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Businesses Software

What Business Software Runs Your Office? 60

Posted by Cliff
from the common-apps-at-the-office dept.
bardkerbie asks: "I work as a webmaster and sysadmin for a small computer services shop (4 employees including the owner). We're to a point in the growth of our business where we need a system for tracking work orders as they come in and out of the shop, specifically inventory used and time spent. We use Quickbooks Pro 2006 for our accounting and payroll software. I've played around with a number of issue-tracking and CRM suites, including Bugzilla, Eventum, SugarCRM and vTiger, but all seem like they lack one critical piece to handle the workload we have. What do you use for tracking the work you do? Is it something you wrote yourself? Is there an open-source project that works well, or is there a Quickbooks plug-in we can purchase?"
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What Business Software Runs Your Office?

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  • What platform? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Reaperducer (871695) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @02:53PM (#19098091)
    I run a business about the same size as yours. We're all Mac, so the programs we use most for officy things are Quickbooks Pro, Filemaker Pro, Pages, Keynote and Microsoft Excel. We use Microsoft Word only for printing shipping labels. We're planning to dump Excel when Apple releases its new spreadsheet software. At that time we'll probably update our label templates and move them to Pages so we can dump Word, too.

    As a small shop you have the freedom to do things right from the start and not be locked into some legacy system someone put together in the 70's or 80's.

    My advice to you is to code your own software and have it as a web service that you run from a beater server in the office. That way as long as there are browsers you'll never be locked in to one vendor, and as your business grows and you have to travel more you can access what you need on the road.
    • You're scaring me. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:04PM (#19098223)

      We use Microsoft Word only for printing shipping labels.


      Seriously? You know Macs have had programs for that for about, um, twenty-some years?

      Code your own software and have it as a web service that you run from a beater server in the office...


      Now you're scaring me. Let's say you're pretty good and you code the thing in just 30 business days. Let's also say your time is "only" worth $320/day. You're going to take that $10K investment in a critical system and stick it on a "beater"? If you go this route, please at least take backups like HOURLY and have a second server standing by when the beater craps out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I know a couple of very, very, very large companies that run significant pieces of internal software as Access databases or Excel workbooks stuffed with Macros.

        There is one place that uses Access for their primary customer relationship management and incident tracking system on a 10m+ gbp/year contract. The databased was pulled together by a regular member of staff, not a developer. It was written for Access 97 in 2005.

        Why? Because based on internal charging rules (designed to move margin around) getting an
      • by smbarbour (893880)
        I'd love it if my time was "only" worth $320/day. As it is now, my company values my time at $173/day.

        Oh, and my title is "Systems Administrator/Programmer"
        • by StikyPad (445176)
          The rule of thumb is that employees typically cost twice their salary when you factor in benefits and overhead. I don't know whether he was implying that or not.. $40/hr is well above average for a typical mid-level programmer, let alone admins.
      • by StikyPad (445176)
        Let's say you just make an Access database, and for some reason it takes you more than 5 business days.. If this is the case, you should either look for a new line of work, or congratulate yourself on convincing the boss you're competent.
        • So you're saying that you're able to make any Access database, of arbitrary complexity, with any user interface, also of arbitrary complexity, in under 5 business days? Pat yourself on the back, you're a genius.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sakdoctor (1087155)
      I run a much smaller business and our office is running ubuntu. We have a server which was originally random cobbled together hardware but has been replaced by a proper server.
      The main applications are LAMP based and I wrote them myself originally, although they have been extended quite a bit since then.
      Any of the growing number of thin clients can access our database through the LAN.

      At the moment not having to pay for software licences, and being able to add new clients at the low cost of just a mobo, RAM,
      • I'm in the process of building a very similar system.

        About the only difference I can see is that I'll be running Gentoo, and a few low powered 'embedded' systems [200Mhz-ish machines] will be running the thin clients. Basically it will default to very basic XFCE session and will have a stripped-down firefox that will display the web-based software that is being served from the server on the local LAN.

        Since I am in the same situation, is there anything specifically you would suggest I ensure I take int
        • We are almost identical to you except we started in two-way radios and moved into computers. We have a Compaq 380 - dual P3-933 - 512m - 18.2 raid 1, that we bought on Ebay for $50.00 without drives. The 2 drives were $20 each used (with caddy).

          We installed Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper) and the LTSP [ltsp.org] 4.2 iso. Our thin clients are a combination of Jammer-125s and Compaq DP 2000s (stripped of all drives and using an intel nic with built-in PXE).

