January 23, 2008
Open-source products are great. But know the limitations before you use it.
Apart from doing software / web development on Open-source platform, Indus Net Technologies also customize and implement open-source products for clients on demand. Some popular (and free) open-source products are SugarCRM, Drupal, osCommerce for CRM, content management and e-commerce respectively.
IMHO, these are some limitations that I have observed. It is important to know them before initiating a project. These are not very serious in nature and using free open-source products remains a good option for many small and medium sized enterprises around the world.
1. Like any product, it is very important to align the product with your workflow and/or requirements. You must fit the product into the organization by making necessary changes. Therefore a gap analysis should be done and the effort must be estimated for aligning the product as per the current work-flow and/or requirements.
2. Most free open-source products lacks in usability. Therefore if you are doing a major implementation which will be used by thousands of people and you are going to pay for their time, you must consider a major overhaul of interface by involving a usability consultant from your vendor. Otherwise you will end up spending a lot of money.
3. Most free open-source products have very poor reporting system. These reports are not good enough to run a business and shall be re-done as per your company requirement aligned with your key measurement matrix for the given business function.
4. The programmers who can change the software as per your needs are the code-hackers types, who love to dive into existing system architecture and make small changes to achieve the desired results. Therefore you must identify and hook up with the right programmer / programming company (like Indus Net Technologies – a bit of shameless self promotion) to get it right.
5. It is a myth, that implementing open-source software is free. Software code is free, not the hard work of programmers and analysts which goes behind implementing it. And you need the later to successfully implement it in your scenario and reap the benefits of the solution. Yes, it considerably reduces the cost, improves reliability and gives you a head start from where you can take informed decision about your IT needs.
Do not get me wrong. I am only listing the limitations. The benefits are well-known and they out-live the limitations any day. However it is very important that these limitations are known before proceeding.
Feel free to discuss / debate!