With the Conference just over 100 days away, I have been wondering if I should commit to spending the thousands of dollars and 7-10 days of time that it takes to travel from Seattle, USA to Mubai.
So far there hasn’t been too much information about what to expect and that makes it tough to commit to the expense. But as a member of the ERPnext Community and especially as a member of the Foundation, I thought that maybe this was a place where I could at least start to lead. So below I am going to outline some ideas. I welcome (even beg for) candid criticisms, edits, and expansions to these ideas.
I understand that it is to be a two day conference this year and there is SO MUCH that should be packed into that time. The Conference is sponsored by the Foundation and I take my inspiration from the opening line of Revant’s Objectives of the foundation. I think we should focus on:
- Improving, and
- Furthering the development of ERPnext.
Here is how I see that happening: (again, I welcome comments)
Educating: (1/2 day)
We will have people from around the world and across the spectrum of ERPnext. Developers, Service Providers, Entrepreneurs, and Corporate users. Some experienced and some very new.
And we have so much to educate all of them about: ERP, Python3, MariaDB, and v11 of course,
But also the importance of our community and our culture of helping each other and sharing our knowledge, connections, and resources.
We could also benefit from anyone that could present on new methods to train users, add documentation (including videos!), maybe even documenting code.
Improving: (1/2 day)
In my limited experience with ERPnext (less than a year), I have seen the community rally around different topics that affect us all. These are decisions which impact every part of the project and all installations and users. Specifically, I am thinking of:
Security: Our own instances were hacked a few weeks ago. Thanks to some outstanding partnership from one of our premier development teams (shoutout to Greycube), we were alerted to the issue, received some excellent guidance on counter-measures and we were able to quickly seal the breach. But it highlighted the risk that we were at and how unprepared we were. This seems like an area where we could all benefit from the sharing of information and rallying to each others aid in times of crisis. There are qualified teams of ERPnext experts at work every hour of every day (Frappe released V10 on Christmas Day!). Whenever an attack happens, there are smart people that can help. How do we systematize that incredible resource?
GDPR: When the EU rolled out its new regulations I felt lucky that none of my systems were live yet! But that day is coming and I have no idea what it will take to bring a Frappe/ERPnext instance into compliance. It is even trickier for us because our clients have clients who have information that might be covered by the regulations. You might too! We should work on solving this together.
Immutable accounting: I found this discussion earlier this year fascinating. How do we remain relevant to the small, even embryonic businesses that want to embrace systems and technology (but still need a certain amount of “flexibility”) while still providing the medium and even large clients with world-class compliance? Are there systems, settings, or switches that we can set that will allow ERPnext to be the only accounting system that a company needs regardless of where they on their growth curve?
Testing: Shoutout to John Clarke who has been steadily beating this drum with minimal thanks in return. As more teams build code, and more and more features get added to the monolith, the opportunity for conflict probably grows exponentially. It has always been true, but it is about to become critical, that we be able to quickly and confidently run a battery of tests on the code base after merges. Writing these tests is easily avoided because delivering the code can’t wait. Yet here we are waiting on v11 and I hear that it is because we keep finding issues that need to be resolved. All of us are waiting because most of us shorted the process of including testing in our code. How can we all improve on this issue?
Those are just a few of the topics that I have observed and as Steve Simonson and I like to say; “We don’t know 'nuthin.” What are your thoughts about areas for Improvement? Imagine taking a half-day at the conference and discussing them. Maybe spin-up a Surveymonkey and let all of the attendees vote on some of these. Heck, even invite those watching the webcast to vote as well.
Furthering the development: (1/2 day)
In my opinion, the best way to “further the development of Frappe/ERPnext…and promote its value to both users and developers” is to showcase the best work that has been done on the platform in the last year. And I know that this is a controversial topic, but I don’t think that it should matter whether that work has made it into the core yet or not. If it is the best, because of innovation, creativity, elegance, impact on an organization, or sheer simplicity, then it should be highlighted for all to see and learn from.
