No accounting software for Linux?

No accounting software for Linux?

Summary: The key issue in evaluating the open versus closed source argument with respect to mid range financial software is organizational philosophy, not software features - if you've got the skills, the courage, and the organizational support, open source is simply the smarter choice - and if you don't, it isn't.

Here's a series of assertions by frequent contributor bjbrock:

There is no OSS accounting... solutions worth a hoot. This is the main reason we still run so many Windows machines in the office. Of course this is the main drawback of any OSS adoption. There is a serious lack of good applications.

OSS has worked great for my servers. But I can't ever see adopting it at the desktop. It would be great to see major app vendors port their products to Linux. But there is not enough return for them to do so. If we were to see this happen, Linux would definitely take off. Then we would see a bigger mix of OSS and proprietary solutions running side by side.

Three of these are interesting:

  1. there are no good, open source, accounting solutions;

  2. open source in general has a dearth of good applications; and,

  3. vendors don't port to Linux because there is no money in it.

Since one exception voids the rule, Compiere, by itself, disproves all three - but the implicit assertion here is more interesting: that choosing Linux limits you to second rate accounting and/or ERP software.

At the high end of the market this is obviously not true because products like Oracle Enterprise and SAP are supported about equally well on both Lintel and Wintel.

It's not true at the low end either - not only are most of the 80s stalwarts including Accpak and my personal favorite at the time, RealWorld, available for both environments but hundreds of other packages seem to have comparable features in the two environments.

Things are much more ambiguous in the mid range markets where Microsoft Dynamics goes head to head with Compiere, more specialized packages like xtuple (formerly OpenMFG) fight traditionalists like Harris Data for niche shares, and big companies like Oracle see down market opportunity.

The issue here isn't features, it's organizational philosophy: the proprietary packages generally offer apparent risk reductions in exchange for real cash and your agreement to cede some systems, budgets, and organizational control to them - the open source packages, in contrast, can save you money, but only if you have the confidence to manage your IT investment on open source terms.

To put this more bluntly: go with a proprietary systems vendor and every check you issue cedes some systems control to him in exchange for the, usually illusory, notions that doing this gives you competitive advantage and comeback on the vendor in the event that things go wrong. In reality, you don't beat the other guy by adopting his software so the very best you can hope for is competitive parity - and your comeback to the vendor is usually limited to the extent of the vendor's commitment to the employees you deal with; because you can get them fired, but suing a Microsoft, IBM, or SAP over software or their project management is just an exercise in going broke.

Thus the bottom line on proprietary is simple: once you've sent a few hundred thousand bucks to Microsoft and some consulting firm getting Dynamics in, they own you - and they'll cash that chit every year.

In contrast, choosing an open source package (licensed or otherwise) and then using the money you don't spend on licensing from a Microsoft or SAP to hire people to contribute to that open source package creates an opportunity for competitive excellence in software. Most people never realize on this, of course; but put in open source, and you retain both the cash and the control that would otherwise go to the vendor while building organizational skills and possibly contributing to the evolution of the software community you join in doing this.

Notice that the usual bugbear - no one to sue if it goes wrong - isn't terribly real. In the first place big vendors usually write much better contracts than code, and in the second if your open source vendor goes away there's nothing stopping you from either taking over software leadership, helping direct it elsewhere, or simply continuing to use the software until you've selected, tested, and trained up for, its replacement.

And that, I think, is the bottom line on this for the mid market: an open source decision exposes you to different risks and costs than does a proprietary applications choice - but the point is that the choices exist: and therefore that bjrock's basic position is wrong on all counts.

Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • You're touching on a very important point ...

    .... which is that, in the mid term, more and more software will be developed in the way that you suggest - programmers getting higher financial contributions and grouping by special interests/market segment.

    It will and is happening, it's just a bit immature at the moment.
  • compiere

    First of all, compiere is a back office. W/o significant set up/configuration, it is no good. As a result, it cannot be considered a stand alone accounting solution; SMB are more readily interested in solutions that does not need complicated customization to run.

    By the way compiere may be open source, but its doumentation is not.
    • Do you even know ERP?

      Most ERP systems require large setup and configuration - that's the nature of software that has to be flexible enough to fit with your business.

      Murph is talking about accounting solutions in the range of Dynamics, JD Edwards, BusinessOne, etc. Not Quickbooks (though, after looking at Compiere myself, I can't see it fitting in the Mid-market category either)
  • RE: No accounting software for Linux?

