Thoughts on the 2017 conference

Thoughts on the 2017 Conference

As the sun begins to set on the ERPNext conference 2017 here in Mumbai, I clearly can see how we have stumbled into a classic Hayek topic: The coordination problem. Who is this guy, what does he postulate, and how can this help us find our roles within the broader ERPNext community scope? The following quote is from Gerald P. O’Driscoll’s book freely available here:

The proper field of economic study is, in the first instance, the type of relationship into which men spontaneously enter, when they find that they can best further their own purposes by approaching them indirectly (Philip H. Wicksteed, “The Scope and Method of Political Economy” [1914].)

Let that sink in for a moment! Think about the individuals present at the conference (and those absent as well). Thus, our ERPNext community can be defined as:

…a type of relationship into which men spontaneously enter, when they find that they can best further their own purposes by approaching them indirectly.

The devil is in the details, where do you draw the line between ”own purpose” and ”community purpose”?

We spent the better part of October the 13th vigorously discussing this. In true “bazaar” atmosphere, the microphones at the auditorium moved from one speaker to the other inside the auditorium at blazing speeds. While some members discussed, others observed, others perhaps intervened ever so briefly, and at least one person “meditated” so profoundly in his seat, that his heavy breathing became what I know as “snoring”.

Mr. Hayek won the Nobel Prize in Economics as a shared prize and one of the reasons was for his

penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena.

Let us now turn to the master himself Friedrich Hayek :

It will be obvious…that nothing is solved when we assume everybody to know everything and that the real problem is rather how it can be brought about that as much of the available knowledge as possible is used. This raises for a competitive society the question, not how we can ‘find’ the people who know best, but rather what institutional arrangements are necessary in order that the unknown persons who have knowledge suited to a particular task are most likely to be attracted to that task.

The “elephant in the room” yesterday (Oct 13) at the auditorium was precisely what Mr. Hayek has postulated.

Application to our case (premises)

  1. Everyone does not not everything regarding ERPNext and its inner workings.
  2. How can we best use all the available knowledge of Coding, Project management, Open Source, ERPNext, Accounting, Processes, Human Resources, etc.?
  3. Those who know best about specific topics mentioned above already exist.
  4. What institutional arrangements are necessary to attract to a task at hand, those unknown people who have the best knowledge to fulfill that particular task?

I believe that @rmehta and others before me have answered the 4th question perfectly:

Necessary Institutional Arrangements

ERPNext Foundation

A brief, 30 second visit to the link above will show you how neatly these arrangements have been centralized in one place. You see these categories:

  1. Explaining what the modules in ERPNext do
  2. business domains that ERPNext supports out of the box
  3. A fantasic section with further Institutional arrangements for the community (GitHub, this forum, service providers, apps,etc.)
  4. How to get started
  5. Abundant documentation
  6. Localization portals
  7. Foundation and its structure, activities, etc.

So, the institutional arrangements are clearly in place! This answers the question #2 posed above.

ERPNext foundation is the necessary and sufficient institutional arrangement, that will attract the best available knowledge for the current tasks at hand.

So, what is next?

In my own limited knowledge and experience, there is only one possible outcome from the current institutional arrangement: spontaneous order. (This is precisely the topic of my presentation as a user on Oct 14)

The Spontaneous Future

(According to what I understand, anyway, and what Ludwig von Mises stated)

It is clear that we all attended the conference, and actively participate in these topics, giving so much of our time, because we clearly prefer to live in society, and not isolated from it. It does not mean we are socialists, it just means we individually choose to participate in society. Check out these premises:

  1. Man / Woman will act to improve his or her current state (reduce his specific unsatisfaction)
  1. Humans are capable of choosing
  1. Everything in this universe is relatively scarce. Humans are subject to opportunity cost.
  1. Humans are imperfect and fallible, they make mistakes, The Universe is thus, full of imperfections.
  1. Work, by itself is not wealth. We sacrifice something to obtain a desired result. We seek to do things in the fastest and simplest manner.

What does all this have to do with ERPNext?

Since I cannot profess knowledge of what others will do, I will only venture to state my expectations based on these premises stated by Ludwig von Mises in his seminal work: Human Action (Study Guide here).

