by Prof David Olson,
ERP has undergone a rapid and dramatic evolution.Since SAP started working on their accounting product in the early 1970s, five major and many smaller vendors dominated large organizational computing in the 1990s.Most large organizations took advantage of the integrative opportunities of this form of software to rely on COTS products to downsize their very large information technology staffs.Y2K created a boom period for both ERP vendors and for IT individuals, but after the world somehow survived COBOL’s minor limitations, the demand for BOPSE ERP systems dropped, and IT individuals found a very depressing job market.The first decade of the 21st Century has seen highly cyclical IT employment, demonstrating the need to be mobile.The five BOPSE ERP vendors have collapsed to two (although both SAP and Oracle are very large and prosperous).There has been stronger emphasis on industry systems, support to small businesses, and country-specific software products.
Technologically, there have been many interesting developments in software-as-a-service, and open source software projects.SourceForge.net contains hundreds of thousands of open source software projects, including about 1,000 classified as ERP.These projects tend to be utilities in nature, similar to what software-as-a-service offers for a fee over the Internet.Countries such as Brazil are publicly supporting development of open source ideas.There are a growing number of ERP vendors offering their software for free (installation help and training available at a fee), such as Compiere and Nexedi.There even are a few efforts to develop a completely open source ERP product.
Software development is clearly evolving.My perception is that globally, there is strong preference for the open ideas of Richard Stallman in preference to the US-dominated proprietorial model of Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.The Internet enables enormous potential in linking active minds around the globe, enabling their collaboration in developing new and better things.
Looking closer to the Blogforever.eu project and ALTEC’s interest for commercial uptake and adoption, according to which the blogosphere could be a means to develop organizational computing, taking advantage of database technologies, my first reaction is a disconnect in my own mind between ERP and database issues. However, I think that there is potential there.: last fall I taught a database class, and had students report on databases of their selection.There were a number of very interesting reports of databases for various Web-businesses, such as Facebook, Craig’s List, Amazon, etc.The database systems to support things in the blogosphere certainly exist.Objects such as SaaS, open source software, and the apps that the latest generation love can be assembled to accomplish things that people and organizations need.You could conceivably assemble the software you need from a free and open Internet platform.
This is going to take a long time to evolve.But five years ago I thought an open source ERP software was impossible.It demonstrably is possible.There is a danger in forecasting, as anyone who reads the forecasts of the 19th Century, or Aldous Huxley or George Orwell knows.It is interesting to review any forecast over 20 years old.They inevitably miss many important factors.But I do feel confident that the means for collaborative software product development can support such a free-form software environment.
A key issue is how the benefits will be shared, and how contributors will be rewarded.I think that recent times have been dominated by US ideas about such matters.I perceive that is changing radically, and for the better.After all, Bill Gates is looking for ways to redistribute all of his gains, isn’t he?
David L. Olson is the James & H.K. Stuart Professor in MIS and Chancellor’s Professor at the University of Nebraska. He has published research in over 100 refereed journal articles, primarily on the topic of multiple objective decision-making and information technology. He teaches in the management information systems, management science, and operations management areas. He has authored 18 books, to include Decision Aids for Selection Problems, Introduction to Information Systems Project Management, Managerial Issues of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, Supply Chain Risk Management, and Supply Chain Information Technology. Additionally, he has co-authored the books Introduction to Business Data Mining, Enterprise Risk Management, Advanced Data Mining Techniques, New Frontiers in Enterprise Risk Management, Enterprise Information Systems, and Enterprise Risk Management Models. He is associate editor of Service Business and co-editor in chief of International Journal of Services Sciences. He has made over 100 presentations at international and national conferences on research topics. He is a member of the Decision Sciences Institute, the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences, and the Multiple Criteria Decision Making Society. He was a Lowry Mays endowed Professor at Texas A&M University from 1999 to 2001. He was named the Raymond E. Miles Distinguished Scholar award for 2002, and was a James C. and Rhonda Seacrest Fellow from 2005 to 2006. He was named Best Enterprise Information Systems Educator by IFIP in 2006. He is a Fellow of the Decision Sciences Institute.