Conference 2017 - My Thoughts

Open source model clearly works, like we have seen so many times over, but I am not sure there is a playbook. If there is ever a playbook, then it goes this way. A small fraction of users will engage in the community, even smaller fraction will customize and even smaller will contribute. So maybe the expected contributor percent would be maybe 1%.

So if this is the level of contribution one must expect, then the next question is who will bear the cost of servicing the other 99%? Some say, the benefit they bring is that they provide word-of-mounth marketing. But that is true for any product open source or closed. The user will become your promoter based on the additional perceived value. New users will come anyways looking for a free / open source project.

In terms of revenue, we have the ERPNext Cloud, which keeps growing independently over the years. In fact the community is a real drag on our core revenue business ( cloud). The amount of time, effort and emotional energy that I have invested over the years was clearly not paying off. It seemed people were here just to take the free software and extend it for themselves.

I totally know this is their right, so I am not grudging it but I was thinking from a sustainability point of view, did we really need to help them? Remember in Open Source, code is free, not the time. Also we already have a lot of bug reports and feature ideas from the cloud users. Should they not be our only focus?

Over the years, we have stayed true to being open and freely sharing our knowledge. We even initiated a separate entity, the ERPNext Foundation. For sure, foundation members and sponsors had contributed money, so the bottleneck was not money but time, effort and leadership. But inspite of all this, it seemed that this imbalance would go on for a foreseeable future. Maybe smart people had already figured this out, but I was just living in denial.

Please note that I am talking here about people who have been around for many months, not those who have come recently. There are service providers who have done dozens of installations on ERPNext and are running developers shops.

Something had to give

Even during the planning of the conference no one came forward to volunteer to help us manage it. We had give calls for volunteers, call for presentations, but no one bothered to apply. Until the last week, we just had two sponsors. Also this was our fourth major event (fifth including the one in Germany) and the contributor situation seemed to have become static. I was clearly not feeling good in the run-up to the event.

So we did the talks on the first 2 days. Then we had our first community talk. That is when it snapped inside me. What if there was no conference? What difference would it make? It seemed that the community had taken it for granted that it was our duty to keep giving. Fixes, documentation, features, leadership, inspiration, event management… But these guys were clearly having things that could be easily contributed back.

Right Sizing

My thinking was, if the community does not want to step up and give back, are we over-doing it? We were draining resources and emotions on the community instead of concentrating on our core revenue (ERPNext Cloud). Maybe the problem was that we were not calling it. We were happily providing everything, so maybe the community assumes we have infinite resources. So my automatic system told me that the time had come to call and I had a minor meltdown / breakdown.

Either ways, I am much happy that I was able to speak my heart. Its been 3 days and I still feel drained out, but at least we have moved on. I have decided that my personal time given to community will depend on the quality and quantity of contributions, leadership and help that the community gives back. We have done of duty of bootstrapping the community, from now on, its going to be give and take. The days of only giving are over.

So community, the ball is in your court. From now on, we will only respond to your energy. If people step up contributions (in any way code or help or marketing) then we will step up, if there are only takers, then we have decided to stay focussed on our projects ERPNext Cloud, Hub and the new electron app. That itself will be value to a lot more people. We may not do another big event, but we will still be committed to 100% open source.

Maybe it will be our backing out / rightsizing that create the next level of community leaders!


I feel your pain. I will however ask that you take a deep breath and chill.

In the last few days after the conference I have seen a lot more activity on the forum with some interesting potential contributions coming from the community. I am sure this is based on the “truths” that we told each other at the conference.

You are right that we need to leverage on the strengths of every member of the community.

You are also right that the community should take on more responsibility. For example this should be the last time that you guys organize a conference or event, this should be a community effort. Period.

But, my advise is this, ERPNext is going to be much bigger than ERPNext Cloud, deciding to focus on ERPNext Cloud alone will minimise the potential impact of ERPNEXT to the world and will also reduce the potential value of ERPNext cloud itself on the long run.

I have chosen my own path of contribution (financially sponsoring features and spending as much time answering questions on the forum, at least the questions that I can). I am also looking at employing a programmer within my organisation dedicated to ERPNext development alone and of course contributing back every thing we develop.

Do not minimize the impact or effect of what you said at the conference. You have converted me totally to the course, you have no idea how many more you have also converted in the last one week.

I think the next 6 months will show you a different community. You have spent years on this dream, do not give up on it at the point you are about to hit take off velocity.

Warm Regards



Thanks @olamide_shodunke for your kind words :slight_smile:

I don’t want to slow down for sure, but can’t see myself burning out either… If what we see today on the forum sustains, then there will be no slowing down from our side. Like I said, ball in community court.