          The sad part is we bought the 5 Compaqs for less than
      • by Daengbo (523424)
        Our three employee business used eGroupware. It is actively being developed and has the following capabilities (from the website):
        • Powerful calendar which also supports scheduling of groups, resources and even contacts
        • AddressBook / Contact-manager using SQL or LDAP
        • Userfriendly IMAP mail-client
        • ToDo, Notes and Phonecalls, CRM customer relationship management
        • Element based Projectmanager higly integrated with all other eGW apps
        • Resources managment (inventory) and booking tool integrated into eGW calendar
        • M
  • One or Zero (Score:2, Informative)

    by millisa (151093)
    One of Zero [oneorzero.com] is a better than average ticketing system we've been trying out for the last several months for tracking issues/work requests and small project. Open source, easy to setup, LAMP base. I have a few issues with the current reporting options (they just aren't good enough for generating something simple to use for invoice creation), but it's been the best we've found for our small shop. There is supposed to be a completely new version sometime soon that is a rewrite from scratch and promises all
    • The title of the parent post is right, not the name in the link. I even reviewed the stupid thing. Go me.

      Oh, and one of the advantage of it being a simple LAMP base is there's no reason you couldn't gen your own reports out of the data in the DB in whatever your favorite scripting language is (or you could learn their template format and add to the existing reports and submit back. Go you.).

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @02:58PM (#19098153)

    "I work...for a small computer services shop (4 employees including the owner). We're to a point in the growth of our business where we need a system for tracking work orders as they come in and out of the shop, specifically inventory used and time spent. I've played around with a number of issue-tracking and CRM suites, including Bugzilla, Eventum, SugarCRM and vTiger, but all seem like they lack one critical piece to handle the workload we have.
    Dunno if you meant that as a slam, but if these products/projects don't have the features to handle a generic 5-person job shop, WTF can they handle?
    • by jimicus (737525) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:25PM (#19098405)
      Well, speaking about CRM because I've been looking for something for some time... There doesn't seem to be any such thing as a generic shop. Or if there is, there's no such thing as a generic CRM system in the opensource world. I'll use vTiger as my example as it's the best solution I've seen.

      Someone always comes up with an idea which they'd like to follow through with but is somehow difficult with vTiger.

      Yes, I know there's the "it's open source, modify it yourself!" argument. I took one look at the vTiger code and ran away screaming.

      Don't get me wrong, I couldn't code something like that up myself - but even so, I think the standards the folk behind vTiger have for what they describe as a "stable" release are a little slack. Just to put it into context, I don't consider "stable" release to mean "most of the core features are there and stable but there's a whole lot of stuff (including the "upgrade from earlier version" function) which isn't particularly stable at all, is not specifically marked as being unstable so you may not know until it's too late and hasn't been disabled for the release.

      Further, I was particularly interested to note that the failure mode in much of vTiger (particularly if there's something even relatively minor amiss with the database) seems to be "return a completely blank page to the user's browser and don't log the issue".
      • It also seems somewhat stagnant. Last update is over a year ago?
        • by jimicus (737525)
          Er... nah, it's been updated. Last update was October (which I guess is still 6 months).

          Despite being open source, vTiger tends to follow a more "cathedral"-style development model. Major releases are few and far between, minor/bugfix releases only fix the most heinous of bugs. Rather like a lot of the more expensive proprietary software out there, now I think of it. (Aside: There's plenty of expensive proprietary software out there which makes Microsoft look like a shining beacon of excellence staffed
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by richievtiger (1102331)
            Hi!
            I am Richie from vtiger.
            Yes, of late, the release has been very late by vtiger standards. This was done so that the quality issues are addressed. Earlier on, vtiger was more date-driven and hence had compromised on the quality and user-experiences. This time around, quality is the paramount factor in mind. Hence the extended time before we release.

            The last release was on 30/10/2006. It has been 7 months now since the last release. The new release is due this month and will be primarily a bug-fix release.
            • by jimicus (737525)
              Hello Richie,

              It was the 30/10/2006 release I was wrestling with. To be perfectly honest with you, after a week of wrestling I was prepared to give up my IT career and grow begonias.

              It's nice to know there's been some work on the quality of the product. Do you know if anything's been done to make upgrading from earlier releases more reliable?
              • Hi jimicus!
                Yes, the 30/10/3006 build had issues. vtiger had done a lot of work in the past on the migration front but somehow it reached a peak of fiasco in that build. So I guess, you were upset.
                This time around, we have been focussing a lot on the migration and also on the migrated build.
                As earlier, the UI is embedded within the product and we have made some additional fixes in it as well.
                We have tried to cover as many loopholes as possible this time.

                As ever, things are perfect in a developer environment.
      • Jimicus, yes, we had/have flaws in our system. Let me assure you that we have tried to address a majority of these kinds of issues in the 5.0.3 release. In fact, because of the fact that we decided to address the host of issues that were present, the release was delayed by around 4 months or so.

