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Beginning thoughts on the Agenda for Conference 2018

With the Conference just over 100 days away, I have been wondering if I should commit to spending the thousands of dollars and 7-10 days of time that it takes to travel from Seattle, USA to Mubai.

So far there hasn’t been too much information about what to expect and that makes it tough to commit to the expense. But as a member of the ERPnext Community and especially as a member of the Foundation, I thought that maybe this was a place where I could at least start to lead. So below I am going to outline some ideas. I welcome (even beg for) candid criticisms, edits, and expansions to these ideas.

I understand that it is to be a two day conference this year and there is SO MUCH that should be packed into that time. The Conference is sponsored by the Foundation and I take my inspiration from the opening line of Revant’s Objectives of the foundation. I think we should focus on:

  1. Educating
  2. Inspiring
  3. Improving, and
  4. Furthering the development of ERPnext.

Here is how I see that happening: (again, I welcome comments)

Educating: (1/2 day)
We will have people from around the world and across the spectrum of ERPnext. Developers, Service Providers, Entrepreneurs, and Corporate users. Some experienced and some very new.

And we have so much to educate all of them about: ERP, Python3, MariaDB, and v11 of course,

But also the importance of our community and our culture of helping each other and sharing our knowledge, connections, and resources.

We could also benefit from anyone that could present on new methods to train users, add documentation (including videos!), maybe even documenting code.

Improving: (1/2 day)
In my limited experience with ERPnext (less than a year), I have seen the community rally around different topics that affect us all. These are decisions which impact every part of the project and all installations and users. Specifically, I am thinking of:

  • Security: Our own instances were hacked a few weeks ago. Thanks to some outstanding partnership from one of our premier development teams (shoutout to Greycube), we were alerted to the issue, received some excellent guidance on counter-measures and we were able to quickly seal the breach. But it highlighted the risk that we were at and how unprepared we were. This seems like an area where we could all benefit from the sharing of information and rallying to each others aid in times of crisis. There are qualified teams of ERPnext experts at work every hour of every day (Frappe released V10 on Christmas Day!). Whenever an attack happens, there are smart people that can help. How do we systematize that incredible resource?

  • GDPR: When the EU rolled out its new regulations I felt lucky that none of my systems were live yet! But that day is coming and I have no idea what it will take to bring a Frappe/ERPnext instance into compliance. It is even trickier for us because our clients have clients who have information that might be covered by the regulations. You might too! We should work on solving this together.

  • Immutable accounting: I found this discussion earlier this year fascinating. How do we remain relevant to the small, even embryonic businesses that want to embrace systems and technology (but still need a certain amount of “flexibility”) while still providing the medium and even large clients with world-class compliance? Are there systems, settings, or switches that we can set that will allow ERPnext to be the only accounting system that a company needs regardless of where they on their growth curve?

  • Testing: Shoutout to John Clarke who has been steadily beating this drum with minimal thanks in return. As more teams build code, and more and more features get added to the monolith, the opportunity for conflict probably grows exponentially. It has always been true, but it is about to become critical, that we be able to quickly and confidently run a battery of tests on the code base after merges. Writing these tests is easily avoided because delivering the code can’t wait. Yet here we are waiting on v11 and I hear that it is because we keep finding issues that need to be resolved. All of us are waiting because most of us shorted the process of including testing in our code. How can we all improve on this issue?

Those are just a few of the topics that I have observed and as Steve Simonson and I like to say; “We don’t know 'nuthin.” What are your thoughts about areas for Improvement? Imagine taking a half-day at the conference and discussing them. Maybe spin-up a Surveymonkey and let all of the attendees vote on some of these. Heck, even invite those watching the webcast to vote as well.

Furthering the development: (1/2 day)
In my opinion, the best way to “further the development of Frappe/ERPnext…and promote its value to both users and developers” is to showcase the best work that has been done on the platform in the last year. And I know that this is a controversial topic, but I don’t think that it should matter whether that work has made it into the core yet or not. If it is the best, because of innovation, creativity, elegance, impact on an organization, or sheer simplicity, then it should be highlighted for all to see and learn from.

And yes, I will be one of the first to say “That was amazing, how can we merge a version of that into the core so that everyone can benefit?” If we mustered some resources, would you work with us to bring some of that technology or feature sets to ALL users of ERPnext?

But to tell those among us who have done the most creative work that they are not welcome, that their work is without merit, that their solutions have no value is to say that we are a church that enjoys excluding others. To hold an annual, international conference that excludes the best work done in the past year is not a conference worth attending. I won’t travel literally halfway around the world to see what is mediocre. I am too old and too busy to spend my time on mediocre. The team that I am on is trying to change the world and create ten thousand millionaires. I can’t do that with mediocre.