1. As more people use ERPNext, many more will join in and ask many questions. The appropriate direction to suggest for them to follow is to take a glance at the ERPNext foundation page, so they can best try to answer their questions themselves first. If this does not satisfy them, they are welcome to ask questions in the forum. With this resource, they can then make a choice on wether to contribute and in which way, to ERPNext.
2. @rmehta was very clear in stating “Better Together”, but he also showed that venn diagram where we have a combination of three different roles related to ERPNext: Developers, Users, Service
roviders. This means that work is to be done individually up to the standards already set forth in developer videos and other widely available documentation, then submitted for user and community evaluation before it can then be considered for merging to the core.
3. Tasks for improvement DO have to be categorized, prioritized, and an owner from the community assigned to them. Frequent releases, even if the GitHub code is incomplete (state it clearly in the Readme) seem reasonable, so that if an owner eventually abandons a project for whatever reason, others can pick it up. I foresee logical groups of 3 to 5 individuals on specific tasks. This will ensure the “flywheel is spinning faster”
4. Only one task per module or feature should be expected per a logical time period, items in the list after priority #1, have to wait. This enhances focus, because for all our “multitasking glory”, it turns out we are lousy at it as humans. I suggest setting 5 priorities per quarter/trimester for each module or major feature, and expecting only the first to be actually implemented into the core by the end of the quarter. This takes a lot of pressure off core developers and service provider developers. Keep it simple. I suggest a quarterly rhythm because, in my experience, it provides ample time to act as necessary to accomplish the stated objective.

My plan of action

  1. I hired a developer locally to help me execute what I clearly do not have time to finish programming, we meet once per week, check our specific tasks towards our goal, and work in chunks. Each of us has one task per week. I also chose to participate in the AgriNext module.
  2. All our software is being pushed to GitHub, even if it doesn’t work yet. The code is there. I have creatd repositories for our planned software (ideas) even if not a single line of code exists, This pegs to the existing necessary institutional structure concept.
  3. Only one application is close to functional release of V1. Code will be commented in english and spanish, given that our target application solves a specific problem. Documentation will also be included. Even if it only is one sentence. Future commits can include more abundant and clear documentation as well as comments.
  4. We will follow the same process for each application.
  5. Since code is available for testing, after a round of issues and community support for it, a pull request can be made if deemed necessary, so that the core integrates it, even if it is a separate app. I understand test cases, but until I have a firm grasp of this concept, the users are the best source for finding bugs and limitations, or confirming the app works as expected.
  6. It is clear that ERPNext foundation reserves the right to reject merges to the core. If this happens, nothing is lost, I simply will promote the installation of the app separately, under an open source license equal to ERPNext. I don’t want to force anything into the core. If they like what our software does, take it! The code is there. I’ll gladly send pull requests when I consider the app ready for one. Not before. I don’t want crappy code in the core, and neither do you,
  7. Upon releasing all that I intended (2 years) I will switch to a maintenance and monitor focus, to verify further ERPNext releases don’t break a separate app. If in the core, I delegate it to the foundation and core developers to manage and will give input as necessary. This also means that one has to pay $ for that delegation, something which I will gladly do. I can then move on to those projects where I intended to USE the software to solve real world problems.

Appreciation

As we move forward and get to work, I would like to extend my profound appreciation to each and everyone in the core team for organizing and hosting this event. I have benefited immensely in knowing each person involved, and have not only read, but personally experienced the feelings of all members of the core team. I am also appreciative to the volunteers, attendees, and everybody who contributed to this event. It is fantastic to visit India with such gracious hosts. For those who have not come to a conference in India, I highly suggest you do. You will learn a lot and will be given a chance to contribute as well.

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Free developer training:

Crappy code,

Became good code,

Edit:

If you think I can help, tag me as a reviewer on GitHub

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I like this idea. I agree with @Tropicalrambler and think breaking down obligations of Contributions into a smaller task among like minded community members would make it faster to get more and more pulled in.

For me, I’m happy to work with anyone working around accounting, finance and compliance domain as subject matter resource, extend my hand is doing testing and occasionally could help in documentation. I believe that lack of specific instructions of ToDo as small task missing, I’m getting lost in the ocean of info out there.

I really appreciate the time investment & passion of Rushabh & his team, in making us available whatever we have so far.

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@revant_one: how do we benefit from this?
I’m sure there is lot of resource already exist, but may be some structred way to go about learning is missing or if it exist I’m not aware - Please enlighten me.

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If you send any pull request you will get suggestions from developers. That’s what I meant by free training

There are basic things to get you started, after that you are on your own!

Take up a small project it helps in learning.

If you find any bug that you think you can solve send a hotfix.
Not all PRs require Tests and Documentation.
example,
I changed one word in this PR, didn’t write any test or documentation. It even failed one of the test!

