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Interview (RH) : Ned Lilly, CEO of xTuple, answers our questions

bsoco : xTuple is ERP that includes CRM. Am I right that you prefer to integrate the CRM / ERP package together as one single solution?

Ned Lilly : Yes. Most people would tell you CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. At xTuple, we'd say the C stands for "Corporate," including relationships with anyone with whom you do business - vendors, partners, competitors, etc. But regardless, CRM systems mainly track communications interactions with these people, both pre- and post-sales.

We would say that CRM is a subset of ERP, which is by definition one database that incorporates all your business activity related to customers, vendors, products, time, and accounting. So it is definitely preferable to have that in a single integrated solution, as opposed to two different systems that might not always be connected or in sync.

bsoco : Can we say that you are the world learder in opensource ERP ?

Ned Lilly : Yes, in fact I've attached our logo, which includes the phrase "World's #1 Open Source ERP".

We measure that claim based on our community engagement and customer satisfaction. And xTuple leverages that enviable position into market leadership for the wide gap between desktop accounting such as QuickBooks and “Big ERP” such as Oracle.

bsoco : On one hand xTuple is Open Source on the other hand it is not for free. Could you tell us more about it ?

Ned Lilly : xTuple comes in several Editions. The core of the product is called xTuple PostBooks, and it is available free and open source from Sourceforge and many other places around the Internet. It has been downloaded over one million times, and translated into over 25 languages by open source community members around the world. People can - and do - run their whole business on the free PostBooks Edition without ever having a business relationship with us.

But for companies that require more advanced functionality, and/or a professional support relationship with the vendor who created the software, we have other Editions of the product which are available under a commercial license (still source code, but not free). You can see a comparison of the different Editions at www.xtuple.com/comparison.

bsoco : What type of business can implement your solution and what is the benefit for them ?

Ned Lilly : Our software is used by all kinds of businesses - it includes accounting, CRM, sales, purchasing, time and expenses, project management, inventory control, manufacturing, and distribution. The kind of companies who get the most benefit the most quickly are inventory-based businesses, simply because their operations are more complicated, and there are so many ways we can save them money. So that would mean manufacturing, distribution, retail type businesses. But we use the software ourselves, and we are not an inventory business - we use the accounting, CRM and sales, time and project management.

The benefits come from having real-time information about your customers and other business partners, and being able to act on that information to make the right decisions to grow the business. ERP and CRM software, properly implemented, can help companies sell more, increase customer satisfaction, save money, and operate more profitably.

bsoco : Isn't it better for a commercial director to use a pure player CRM, to get more info about sales and less after sales monitoring?

Ned Lilly : It is true that there are products that have more specialized CRM functionality than us, but I would say that we have most of the major functional areas covered pretty well. The greater value, I think, is a CRM that is fully integrated with the rest of the business from the beginning. It is much easier for a company using xTuple to add additional specialized CRM functionality on top of their fully-integrated xTuple system, than it would be for a company to integrate two different CRM and ERP packages, and keep that integration stable through all the upgrades and operations of the two different systems. It's not impossible - people do it all the time - but is more work, more expense, and more risk.

bsoco : What is xTuple's mobile strategy ?

Ned Lilly : We are the only ERP vendor I know (open source or proprietary, worldwide) that has committed to making its full application available in a next-generation mobile web client. Our "classic" system is a Desktop-based application that runs natively on Windows, Mac, or Linux - but the new Mobile Web client is a super-fast, Javascript/HTML5 app that was designed for tablets and smartphones. The best thing is, the two clients (Desktop and Mobile Web) are completely interoperable with the same back-end database. So the sales people could use the Mobile CRM app out in the field to manage their opportunity pipeline, issue quotes and even sales orders with live information about inventory availability, customer order/credit status, etc. And the accounting people back at the office can continue to use the Desktop app for their daily work, all on the same system. People can get a free trial of both the Desktop and Mobile Web clients, on a hosted cloud system, by signing up at http://www.xtuple.com/free-trial