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@rmehta I love your idea. I love your team. I love Frappe. I follow you from April and I never see open source project developed better then ERPNext.

Until conference I woke up to 5 am to follow YouTube Live. Your message is clear: #better #together

In April me and my friend we have created Nadivia ( We want help you to develop Italian Localization and other interesting features.

Next week, 24th October 2017, I will present “ERPNext project” at University of Economy in Foggia (Italy) to search new developer partner.

I hope to meet you one day.
Giuseppe Lamatrice


Dear Rushabh:

Sad to hear you!!!

Yo can not only hang up and leve behine your dream.

If things were easy anyone would do…

I am agree with Olamide, “ERPNext is going to be much bigger than ERPNext Cloud, deciding to focus on ERPNext Cloud alone will minimise the potential impact of ERPNEXT to the world and will also reduce the potential value of ERPNext cloud itself on the long run” .

I am for a country in the other side of the world and I am aware of ERPNext because I think it is a great idea and a great software, a great DREAM. Obviously I want to contribute…

In my humble opinion there are 2 factors to think about:

  1. Time, do not despair all things are achieved with time; a drop of water can pierce a stone with time.
  2. Delegate, do not say “community the ball is in your court”, I think it will be much better to grow up with the community and let community to organize and help and grow but with your assistance. I know you put a lot of effort on this dream, but may be it is time to organize and delegate and add hands to the project.

You should be happy!!!


Dear Rushabh,

Thank you for sharing a deep thought and explaining why you said what you said. We understand you fully and your frustrations are justified by what you and team have been experiencing :pray:.

I can understand It’s not easy to run this open source model, and you probably can take a shortcut by taking the same route like Odoo and others who incline towards commercial eventually. But you don’t and you still follow your heart and keep believing that this current model works. We appreciate & respect you for that :+1::hugs:.

As for us from Indonesian community, @tara_antonius, @komsel2228, @hokgt & myself, we will commit to do a few things ahead:

  1. Setup frequent meetups, starting from 28 Oct 2017
  2. Setup Indonesia ERPNext Chapter
  3. Attend Foundation conference meetings, contribute ideas for the betterment of ERPNext

To help spread the ERPNext brand so in the end more users will get to know and use it.

And when the time is right and we have acquired the skills, we also may contribute code that we do for customisation.

Please let us know what else we can do and please do let us know frequently what you want / expect from us the global community. Don’t keep the burden to yourself, hope we can spread this so you don’t suffer :blush: I don’t know if you’ve been doing & telling what you want from the community, because I’m quite new.

We hope that what you and team have put in (sow the seeds), you will harvest many more in return in the form of bigger revenue for the erpnext cloud and also other forms of contributions that are within your expectations :pray:

We are behind you :wink: smile…



Dear Rushabh,

It is quite paining to hear you say those words. However, I would perhaps try and understand the problem and attempt to address those rather than taking emotional decisions.

I don’t quite agree. If there is enough money, you can even hire experienced people or incentivise the existing community members to provide the leadership. Hire new program manager to prioritize the features and run the foundation supported projects. If we have enough money and don’t know what to do with that, then certainly the problem lies elsewhere.

Assuming we don’t get enough contribution(money, time) back from the community, how do we address that? In particular, I understand that the frustration is with those people who take full advantage of the product either as users or service providers and don’t contribute anything back to the community. On the other day, I saw a job advertisement where someone was ready to pay $10000 for re-branding ERPNext to sell it as their custom offering on cloud. I was more bothered with the fact that there were lot of developers/service providers interested in helping someone clone ERPNext cloud!

I have heard many times that you want to make ERPNext a community of end users. If that is really the intention, I doubt one can expect more than 1% of people contributing back. If the product is advertised like wikipedia, openoffice, people will use it like that and one can’t blame them. There will be service providers who would take advantage of the free software and make some money for themselves.

Opensource is not a business model. Even opensource projects need a business model to support the development costs. I am still an end user who have perhaps spent 7-8 months of customizing ERPNext for our business. Believe me I could have easily bought a (no so)similar software from 1-2 months of my effort. In order to make it generic and contribute it back, I might have to spend 3-4 months of more effort. Do I have enough motivation left to travel that extra mile with 1/100th of your motivation level? I don’t know yet.

I don’t like the odoo model, mainly because it is too commercial. But certainly they have traveled the same path as ERPNext and there is much we can learn from them(both good and bad). Without thinking too much, the easiest option is to take the best and leave the worst. Like, let ERPNext foundation/community maintain the Frappe/ERPNext framework through contribution from paid apps. Now that we know issues associated with odoo app model, we are better equipped to fix them in the ERPNext model. That will incentivize developers, transparently fund the foundation and receive quality contributions from developers. Perhaps there could be other viable business models, but it is worth keeping it open for discussions.