We have been working hard on a project that we would like to showcase. We think it could be the catalyst to incredible growth for ERPnext in the Americas. Specifically, we have supported the refactoring of the old Quickbooks Online (QBO) project and it is nearly ready for release. In North America, Quickbooks is as big as Tally in India, and there are tens of thousands of businesses that have outgrown QBO but aren’t ready to make the enormous leap to NetSuite, SAP, or others. ERPnext is a great solution, but these businesses can’t afford to lose their history in QBO and many of them need to run parallel for a while. The QBO connector built by Team Indictrans (another shoutout!) could be a real gamechanger.

Would you like to see it? Would Service Providers like to learn how to leverage it to get more clients?

Sorry, its an App and it isn’t welcome on stage. Yeah, see, we needed it pretty fast and it is a big chunk of code and there are a ton of questions about how it will work in real life. So we told Indictrans, build it as an App. Give it to us and we will go to some of our clients who are more risk tolerant and they will help us to test it. We can find the bugs and the missing features that clients need. Then we can take it to more clients and see how it works in a wider variety of environments and then when we are done, and we know it runs well, we can offer it up to be merged into the Core.

IMHO, that is how projects go in the real world. There is a problem so big that someone is willing to pay money to solve it. But dang it, if they are paying money, they want it NOW. Not after it has been merged to somebody’s core.

But once it is done and working, the heat is off and no one thinks about sharing what they have learned and built with others who are facing same/similar problems.

How can we create an environment where we as a community come alongside these kinds of projects and help them to see that the true finish line is in the Core? Not every project will get there. I think that there are legitimate reasons to hold on to proprietary code for strategic or other reasons. (Full disclosure, we are holding some code that we won’t release for at least 2 years.)

But I do know this… If we don’t even invite teams to the conference and ask them to show us their very best work, we will never see it. If we shun them they will get the message. They will understand that they are not welcome in this church. Imagine a church that believes in love so much that they hate the people that don’t. That ain’t love. And it is not being “Open” to new ideas, innovation and creativity.

Lastly…

Inspiring: (1/2 day)
OK, so maybe this isn’t a full half day but still… Wouldn’t it be great to hear stories of personal growth, business success, creative inspiration, or simply rewards from everyday hard work? How can we recognize the best of us. Who went above and beyond and solved a problem that we have all been tripping over for a year? Who was the first to stand up and identify a problem that no one else saw?

Who led the effort to bend and flex ERPnext into a new domain? Who has a great case study on how to handle implementations or manage projects or design an integration?

Who deserves an award for Most Helpful? Who is the Most Valuable Player. Who is our Rookie of the Year? Should we take a few minutes and recognize the best female coders among us who are making incredible contributions to code and culture.

Does someone among us deserve a special recognition. A Pinnacle of Achievement? Do we need a moment of silence and remembrance for anyone that we have lost in the last year?

Do we have anyone from ESOC that distinguished themselves and should be rewarded with a gift or scholarship?

This seems like a great way to bring a powerful conference to a meaningful close. To take a moment after all of the hard work and even harder thinking and tell stories about the best in each other. That will send us back out to the streets of Mumbai and across the globe with the knowledge that we need to solve our clients problems AND the invincible belief that our community is smart, strong, and secure.

… anyways, those are my thoughts on Conference 2018. As always, I welcome all of your thoughts, criticisms and alterations. But I needed to put something down on paper so that we could all spend the next hundred days working towards making this the best conference yet.

Thank you for reading.

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Thanks & Kudos to @MichaelPinkowski for putting these thoughts together. I agree to the most part of it and this may set the tone of the Conference 2018.

Some comments from me:

This is critical importance and must be talked about. Maybe everyone here including the stalwarts who worked on patching it up can suggest/discuss the way around making it systematic and formalized. Something like a team of dedicated rescuer to assist in case of such incidences.

GDPR being a specialized topic. Someone who is subject matter expert within us, OR maybe someone facing the heat of GDPR strongly pays to get the specialization to work on making ERPNext GDPR compliant.

I keep noticing there are numbers of expectation shared on discuss post, but we all have to agree that, on the other end–to fulfill those expectations–no one but we ourself are standing.

I have a different perspective on this. Being an auditor and finance person by training, I feel having immutability is the most important thing. It will increase the stability and reliance on the ERPNext for the external eyes. Flexibility is a good thing, but I guess when we think of ERPs, it is essential to have a system which does not allow changing records.