    With accounting software specifically, there is a further problem: accountants. No one cares if the letter to the customer was written with OpenOffice, Microsoft Word or LaTex because they can still read it and understand it. If an SME goes to their accountant and states, "We've dropped Sage and we're now using Tryton", most accountants would either walk away or, at best, put their prices up to cover the costs of becoming familiar with new software.

    Perhaps the problem here is "How does an SME convince accountants that Open Source software is good for them too?". Just in case there are any accountants reading: the first accountancy company in each tax legislation that openly states that they are happy to work with SMEs using Open Source accounting packages will have the opportunity to own that sector. Sadly, most accountancy companies are staid to say the least - but not all! Where are the forward-thinking ones?
    • Laptop codification

      Many of the larger accounting firms use workflows to automate the audit process, and those workflows are often dependent on the client having specified technology.

      This is a general problem for those firms because the reliance on juniors means that they aren't growing senior people internally and no longer function as business advisors.

      It's also a problem for their clients - for example a refusal to support wireless leaves hordes of audit drones unable to plugin their workflow controllers (aka laptops) and causes chaos (along with barely repressed panic).

      There's a self-propagating cycle here: audit firms go wintel because their customers do and then force their customers to go wintel because they did.

      It's past time somebody broke the cycle, but as you say, they're not typically change drivers but I guess we'll now see what Obama's depression can do for them.
      • Obama's depression?

        ..we'll now see what Obama's depression can do for them...

        Obama?s depression?
        Is this in reference to his state of mind or the current state of the world?s economy?
        If the former, unless you have some medical information to share or maybe some experience, personal or otherwise, with this diagnosis, perhaps you should spill the beans.
        If the latter, are you implying that George Bush is so incompetent that he is powerless to stave off a worldwide depression triggered by the utterances of the former junior senator from Illinois?
        And to think that you once stated that George Bush would be remembered as one of America?s best presidents.
        Not that your credibility could sink much lower, much like the current commander in chief?s approval rating.
        Thanks for the laugh.

        • Tradition.

          The dot-com bubble burst just as George Bush was entering office. Some people praise a Clinton "boom" resulting from the fake money produced by the bubble and blame Bush for the results of the bubble's popping.

          Similarly, the 9/11 attack occurred 9 months after Bush was inaugurated. Some people have blamed him for not concentrating on potential terrorist attacks, though no definite information was available about the plans already in motion. And Bill Clinton's firing of a missile at an African aspirin factory was, I guess, sufficient response to the threat.

          So the tradition is to blame a President for the problems which developed under his predecessor. It's not fair, but it's expected.
          Anton Philidor
          • Tradition?

            You mean the habit of die hard Republicans for blaming every thing bad on Democrats irregardless of insurmountable counter-evidence?

            Did you think that $13 billion/month spent on Iraq had zero effect on the economy? Also, who was you high school math teacher?

            Irregardless, to say Bush did not focus on terrorism is ridiculous he spent the last 7 years talking about terrorist and using it as an excuse to torture prisoners and overturn the 4th Amendment. Bush was all about terrorism, just as long as it meant ignoring Osama and going after Iraq.

            Bush never had absolute control over the economy, no president has, however it is quite clear that sustaining the economy was never high on his priority list. If it were, he would have done much more to reign in government spending.
          • Sadly, yes.

            [b][i]You mean the habit of die hard Republicans for blaming every thing bad on Democrats irregardless of insurmountable counter-evidence?[/i][/b]

            Anton just gave you two concrete examples of the reverse having happened. So Pot, meet Kettle.

            The thing is, presidents have very minimal effect on the economy. It's not only unfair to blame Clinton OR Bush on the present state, it's patently ridiculous to prematurely assign ownership of it to Obama, as Murph has done. It wouldn't be the dumbest thing Murphy's ever said, but it's damned close.

            In fact, while there are a lot of influences on the economy, NO ONE "runs" it. It takes a lot of people making the same dumb mistakes to get us where we are.

            [b][i]Did you think that $13 billion/month spent on Iraq had zero effect on the economy? Also, who was you high school math teacher?[/i][/b]

            Perhaps a relative of "you" high school English teacher, genius. Secondly, this particular economic situation wasn't sparked by military spending, as you'd have learned if you'd paid attention to current events (perhaps high school social studies?) It had to do with lousy loans and the shady practice of assuming risks without having sufficient reserves to pay off on them. Though similar, these "credit default swaps" aren't regulated as insurance is. Semantically clever, but financially dumb. And while you're looking to spread the blame around, keep in mind that CDS's were signed into law by President Clinton. Public Law 106-554. Look it up: Before tossing the blame, though, keep in mind that this was an ELEVEN THOUSAND PAGE BILL, and there's no way in Hell that Clinton knew what he was signing in any detail. And the automotive industry's problems are based in lopsided Union contracts driving the costs of doing business through the roof. These problems are exacerbated by lax sales which are less due to the desire (or lack of it) for the automobiles produced than to the banking industry's credit issues, as nearly all automobile purchases are done on credit.

