Open Source ERP – A Review of Compiere

Compiere Inc., an open source ERP and CRM provider, is growing and getting noticed by key decision makers in the market for ERP applications.  Compiere is the pioneer of open source ERP and is the emerging leader in this application category.  Compiere recently received the award “2008 InfoWorld Bossie Award – Best of Open Source Enterprise Applications“.  As an open source business application, Compiere is an alternative to the traditional proprietary ERP applications like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics.

I have recently evaluated and reviewed Compiere and wanted to outline some of my findings.  I have limited this evaluation of Compiere to some key areas.  For a more exhaustive outline of capabilities and features I would suggest visiting the Compiere website.

Compiere’s solution capabilities span Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).  These include the following capabilities:

  • Financial Management (Accounting)
  • Sales Order Management
  • Materials Management (Purchasing)
  • Warehouse Management
  • Customer Service (Support & Self-Service)

Role-Based User Interfaces

One of the things I liked most about Compiere is its flexibility to adapt to an organization and to the roles within an organization.  Through years of observation, I have found that 80% of ERP users, use about 20% of the features and functionality that are available to them.  Dealing with the confusion this creates has always been a challenge when implementing some of the traditional ERP solutions.  In Compiere, the ability to tailor a user’s online experience in terms of ‘look and feel’ is defined easily using roles.  Roles are easily setup by an administrator, no development is required.  The menus, windows, forms and fields that are available to the user are all determined by the user’s assigned role.  When roles are established, they are specific to a group of user’s tasks and responsibilities ensuring that the users only see what is required to do their job.  Despite a broad array of features and functionality Compiere makes it easy to provide a simple streamlined user interface to your users.  This easily translates into reduced training and support costs.  Amongst complex applications, I have not seen an easier way to do this – Compiere hit this one out of the park.


Compiere employs an innovative model-driven architecture that gives you unprecedented adaptability, speed of deployment and a lower cost of ownership.  I personally think that Compiere is under-selling this particular capability.  The Compiere ‘Application Dictionary’ is a library of business logic meta-data that can be updated or extended to allow an organization to adapt Compiere to fit the unique requirements of their business.  The level and extent of the customization that can be accomplished using the ‘Application Dictionary’ would require significant development time and effort in any other application.  Compiere allows this adaptability while maintaining easy upgradability.  The time and expense this saves during initial implementation as well as during periodic upgrades contributes to the already lower cost of ownership when compared to traditional ERP solutions.

Warehouse Management

Recently released in Compiere 3.2, Compiere offers one of their best modules to date – WMS (Warehouse Management System).  WMS expands an already solid Materials Management module with a broad range of brand new functionality that automates inbound, warehousing and outbound operations.  This is ideal for organizations that are looking to cut costs, improve productivity, reduce warehouse space utilization or increase customer satisfaction.

At the center of the WMS module is a highly flexible and configurable rules engine for setting up intelligent materials movement through all phases of warehouse management operations.  This expansion of the Materials Management module is offered by Compiere for an additional fee per user or per warehouse.  If an organization only requires basic inventory and materials management functionality, I recommend using the functionality included in the Materials Management module at no additional cost – it is solid and mature.  However, for the mid-size to larger organizations in the distribution, retail or manufacturing industries where the warehouse operations are complex, there are numerous warehouses or the number of items and transactions are  high – the advanced functionality provided by WMS is worth the additional cost.  In situations where you may be looking to cut warehousing costs as it relates to warehouse moves and utilization – Compiere’s WMS solution is worth looking at as either an add-on to a larger Compiere implementation or as part of an integrated ERP solution.

Compiere has expanded their network of partners by about 40% in 2008 resulting in a growing ecosystem of knowledgeable and experienced system integrators ready to help with everything from Compiere support and hosting to Compiere implementation and integration.