The world of information technology is a minefield for most professionals looking to purchase a school ERP because of the options available but also because how crucial it is to have customizable learning institution ERP that is flexible and meets the needs of each individual school needs. The challenge is deciding which technologies to use to operate a school ERP. Open source offers a lot of advantages. To those not familiar with information technology, open source started its life in a university – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, back in the late 1970s to fix the recurring problem of management of paper jamming in a jointly used printer. The term open source was originally termed by Christine Peterson in 1998 when describing free software and there are many other advantages of using open source coding and often referred to as free and open source software (FOSS) versus commercial or proprietary software.
Open source coding is a collaborative effort and not restricted to one organisation. That means problems, such as bugs, can be detected and fixed quickly, functions can be improved and with the ability to adapt the software to suit the needs of a learning institution ERP. Open source is not just one type of software, the term refers to how the software operates and there are plenty to choose from such as PHP and Mysql. All offer opportunities to enable programmes to be customisable and scalable. A dedicated school ERP system, once set up can be web based, cloud hosted and the advantages of open source is that further along in time as needs change as educational needs change the advantages of keeping the source code means that it is easy to find developer for modifying and improving the ERP to meet those changing needs and not saddled with having to go back to the original developer with unfavourable terms and conditions.
Open source by its very nature is open to millions of developers therefore that shared knowledge and input offers anyone working with open source coding to benefit from development of innovative features. Open source does not operate on a closed door, selective few that share secrets. Open source might seem like mystical beast to those not working in this field but for designers and developers they are continually improving software functions and that shared knowledge has a greater impact on benefits across all industries and sectors operating around the world.
As already mentioned, systems using open source can be modified to meet the needs of that organisation. A software engineer can be commissioned to make changes and may find that he or she does not have to work from scratch and look to the sector for developments. Any developments made are likewise shared. A way to look at this is the car maintenance sector operates in exactly the same way.
Open source and the wealth of experience engineers and technicians operating with this coding means that a school is not restricted to the number of suppliers that can be commissioned to introduce an ERP, deliver maintenance and add new functions and facilities at future dates. That allows schools to negotiate pricing for work and contracts on an even footing.
An owner of an ERP that is built on open source has the flexibility to decide what changes are required to a system or during the design of the school’s ERP, can specify what functionality is required. A proprietary system may not be that flexible because it has a narrow field of expertise restricted to only those working for the company providing the ERP. Ask any organisation you are considering to set up your school ERP are you using proprietary or open source software and cross off those that answer “proprietary” as potential providers.
Programmes built on open source allow users, devices and other programmes to work together. A proprietary system are not as flexible and can lead to onerous practices to keep more than one system functioning. Open source programmes provide more time efficient working practices for end users.
A proprietary system relies on the provider of the system to be honourable in their practices and truthful about issues and modifications required. There are no such difficulties with a school ERP built on open source as an independent unbiased software engineer can inspect the work, as can an employee with open source knowledge.
As already mentioned the expertise of open source is vast which means that support can be provided quickly and with integrity. The online open source community is well organised and open about sharing knowledge and information. It does not take much effort to find online forums, newsgroups, live chat, online videos that provide solutions to problems or provide opportunities to find engineers to support the changing needs of the school ERP.
Commissioning and running costs of a school ERP is much lower than that of a proprietary software based ERP, for most of the reasons mentioned above. Schools are not restricted to a few suppliers and ongoing support that may arise in the future.
Before making the decision about which supplier to award a contract or order to, as school is able to evaluate a potential ERP built on open source by a trial use to establish whether the potential supplier understands the organisation’s needs and whether the system on offer is the most valuable system for the school. This is partly because the software is free. Trying out a system before making any financial commitment is much more customer focussed using open source.