        The last vtiger release 5.0.2 was on 30/10/2006. 7 months have passed since then and we are about to release the 5.0.3 now.

        I hope you will like this release.

        Thanks for voicing your opinion. Appreciate it.
        BTW, we are
    • ut if these products/projects don't have the features to handle a generic 5-person job shop, WTF can they handle?
      Y'know, "It has to be perfect, do everything". Which is a contradiction, the more generalised a tool, the less good it is at any one task.

      For an all in one, compiere or opentaps. Mantis for issue/request tracking.

       
  • Trac (Score:3, Informative)

    by maccallr (240314) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:10PM (#19098269) Homepage Journal
    Trac [edgewall.org] might be worth checking out, although I don't think it will handle inventory and time spent. Maybe it does - I'm just an end user on one project (bug reporting and feature requests) - what do I know?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fimbulvetr (598306)
      Unfortunately, trac is the epitome of one of those open source projects that evolves into something can do a little bit of everything, but nothing well.

      It's wiki, rev control, etc. are all good for specific things, but they all severely lack in certain areas.
  • CRM and ERP (Score:1, Informative)

    Our shop is a little bigger than ours. I had the same problem when deciding what to use. I finally went with a combination of sql-ledger and vtiger and it's actually working out quite well. Of course since there are two main apps there is some redundancy but not too bad. The tiger is for standard sales use and monitoring sales persons progress plus our website is setup to run off of it's products dynamically displaying info and pics of products that meet a certain criteria plus generating invoices the s
  • Try RT (Score:3, Informative)

    by francium de neobie (590783) on Saturday May 12, 2007 @03:36PM (#19098511)
    http://bestpractical.com/rt [bestpractical.com]

    It was what my previous employer used. It has lots of features, and is quite easy to use and setup.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fimbulvetr (598306)
      Easy to use and and setup? Have you seen the dependency list? Have you installed it? Have you admin'd it? It's a nightmare to setup, it's an ongoing battle to keep it setup correctly (read: high maintenance) and it has so many weird and obtuse requirements you'll can really use the box it's setup on for anything else.

      Outside of that it's a good program, but it's anything but easy to setup.
      • The first five or so times, trying to get it installed can be a nightmare. I've posted about RT before, and it does fit a lot of situations well (once you get it installed). Yes, the dependencies are an issue. First time I installed RT I didn't even know what CPAN was. Boy did I get a wake up call.

        About a year ago I wrote my own CRM system to address things RT just didn't have or didn't implement well (like the FAQ Manager addon), and ended up switching all of customer support to the in-house system.
  • The spring 2007 release of Mandriva came with Open Source Compiere that is a combined Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management product. If you look it up in Google you will find lots of info. Wikipedia has an article on it, and several discussions are going on whether it is going to fork into private and open source versions. I looked at it, it appeared to have promise, but did not need it immediately so have not done a deep dive. I liked the fact that it could work with any da
    • by nedigital (148927)
      I'll second the recommendation to take a look at Compiere. My shop has 10 techs. Compiere does about 90% of what we needed right out of the box. For the other 10% we were able to bring in a Java programmer to make the modifications.
    • by Tumbarumba (74816)
      Out of interest, does anyone know how stable it is to run Compiere on Postgres? The main page mentions that Oracle is the only supported database, but it will run on Postgres as an "unsupported" option.

      Joe
  • I'm also in a small shop with four people, we do general network planning and setup for local companies. Personally, I've been investigating the viability of TinyERP [tinyerp.com] for the job. I'd imagine that a lot of the replies received will mention the same packages as in this recent slashdot article. http://ask.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/05/11/21 25226 [slashdot.org]

    I certainly won't cry dupe because I was looking for more discussion on the issue!

  • This question is nice timing for me, too. I'm looking for inventory control systems right now. My wife is about to open a new shoe shop (see http://www.lillifoot.co.uk/ [lillifoot.co.uk]). So, not really the same as computer services, but there are many other things in common. I really need something to help track orders from suppliers, current inventory levels, and sales to work out when we need more stock.