            Once again, it comes down to a lot of people making similar dumb decisions. And usually it's motivated by the desire for something for nothing. In the case of the dot-com bubble, people gambled on unfulfilled promises. In the case of CDSs, people gambled on the desire to offload risk and/or profit from someone else's risk... which, when the payoffs failed to materialize, amounted to the same thing. Unfulfilled promises.
          • Even sadder.

            Thanks for responding.

            The financial system problems were based, in polite phrasing, on a misreading of the risks involved in various complex financial instruments.

            But that misreading was not, I suspect, stupidity by smart people. I think they knew the risks were devastating; they were smart enough to know that.

            While the system worked, the money rolled in. And the people whose job titles permitted them bonuses were able to obtain huge fortunes. When the system collapsed, their companies went down, but they kept the money.

            I suggest that what Alan Greenspan overlooked was that self-interest can diverge from corporate interests, and that individuals were willing to allow destruction if they could make money beforehand.
            Anton Philidor
        • Yep

          Obama ran on a platform of fixing the economic problems supposedly caused solely by the Bush administration (no contribution from the Congress of which Obama was a member, right?), not on bottoming out in the coming storm. So technically if he can't fix the economy and the US slips further, then yes it will be Obama's economy. If McCain had won, it would have been his economy.

          The hazards of claiming to be able to fix all problems.

          Carl Rapson
    • Open Source Accounting Software

      I would really like to read the article that iniated this response. Also would love to know about any mature open source accounting software that may be available.

      • open accounting

        Is there immature accounting software?
        • Yes, as a matter of fact...

          There's a lot of immature accounting software - especially in the Open Source arena.

          Generally they are new software (making them immature by time) that lacks real-world experience, and thus lacks real-world functionality. OpenBravo is one that sticks out horrendously (seems very much like it was designed by database designers with no input from anyone who knows anything about accounting).
  • Compiere in no way can compete...

    with the likes of even Quickbooks. There are no third party vendors writing specific addons for compiere. CPA's don't support it so don't take a copy of your Compiere data files to your CPA at tax time. And uptodate payroll support for multiple states, not even your high dollar proprietary programs are better than QB. And your OSS fall on their face in this department.

    Believe me, I weighed in on several OSS solutions before going to Quickbooks Enterprise. Not only am I the IT head in my company but I'm also a CPA. Don't point me to some half baked solution and tell me it will serve my needs in the accounting arena.
    • Could check because compiere is an open program with closed documentation

      but i think the maain use of compiere accouting functionalities would be to connect the ERP to the underlying accouting backoffice.

      Main compiere web site list project accounting as features, and not general ledger.

      As for tax records, only functionnalities certified in accordance with public requirement can be considered by businesses, I don't see the possibility of certified open source...
      • In addition...

        We run a very industry specific proprietary solution in our 100 branch offices. Our vendor was able to pull down QB's SDK and in a week had us a QB plugin that imports all of the accounting data from our branches directly into QB. Being a totally Win shop themselves they wouldn't have been able to accomplish this with an OSS solution. MICR compatible plugins was another feature that sent us to QB.

        Our comptroller retired. Most of the resumes we received for a replacement had QB experience. All had some type of proprietary solutions experience. None had OSS experience.

        I could write a book on why we went with a proprietary solution. No matter what the author of this article says, I doubt he has much real world experience in accounting, OSS has a long uphill battle to bust into main stream accounting. There are hundreds of support professionals (third party) out there for QB's. How many for Comp.

        I am an OSS proponent but in the accounting world it is just not there - yet.
    • If quickbooks works for you

      you're not mid market - so the comparisons to compiere, which is, seem problematic.

      I think your argument that external accountants know and like stuff like QB is a good one - and for small business may be a deciding issue. Once you get bigger, however, these issues become less and less important and really amount to nothing by the time you get through the range.
      • question of size

        I think the original argument you started from ( no accouting oss application ) was more targeted at SMB.

        For bigger businesses, as you stated OSS solutions might be a solution, as they will have to deploy a complete ERP system (if they choose to at least) in which case the driver will be the ability to integrate ERP and accounting...
      • The very first sentence of your blog where his response appeared:

        "Lets imagine that you?ve magically become the owner of a [b]small business[/b] with just over a hundred employees."