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@Tropicalrambler really inspired by your approach. This is my 2nd conference, I look forward to my next trip already.

Thank you! I hope we can all continue improving this marvel of Open Source software! Thanks for your kind comments, Best wishes!

I have spent the better part of my morning here in Mumbai debriefing from the conference. I came to see I had written 37 pages of notes, collected 20+ business cards and had several other important faces without names or only discuss forum references!

So far my debriefing is going like this:

  1. I have written down the names of each individual who I remember, got a card from, or I gave a card to.
  2. I have associated one or two topics with this person, (just as Eric spoke about at the end of the conference)
  3. I have carefully browsed their names through every contact app I can imagine: GitHub, discuss.erpnext, Facebook, Twitter, Medium, Telegram, Gitter…

So far I am still mid-process, but while browsing Medium in this exercise, I came across this interesting first-hand account regarding code contribution by Arundhati Sharma. She echoes a beginners concern, and masterfully provides analogous learning on the topic that both Nabin and Rushabh clearly specified for GitHub pull requests: small changes first!

Part of this exercise of mine will hopefully yield a simple to understand process diagram that can help us all travel in the same direction and empower successful pull request counts! I will post it here and in a Medium post. Probably the erpnext wiki too (in small increments) :grin:

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I’ve just went through the 3 days of conference stream online. Although I feel quite confident of the direction being taken, I am still quite unsure about the time it will take to get the development wheel really rolling.

I confess of having an idea of something similar to open betas since when I started following ERPNext about a year ago, but never expected it to be put in use. However I think now, might just be the right time for it. I would like to present another related idea before the community-

Let’s organize feature requests into 3 categories -

  1. Framework Level
  2. Domain/process Specific
  3. Customer Specific

I propose to having a mechanism to address these separately.

  1. For Framework Level - These include features that are core to the system, like addition of dynamic reporting (including charts ,groupings and BI), Improved customisations and other additions to bench, offline-online and multi-database sync capabilities, etc.
    I think frappe team and foundation supported developers would be the best people to implement these. (of-course public beta like system to develop these will be great)

  2. Domain and process specific Apps - One of the things I noticed at the conference and otherwise on forums is that there are a lot of users willing to contribute, only handicapped by their programming skills (myself included). I’ve been wishing for just this little more from the framework.
    In my opinion ERPNext has great doctype and workflow capabilities. We are 90% there, but if we just add that 10% - A GUI like odoo/flectra studio or zoho app creator. We will definitely have a lot of contributions back from end users.
    In manufacturing domain for instance - I promise to share and send back ISO/quality documentation & Reports, Maintenance module, training and skill matrix, Attendance! and more.

In fact we can get this “app-creator” (apologies for using the A word) online so that every app that is created on it, is published online for the community to comment and contribute to. Something similar to a wiki for module creators. Further enhancement of apps, if required for more complex tasks could then be taken up as public betas. This could then be integrated into the core.

You could think of this as an approach to enable the vast functional resource of the community to contribute back.

  1. Customer Specific - ERPNext does this so well already! So as Rushabh said “scratch your own itch!”. And hopefully share your code using gist, etc. :wink:

This section is a little bit of business and marketing related, so I had to tag @JayRam @umair :grinning:

As an end user I have been trying to “market” ERPNext to my Organisation. From what I get, ERPNext is targeted at SMB’s like mine, so I think it might help everyone understand that when ERPNext is introduced for the first time to an end user like us - following will be the typical background -

  1. A software like Tally, Busy or quickbooks is used for accounting
  2. Excel (MS Office) is used for everything else including production planning , analytics ,etc.
  3. There will be some form of attendance monitoring system
  4. There will be lack of highly technical work force.
  5. Management will be struggling to a certain extent to scale up the traditional systems. (Opportunity)

What this means for ERPNext Community of developers and implementors?

As the saying goes - First impression is the last impression. If you can make the accounting department happy (by making there work easy), there is more than 99% chance that you will not have to bother about acquiring new customers! ERPNext has great opportunity of GST to win over customers by easing GST Report creation and reduced data entry. Just marketing ERPNext as an accounting software which can do so much more if required could be a way to acquire customers!
Nobody would mind a “license free” open source fully functional accounting software.

Add to that good analytics for management and everything that ERPNext already offers and you might have a problem of controlling the speed of community growth!