    Wikipedia has a handy list of useful software at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ERP_software_ packages [wikipedia.org]. I'm looki
    • by happy*nix (587057)
      Not a full blown ERP but nolapro is a nice lamp based accounting software. There is inventory tracking POS integration, even a web-store. It handles employee pay, and order tracking. Some parts are not intuitive. (But I'm not a lover of accounting) Speed has been good, it has search as you type (an important feature to me), and other stuff too. Best of all there is a free demo avialable, plus a 30 or 60 day trial. It is a subscription model (kind of a downside) but just $20/month hosted or host your ow
  • Well, this is an opportunity for me to toot my own horn, so to speak. It sounds like what we offer might be a bit overkill for what you need right now but our software, Co-Log/Open [data-net.com] might be something to look at when you want to start integrating portable (and fixed) bar code data collection terminals into your various system. Our products are designed for companies that want to track inventory and labor on shop floors, although it's really a data collection system toolkit. We use our own system internall
  • PSA Software (Score:2, Informative)

    by pjbus (728439)
    What you're looking for is a class of software called "professional services automation". There are several major software packages that are available (both hosted & on-premise). They all handle CRM, time & billing, service ticket tracking, project management, etc. Most integrate with Quickbooks for GL. Connectwise PSA - www.connectwise.com Autotask - www.autotask.com Tigerpaw - http://www.tigerpawsoftware.com/ [tigerpawsoftware.com]
  • As someone else noted, you are looking for PSA systems. AllocPSA is a nice GPL PSA project.

    allocPSA: http://www.allocpsa.org/ [allocpsa.org]
    screenshots: http://sourceforge.net/project/screenshots.php?gro up_id=165183&ssid=57157 [sourceforge.net]

    GNU Enterprise is another: http://www.gnuenterprise.org/ [gnuenterprise.org]
    http://www.gnuenterprise.org/packages/ [gnuenterprise.org]
  • No, it's not OS. But you can do virtually any data-crunching thing with it, and developing on it is insanely easy. For example, you can make changes to the way your system looks and functions without kicking users out. It's multi-platform. You can publish databases to the web (or just create simple 'guest-book' web forms that populate your primary databases) with just a couple of clicks. Imports / exports to spreadsheets, has fancy data-scraping tools (i.e. track packages via UPS, integrate GEO data fro
  • We've (citipacificmortgage.com [citipacificmortgage.com]) developed our own CRM software (swiftlead.com [swiftlead.com]) that is highly customized for mortgage brokers (as well as used by lead providers and branch operations). Things like SugarCRM just aren't really suitable for how most mortgage companies operate. We use Trac and Subversion for our development, LAMP and WAMP to run our application on, google mail and calendar.
  • Vtiger [vtiger.org] is a SugarCRM fork which is IMHO further developed (Sugar seems to have stopped when it went commercial), and in 'further' I include the ability to integrate with practically the whole Office suite. We don't use half of that because we ditched MS Office for OpenOffice.org and, where possible, Open Source we can use instead - the aim is to abandon the Windows platform altogether. (note to Skype: get video to work on Linux).

    Ledger SMB [ledgersmb.org] is a SQL Ledger fork which started out of frustrreation with unadd
    • Part of the reason why we use those specific packages is because we also consider the issue of support and possible outsourcing of any adjustment, bespoke code or improvements.

      It's all jolly well to pick any kind of package that promises the earth and/or has good starting motives, but you are trusting your business to this.

      The packages I listed are the ones we felt it would be possible to either get paid support for if needed, or would offer us the ability to subcontract our needs if we couldn't meet them i
  • by Eil (82413)
    We're writing our own.
  • We're a little bigger then you are, but once you get to a certain number of employees most companies discover that tracking employee attendance and processing payroll becomes a huge burden for them.

    So far we haven't found anything that even comes close to the capabilities of TimeTrex [timetrex.com] and the best thing is that it is open source.

    We save thousands of dollars per year compared to going with the popular payroll outsourcing companies, plus we have some pretty unique needs, so we were able to customize it a
    • by happy*nix (587057)
      A more basic timesheet application I like is timesheet.php (http://www.advancen.com/products/timesheet.html) Take a few minutes to try the demo.
  • Didn't start with phpbb, but unless you have something custom that you're familiar with hanging around it's probably the best place to start. I then added plugins to allow the creation of a status & assignee field to a topic, and ability to sort or filter by either (less than a day's work). Create a board for each client, set the main page to sort boards to show oldest open post assigned to logged in user at the top. What's nice about this system is that we get RSS feeds of open jobs, which is a feat
  • Hi,

    First, whatever you get, it won't do everything you need it to; You'll have to either adapt your company's workflow, or customize the software you choose.

    Second, developing your own is tricky, since it involves lots (and I mean LOTS) of coding and testing cycles (read that as time and resources) and its a bit difficult to justify.

    We're in a different situations: being in a corporation, we have our own CRM, which is sold externally, so for us its a matter of eating our own dog-food.

    Even in this si

  • Its pretty much how I would have designed a CRM - lightweight and very simple to use - generally a pleasure to use. Open-source php and an option of database vendors (mysql mssql etc). I'm no php coder but I still integrate some reporting and make some minor tweeks - it doesn't make enough sense to me for major changes though. http://www.mantisbt.org/ [mantisbt.org] My only BIG want is for out-of-the-box integration with source control.

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