When we first pushed ERPNext as an open source project on Google Code (2008/09) we had no idea what open source is or how things work. There was no mailing list, no installation guide. Fast forward to 2017, and more than a thousand active installations and four conferences later, ERPNext has become a strong open source project with a large number of users.
As the project grows bigger, there was a need felt to consolidate all community activities under a foundation and use the foundation as a platform to spread and build ERPNext even further. Hence after an effort that lasted almost a year, the ERPNext Foundation was registered as a not-for-profit company under Indian laws. We recently launched a first website and the community started becoming members.
Finally last week, the ERPNext foundation kicked off with its first member’s meeting. The meeting was attended by the first 10+ members. Here is what happened.
We started with introductions and what everyone thought about the foundation. Jay asked me as the CEO of Frappé, about what do we expect from the foundation. My answer was that, an open source foundation is a concept successfully implemented by popular community driven initiatives like Linux, Mozilla, Wordpress, Wikimedia and we are not looking to re-invent the wheel. In the coming years we see the ERPNext foundation to play the same enabling role as these foundations. The first year will be a transition year as we transition some of the assets and events run by Frappé to the foundation.
The discussion was then centered around various themes.
Protecting Open Source
With Odoo and many other Open Source ERPs going closed/commercial, many members felt that the role of the foundation should be in ensuring that ERPNext always remains true to its open source roots. One way to protect this would be that the foundation will take leadership in driving contributions but it was not clear how. In many ways the success of the foundation will ensure this goal happens.
Many members suggested that the foundation should take leadership in marketing and promoting ERPNext. Some suggestions were:
- Having a budget for doing ads on Google, Social Media etc.
- Doing free seminars in various parts of the world
- Doing developer workshops
- Doing offline meetings with industry associations locally by each member to promote ERPNext
The foundation should also facilitate the standardization of the ERP and define a roadmap for the product. To make this happen it was suggested that various sub-groups should be formed on the lines of Odoo Community Association (OCA) for various functions like Accounting, Manufacturing and verticals like Retail etc. Maybe a mailing list can be formed for each sub-group and specific events held to enable discussions on these topics
Most of the members felt that the foundation should take a lead in doing events like developer trainings, seminars, conferences and code sprints. Events foster community building, exchange of ideas and opportunities and also lead to formation of deep ties between members.
One of the key suggestions was organising Code Sprints. These code sprints can be around features like Accounting or Manufacturing and many open source projects use Code Sprints to drive development of the project. These code sprints can be complemented by functional discussions of various sub groups, for example having an accounting themed code sprint and functional group meeting at the same time.
Memberships and Member Benefits
It was discussed that members should enjoy special benefits as it will drive memberships and also ensure that memberships are renewed each year. Along with the priority listing on erpnext.org, it was discussed that in-app listing of members should also be enabled. There should also be buttons on the forum and inside the app to encourage users to become members.
There was an interesting discussion whether the foundation should sponsor features or not. It was suggested that the foundation should only “enable” code but not directly participate in developing code. The reason is that if there is a contribution that is “paid” by the foundation and another one which is “not paid” then there is a reverse incentive to not contribute unless there is a payment involved.
It was also noted that Wikipedia contributors don’t get paid for their contributions. So at this point the consensus was that the foundation will not actually pay for features, but rather organise code-sprints. If there are somethings that are important to a group of users, then they can organise their own bounty and get it done.
It was an amazing discussion and as you can read, there were lots of topics covered. It was heartening to see the participation and maturity of all the participating members and it is clearly a strong beginning to a long and successful association of members.