makes a range of ERP and manufacturing-focused products, but the core of all these options is PostBooks. PostBooks manages the central functionality of an ERP, which is extended by xTuple’s other offerings.
With PostBooks, four users get access to almost everything you need to run a single-location operation. That means inventory for one location, accounting, billing, reporting, and other sales tools. You won’t get multiple locations, advanced MRP tools, or other advanced planning tools, but you could extend into those features later with one of the paid offerings.
PostBooks is a great fit for service companies, as they don’t have the advanced manufacturing and inventory requirements that would require an upgrade. Even for a smaller, single location warehouse, PostBooks could be a good fit. Just know that you’re limited in your scale if you’re planning to stick with the free option.
The range of open source ERP options should offer a solution for almost any business. While implementations can go awry, making clear plans and having an understanding of the problems that you’re trying to solve with an ERP can take a lot of the sting out of putting one into place.
If you’re looking for a more extensive list of ERP options, check out Capterra’s full listing of ERPs, complete with reviews and feature breakdowns.
Looking for Enterprise Resource Planning software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Enterprise Resource Planning software solutions.