IMHO, I feel using ERPNext only for Accounting and not using the other parts of the system makes it bulkier to use. The training of an accountant on any new system is time-consuming and long-term activity. So, if one wants to use ERPNext only for accounting, one would be better off using the commonly used tools (ex: QBO for North America [even its picking up in India] and Tally for India), because finding trained talent is not a challenge.

But will it be available on GitHub for anyone else to integrate it with some basic instructions on how to use what your team has done?

This is a controversial matter. I just want to understand, what could be the rationale of not sharing it? If its business criticality factor or legal issue or NDA obligations, one can understand.

Once again, thanks for taking the lead of writing your thoughts and initiating this conversation.

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I have been cautioned about long posts and obviously one drawback to them is the inability to reply cleanly… Let me try to reply as well as I can:

  • Topics of Security, GDPR, & immutable ledger: These are just some ideas that came to me as I was imagining a valuable and successful Conference. I am sure that there are others (certainly some of a technical nature that I know nothing about). One way to explore something like Immutable ledger would be to put together a Panel discussion with a moderator.

  • Will QBO be on Git while we wait for it to merge into the Core?: I am not opposed to that idea although it strikes me as a less than “best practice”. It seems like we should focus on getting it merged as quickly as possible so that we don’t end up with some users relying on the App while others are using the version in the Core. (It also seems to me that there could be chaos if v12 (for instance) came out with QBO in the Core and some users were trying to add the QBO app. (But once again, I am out of my depth on these issues.)

  • Lastly, Holding code for 2 years: Rightly or wrongly, we have and will have, code that is our “secret sauce” and we just cannot give away our competitive advantage and first-mover status. Our marketplace is full of many young and hungry competitors and we need time to establish other strategic beachheads before we release the code. We have made some contributions already and we are trying to make others (QBO, Xero, Plaid) and we have sponsored some projects related to my beloved Chart of Accounts. We view these as valuable contributions to the community and don’t feel bad about holding onto a few jewels while we launch our business.

Thanks for your comments and questions.

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Thank you @MichaelPinkowski and @FinForce for your both very insightful posts.

Im very pleased to hear about your efforts with QBonline and although merging to core is always best, Idon’t see that having it was standalone app would necessarily make it harder to integrate into an instance of ERPNext. I used the Amazon S3 standalone app that is now also integrated into core too but have had zero issues with having it still only installed as an app as I just haven’t got around to using in in the core. Granted this is a much smaller app in terms of features and configuration parameters than something like QBonline.

Many thanks for starting this thread @MichaelPinkowski re the conference. I know that Frappe are keen for other members in the community to step up and take the reins, or at least provide direction and discussion than just themselves.

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Making ERPnext partly a standalone application for Account may not help at all, our focus still remains that small business just like large business do what is similar, the both do payroll, prepare taxes and do the rest of the work.
Making a standalone app will cripple the process of migrating businesses to another level of functionality, To me, I think we continue with how the ERP is built and we just add on and never subtract anything.
We work going forward and never backward. Currently am shifting a ton of businesses off standalone apps like Quickbooks to ERPnext, so that business may feel the real impact of technology.
Standalone apps don’t actually involve each person. I have made a few customizations in erpnext. To me Let us just grow. and the rest of people will follow. Many ERPs are already scared of ERPnext.
The Issues of Security are very critical. We need a special team, that will continuously hack, test our system in all corners because ERP providers will continuously fight ERPnext from all angles. So my suggestion is for us to continuously hack and test our own system.
For the Conference I personally would love a more clear display online for us who may not afford tons of ammounts and may be our involvement online may help the rest of the world. If you assure some of us to prepare short videos on some of our customers who have used the ERP. we can do that and submit as soon as possible.
I would love to personally make key developments on Education to an LMS section too. Moodle PHP has over ruled the Education sector and we need to deal with that.
Thanks Team

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I am personally talking to my company Board to make arrangements for me to be at the conference, reason being I really want to take part in the foundation, understand what it is doing and how we can take part in taking the foundation further, I also want to engage in the marketing processing of ERPnext so that we can be able to help others understand that ERPnext is the best so far.
Personally being their will help me at Africa Or may Uganda benefit more.

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There is no such intent. Frappe Accounting is a separate project. There is a reason we did not call it “ERPNext Desktop” as we did not want people to confuse with it.

Staying on the topic, yes, we need to make an agenda. Here is are some initial thoughts:

Thanks Rmehta for that.