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you were an inspiration to me in the conference. you learned programming, now developing in-house capability and moreover an open minded enthusiasm to benefit the community first. Thanks for the inspiration. Regards.
_Liyakat

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i would partly disagree with this as an accountant. I have so far in my career have worked on Tally, Trio, SAP, Oracle, QB, ZB and our own ERPNext-Accounts module. I have hardly seen a happy satisfied accounts department using ERP (full-fledged not like Tally ERP9, which is more a marketing gimmick than anything else) - Because of multiple controls to help users avoid mistakes. But as human nature we all like easy ride, who want to experience more hurdles.

At this moment trying to overpass QB or ZB with GST things is not a good idea. The situation of GST law is so bad now that after every few weeks/months some or the other rules/sections are getting substantially changes.

QB is such an evolved product over several years, i think we still have way to go there. But after Rishabh announced ERPNext desktop version by Mar-2018, I’m hopefully to see something more agile and simple - I’m eagerly waiting to test it.

_Liyakat

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Liyakat,

Consider joining Mumbai Chapter for foundation and keep checking discuss for the initiatives where your accounting expertise will be useful.

Some long term objective in this front is:

  • How to take ERPNext to CAs and make a plan which will ease them adapt to ERPNext? You can make a plan and propose in the foundation call.

  • Localization in accounting. Quick opportunity is VAT introduction in GCC countries. You can help us do the ground work. Here is an example how it was done by the community for GST in India. You can also team-up with @Sami_Tayara on this.

Hello @LifeP,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Completely take your point that we can certainly improve on showcasing outcomes for the business managers in terms of report and analytics.

  • When comparing ERPNext with other apps like Tally and Quickbooks, they had advantage of being first comers, whereas we have to break an ice now.

  1. Electron of ERPNext, with only an accounting module is an awesome step in this direction.

  2. Location is another the direction, so that ERPNext is ready with local statutory requirement from day one. Comes into the picture, charts.erpnext.com where anyone can contribute their countries Chart of Accounts.

  3. We can also do campaigns/events to educate auditors/CAs on who ERPNext can make them more efficient.

Hope this helps.

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Brother Umair, we already part of the Mumbai Chapter. Maybe we missed few calls because of other conflicting engagement. But, post this conference we believe spending more time with ERPNext community would help all of us. We hope to remain active now on.

Even though VAT is similar subject, but UAE is a different market. I have my CA college friends, who are working in GCC on the transition. I would encourage them to be part of our journey and contribute towards UAE/Saudi VAT

This is a good suggestion Umair. I believe with ERPNext Desktop it would make more sense to connect with CA fraternity, which is hugely influenced by Tally [maybe because founder is a CA :wink: ]

_Liyakat

I’m hopeful to see best of the breed among all the existing products in the market. We would be happy to share our QuickBooks/ZohoBooks/Tally (limited) experience: both + & -.

We will try reaching up to ICAI level and see what best can be done for the larger population.

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+1 for approaching ICAI for educating CAs about ERPNext and Open Source. I have conducted a session in the past at ICAI. Will be happy to collaborate if you take lead in this direction.

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Ya sure. ICAI level collaboration would give us great visibility. But before we approach there, I would personally like to get more familiar with ERPNext and start understanding more than just a basic user.

I think for us to talk and approach at ICAI-WIRC, Mumbai. ERPNext Desktop would be a good reason, However, if you have anything in mind to talk now, then why not - Let’s talk separately on it and get it going.

Apologies for delay in my reply.

@FinForce Exactly my point here. From what I have observed in small organizations (including mine) the accountants job, includes a lot of data-entry of bills ( inwards and outwards), stock transfers, etc.

With the superior user permissions and workflows, ERPNext has potential to reduce the “data-entry” role of accountants to a minimum. Now a lot of these programs have these features but the sellers are mostly interested in selling just the software (similar to an anti-virus program) , setting up the processes and permissions properly just doesn’t get the priority it requires.

As an end user I don’t really care about overpassing QB or ZB on GST, as long as the accounts module is stable & I am able to satisfactorily meet statutory requirements. (I am still unable to use ERPNext alone for this purpose).

@umair Electron sounds awesome!
When it comes to user experience, surprisingly there’s one thing programmers and accountants have in common - both don’t like to use - the mouse. Keyboard shortcuts came up on top when I consulted accountants on things they like about Busy. For example, The ability to quickly add a journal entry and come back to the ledger.

I am preparing a comparison sheet of EPRNext with Busy Accounting Software, with an aim to be able to completely shift to ERPNext. Will be happy to share if it helps.

@LifeP please do share, may be in person first.

@umair Surely. I was watching the conference video for desktop just now and was wondering if it
is going to be connected to ERPNext enterprise or a separate standalone application?