And yes, I will be one of the first to say “That was amazing, how can we merge a version of that into the core so that everyone can benefit?” If we mustered some resources, would you work with us to bring some of that technology or feature sets to ALL users of ERPnext?
But to tell those among us who have done the most creative work that they are not welcome, that their work is without merit, that their solutions have no value is to say that we are a church that enjoys excluding others. To hold an annual, international conference that excludes the best work done in the past year is not a conference worth attending. I won’t travel literally halfway around the world to see what is mediocre. I am too old and too busy to spend my time on mediocre. The team that I am on is trying to change the world and create ten thousand millionaires. I can’t do that with mediocre.
We have been working hard on a project that we would like to showcase. We think it could be the catalyst to incredible growth for ERPnext in the Americas. Specifically, we have supported the refactoring of the old Quickbooks Online (QBO) project and it is nearly ready for release. In North America, Quickbooks is as big as Tally in India, and there are tens of thousands of businesses that have outgrown QBO but aren’t ready to make the enormous leap to NetSuite, SAP, or others. ERPnext is a great solution, but these businesses can’t afford to lose their history in QBO and many of them need to run parallel for a while. The QBO connector built by Team Indictrans (another shoutout!) could be a real gamechanger.
Would you like to see it? Would Service Providers like to learn how to leverage it to get more clients?
Sorry, its an App and it isn’t welcome on stage. Yeah, see, we needed it pretty fast and it is a big chunk of code and there are a ton of questions about how it will work in real life. So we told Indictrans, build it as an App. Give it to us and we will go to some of our clients who are more risk tolerant and they will help us to test it. We can find the bugs and the missing features that clients need. Then we can take it to more clients and see how it works in a wider variety of environments and then when we are done, and we know it runs well, we can offer it up to be merged into the Core.
IMHO, that is how projects go in the real world. There is a problem so big that someone is willing to pay money to solve it. But dang it, if they are paying money, they want it NOW. Not after it has been merged to somebody’s core.
But once it is done and working, the heat is off and no one thinks about sharing what they have learned and built with others who are facing same/similar problems.
How can we create an environment where we as a community come alongside these kinds of projects and help them to see that the true finish line is in the Core? Not every project will get there. I think that there are legitimate reasons to hold on to proprietary code for strategic or other reasons. (Full disclosure, we are holding some code that we won’t release for at least 2 years.)
But I do know this… If we don’t even invite teams to the conference and ask them to show us their very best work, we will never see it. If we shun them they will get the message. They will understand that they are not welcome in this church. Imagine a church that believes in love so much that they hate the people that don’t. That ain’t love. And it is not being “Open” to new ideas, innovation and creativity.
Inspiring: (1/2 day)
OK, so maybe this isn’t a full half day but still… Wouldn’t it be great to hear stories of personal growth, business success, creative inspiration, or simply rewards from everyday hard work? How can we recognize the best of us. Who went above and beyond and solved a problem that we have all been tripping over for a year? Who was the first to stand up and identify a problem that no one else saw?
Who led the effort to bend and flex ERPnext into a new domain? Who has a great case study on how to handle implementations or manage projects or design an integration?
Who deserves an award for Most Helpful? Who is the Most Valuable Player. Who is our Rookie of the Year? Should we take a few minutes and recognize the best female coders among us who are making incredible contributions to code and culture.
Does someone among us deserve a special recognition. A Pinnacle of Achievement? Do we need a moment of silence and remembrance for anyone that we have lost in the last year?
Do we have anyone from ESOC that distinguished themselves and should be rewarded with a gift or scholarship?
This seems like a great way to bring a powerful conference to a meaningful close. To take a moment after all of the hard work and even harder thinking and tell stories about the best in each other. That will send us back out to the streets of Mumbai and across the globe with the knowledge that we need to solve our clients problems AND the invincible belief that our community is smart, strong, and secure.
… anyways, those are my thoughts on Conference 2018. As always, I welcome all of your thoughts, criticisms and alterations. But I needed to put something down on paper so that we could all spend the next hundred days working towards making this the best conference yet.
Thank you for reading.