I think the problem lies somewhere else, not money. Someone suggested in the 2nd day of the conference, in the chaos session, that Frappe can raise any money if they want to. Even ideas get funded and I think this is possible. Even before going to external investors, which may bring problems of its own, there probably people in the community to whom it would be easier to contribute financially rather than technically due to lack of expertise.

The response was that it would still take time to train new developers and ensure the quality of their work. However, this is exactly what I think needs to be done. ERPNext has reached a point it needs to scale and grow and there many opportunities for that. Frappe and/or the Foundation need to take the leadership of this movement. One way could be establishing formal technical training, possibly with certification. This will increase not only the volume of contributions but most importantly their quality, leaving you enough time to focus on more important things, such as maintenance of the core and Frappe as a business.


I suggested an exact same thing to Rishabh during the conference of running an instruction led (via video conferencing) a week-long developers training session. The aim of such training session could be to fast-track learning opportunity, explaining them (i) all the resources available with foundation, (ii) protocol of what to change where, (iii) maintaining quality of code, (iv) insist on writing comments inside the code, (v) attaching them to a mentor for some time in the learning journey, etc.

I proposed that such programs should be chargeable and many in the community would like to get their programming resource trained from the masters. These trained resources during the training are doctrine to bring back their code and do pull request.

I think such approach would help. Others may share their thoughts.


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New developers are very likely to take long time, but not experienced ones. I have seen/worked on many large projects where new features were added from new developers in a span of 4-6 months. frappe/erpnext codebase isn’t huge and well organized, so it should be easier than that. However that will work well only when there is a proper development process like requirements, specification, review, coding, testing. That seems to be either missing or not transparent. In addition, it certainly needs some kind of mentoring during initial few weeks. I have suggested the same recently when I sent my first pull request(yet to get back on it).

Nothing beats the contributions from self motivated people. However self motivation isn’t something very easy to find. To scale out a project, the motivation will have to be induced. I would be very happy to be wrong though…

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@rmehta This quote is where I believe the heart of the matter can be found. You are very much the heart of the ERPNext project, but you cannot always be the driving force behind it.

In order to cultivate a better contributor base (kind of like raising children) you have to give them guidance, boundaries, and some structure for them to build on. In this case, it is developers. They all grew up in an environment that was very structured because that is what they were taught in school in order to be good programmer employees later in life. Without having the same structures in place in your open source project, they have a hard time finding something familiar enough to their training anchor their work habits.

Your efforts were not in vain. They just need a little redirection as your project matures. Building a community is not that different from building a family. They both need structure imposed at different points in their growth. In a family, it is when the children are born and you have to set their path in life. In the developer community, it is when the founding heart of the project can no longer do it all on their own and they need the support of others. There needs to be some familiar structure in place for others to know where and how to help.

@rmehta I believe that now you just need to focus on finding a way to create the structures the community needs to survive like the clear requirements for modules in development, specifications for modules that need developer work so they know exactly what is expected of them, a review process (this is where your time should be), coding standards to make the overall project uniform, and testing plans to make sure new additions are not more broken components.

If the foundation were to focus on these things instead of trying to create code as as fast as they can, you might see the increase in developer contributions you were hoping to find. After all, they can only work within a structure that they find comfortable. Right now I think they are hard pressed to find those familiar processes they are used to helping them to stay on track.

I have tried to hire many developers over the past year to create additions to ERPNext and all of the local developers I tried were reluctant to work on it. They almost all universally voiced the same opinion that they could not find any structure to the project aside from the few rules for submitting code on GitHub. They did not want to have to create from scratch all of the above mentioned processes just to get a successful addition to a larger project. They were looking for that structure to be in place, but found no evidence of it. Two different companies here in the US told me the lack of these simple processes meant ERPNext was not really a viable project and that I should not waste my resources on it.

I believed otherwise and eventually found developers outside my own country that could make the additions I needed. Most of them are already foundation members, so they are familiar with how to get code into the core project. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. I worry that the viewpoint of the companies here that thought ERPNext was a waste of resources are actually more common than the project deserves. Yet, some structured processes that give new developers some guidelines and support would have made a difference 7 months ago when I was trying to find developer support in my own country.

To be brutally honest, the view from above the tree tops and looking down on the ERPNext project is one of just a local group of friends that created a nice piece of software but are not interested in bringing people into their small group. That is the perception of the developer companies I tried to hire locally.

Right, wrong, or indifferent, the perception is difficult to get past when they start looking for familiar processes they can work with. It is not my place to judge, so I can only pass along my observations and experiences. Hopefully in some small way, it will help you to figure out your path forward with ERPNext as a project.



Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. Some quick answers!

