Value Network Software (NRP)
This has been our focus and priority. Still working with Sensorica, now also with Driftless Herbal
Exchange Network, with other networks getting ready to go.
This version of the software came from the open hardware arena, but is becoming more generalized for other types of networks.
It has had several names, but people have been calling it NRP, for Network Resource Planning,
or VAS for Value Accounting System.
You could compare it to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system except that it is not for enterprises
nor is it focused on planning. Or you could compare it to an SCM (supply chain management system) except
that it is not really focused on management, either.
- flexible networks of networks (which can include other organizations that are not networks),
- resource management and recipes,
- planning and coordination for producing, using, exchanging and sharing value,
- tracking events that produce, use, exchange and share value,
- tracking contributions from individual network members of work and resources,
- connecting value streams from idea to manufacture to end use and following them back,
- distributing income according to contributions using "value equation" decided by contributors,
- accounting views for a network, organization, project, individual.
You can find more information here:
Local/Regional Economic Development Software
This one is waiting for the next interested user groups, but the underlying model is pretty much the same as the Value Network Software.
- resource flow models of local economic clusters within a community
- resource maps, radial graphs, network and resource flow diagrams
- as-is vs to-be, gaps, opportunities
This software could also be a higher level view of one or more Value Networks. That idea was proposed by a group in Nova Scotia that,
unfortunately, fell apart. They did use it to analyze the fisheries situation, but had plans for much more.
Food Network Software
We haven't worked on this one for awhile. Two food networks are still using it. A couple of others are looking at it.
If they want it, it's open source, they can use it. But if they want a lot of changes, we would be better off making
our new Value Network software work for food networks, which it could do.
REA: the model behind all our software
REA stands for Resources, Events and Agents. It is the
ISO economic and accounting standard. It can handle any
economic relationships in Internet commerce. We've extended it to handle Value Networks and ecological requirements.
You can read about the concepts here.
And here's an earlier article about Accounting for a new economy.
And here are a bunch of links if you want
to get deeper into the history of REA.
Why traditional ERP and accounting software won't work for networks
The problems we've seen include:
- Internal focus: ERP software is focused on "the corporation". They add other systems to deal with their supply chains, which usually means only their
direct suppliers. And then still other software to deal with their customers, but only their direct customers. A network is seamless, from end
to end and side to side. Everybody is equal, and plays different roles: supplier in this relationship, customer in this one, creator in another.
- Distributing income according to contributions, with no profit for the owner. (Or, no owner at all!) Who gets what? How do you track contributions?
What about different skills? Do you reward time or deliverables? How to rate deliverable quality? Totally foreign to ERP software.
- Practical problems of administration, some that are not handled by programs like QuickBooks, and some that are not handled by very expensive ERP software.
Distributed inventory with different owners. Following value flows through many parties. Lot tracking for food and medicines.
(ERP does the last, QuickBooks doesn't, we do. Neither ERP nor QuickBooks can follow value flows, and distributed inventory is iffy.)
- Transparency and trust, where members of the network want to know the overall shape and often the details of the value flows inside
and around the network. In particular, each member wants to know all of the details of value flows affecting them.
- Resource ownership, management, and sharing. Who owns or manages what? Who can use it? Under what conditions? With what compensation?
- Coordination without command-and-control hierarchies.
Solutions to the administrative and coordination problems are necessary for an economic group to work at all.
Solutions to the transparency and trust problems are necessary for the group to survive and prosper, or often to get organized in the first place.
Solutions to the income distribution and resource sharing problems are necessary to avoid losing contributors.
And if you are focused only on yourself, you are not even a network.
We wrote a much longer article about these problems in the context of food networks in 2009:
Problems of group accounting.
And the big dogs have figured this out, too:
GT Nexus Network of Networks. (Might want to mute your sound before you click that link, but you should peek: they'll tell you
how far we got to go with this stuff.)