Nice … all the best! But this “want” must convert to pulls! Otherwise its not really useful to the community and you are not doing your duty of giving back.

Sure, but it works only some times. We did the issue tagging with the help of the community but there are many many more things → Roadmap / Specs / Contribution review / Event management.

So many times we have asked for help, but so few people have come up.

Thanks Thomas! Its more the users / devs who have been around for sometime who are more capable of taking up voluntary activities who are not. I totally appreciate your energy and if everyone was thinking like you, we would not be in this situation :slight_smile: (Hopefully we will not be in another year!)

Already posted. We are talking with someone from the community to take this up. If it works, it will be a big bottleneck removed. If anyone else feels ready to step up and take this position. Most welcome!

So there are various levels of engagement here. Ofcourse I don’t expect you to contribute on your first SMB project, but after you have done 5 SMB projects, I do expect!!

Or if you are a mid-size end-user company who has a team of devs working on ERPNext then you should give back too.

We do hire new developers, and we have seen they get started without much help in 3-5 weeks. So that is not the bottleneck. Once they are ready and developing, then must move into the next circle. Give 10-20% of time to non-revenue activities and community.

Who is the foundation here? Building leadership in the foundation is a first step.

I think I spend 60% of my time on community duty (and it drains me out) also there is no direct return. We don’t get a boost of paid subscriptions on the cloud after a conference. Also personally I have done 8,500+ replies on the forum, if that is not “guidance” then I wonder what more you expect me to do!

On the same times I would also like to focus on the positives, so its clearly not a private group here. There are 150 contributors on ERPNext, so clearly we have encouraged new devs with feedback and help. The fact we are here, is because of all the effort done by the contributors. I would also like to thank those devs who have come forward with small and big contributions.

This is not about those who are new and struggling, but those who are capable and able. AFAIK we have already seen a change in the attitude post forum. If it takes one “bad guy” to drive the change, then I am happy to be that too! But this energy has to sustain over months to really become the “new normal”.

People can’t always give us advice and expect us to do everything, everyone needs to “step up” too… ! Hence the ball is in your court. Actions matter more than words.

Happy Diwali to everyone!!


First of all, thank you for this community and wonderful Open Source solution. Here is a small testimony of my own experience…

I can understand how frustrating it must be to put so much effort in something like ERPNext while feeling like most people are taking everything without giving anything. Especially since a lot of people are trying to take advantage of the fact it’s free and Open Source to make money out of it… Humans will always be humans…

Personally, I love Open Source because it’s the only way for people like me operating small businesses to have access to great software without having to pay huge amount of money that we simply don’t have have.

I would be more than willing to pay for support and customization. That’s what I’ve done so far… I’ve paid some freelance developers hired through ERPNext bounty system to help me with some customization. It’s like if you were creating some sort of “ERPNext based economy” that other people are benefiting while you spend the effort and money to have this whole thing running and working…

Why not charge a fee for developers to have access to your bounty system? Why not offering customization yourself and charge for it?

I am considering a switch to ERPNext Cloud… I think the fees are more than reasonable… But I always liked to be able to host my own things…

I would love to be able to do more but my developer skills with Python are not good enough to be of any real help… Maybe you should list other things, other skills set you would need to help grow the community so people like me could help you in some other way…

I came from OpenERP to ERPNext because I felt like there was a real Open Source thinking behind it while solutions like OpenERP were running away from it.

I hope you will keep the same mindset for the future and I also hope that more people like me will find a way to help you in the long run.

You guys are great and there is no words that could express how thankful we should all be in regards to people like you for giving so much freely. You guys deserve a whole lot more.



I’m completely new here, just having found out about and done a test install of ERPNext today.

From my perspective, this project offers something valuable that Odoo does not (or, at least does not easily/freely, the accounting functionality seemingly requires the Enterprise edition). I have been using and paying for Quickbooks Online and am not happy with it, nor am I happy with Xero (currently in a free trial). Fundamentally, I want to be able to control my own accounting/business data, and, not be subject to potential price increases/vendor lock-in, etc. (and integrations that are half-baked and don’t cover all business needs). I’m not interested in the cloud offering because that limits integration/plugins I could potentially develop (I can program).

As an outsider, new to this place, I’m not even sure quite the best way to contribute back or get setup/running. I’m not necessarily opposed to paying for features/integrations. I do find some of the suggested ways of doing that on the dot com site to be confusing/inconsistent (e.g. is such support $1799/year as indicated on or $600/not quite sure, guessing year as listed on Payment Options ?) but support isn’t necessarily something I’d use much of anyway (other than community based support).

@timginn welcome to the community! The question of contributions comes much further down the line. First you should setup and use ERPNext (that is what 90% of users should do!)… when you are able and capable, think of giving back.

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