Definition: Business Partners are people or organizations with which you exchange money, goods or services. Business partners can be customers, vendors, employees, external sales representatives, external purchasing agents, etc…
The fact that there is no “Customer List”, “Vendor List” or “Employee list” in iDempiere and ADempiere sometimes confuses people. You just need to remember to look in the Business Partner window to find these resources. Any given business partner record an be flagged as a customer and/or vendor and/or employee. This means that any business partner can be all three.
You are not required to mix your customers and vendors. Instead you can create a “Joe’s Barber” that is flagged as a customer. This customer might have a customer Search Key of “CUST-1001”. You can also have the same business, “Joe’s Barber”, flagged as a vendor using a different record. The vendor record might have a vendor Search Key of “VEND-1005”.
Deciding whether to merge your business partners should be a conscience decision. Do you want your AP transactions offsetting your AR transactions when calculating your Business Partner’s credit limit? Are you OK with with your AR Clerk seeing AP transactions during the payment/invoice allocation process? You can see discussions and demonstrations of this topic here.
How you flag a business partner determines where the business partner can be used. For example, if you flag someone as a Vendor, then you can create an Invoice (Vendor) record for that business partner. You can create an Invoice (Customer) for an organization flagged as Customer. You can assign a Sales Order => Sales Representative to a business partner flagged as Sales Representative.
A Business Partner can have zero to many contacts and zero to many locations. Typically, most business partners have at least one contact and location.
Typical Business Partner
The typical business partner is a company or organization. The company name will exist in the Business Partner window => Business Partner tab. You will create a contact in the Business Partner window => Contact(User) tab for each person that exists in the organization. If the company has multiple locations, create a Business Partner window => Location tab record for each physical location. You can choose to link a Contact(User) to a Location is you wish. This link is not required.
Saving Individuals as a Business Partner
If you operate a web-store that sells to consumers, many of your customers probably will not have business names. In this case, you simply create a business partner record whose name equals the name of the customer. You also create a contact that bears the same name. Admittedly, this is situation a little redundant; however, this structure will not cause you an issue, and the data model supports a wide variety of business partner scenarios.
Saving Employees as a Business Partner
Creating Employee business partners follows the same pattern as saving individuals. Both the Business Partner tab and the Contact(User) tab will contain the same name. While learning iDempiere, you might consider adding a ” BP” to the end of the Business Partner => Name field. For example, the “Chuck Boecking” business partner would read “Chuck Boecking BP”. This approach helps you understand when the system is referencing the Business Partner or the Contact(User) employee record.
If you would like a tab-by-tab and field-by-field explanation of the Business Partner window, I recommend you try the ERP Academy iDempiere Training program. It combines recorded explanations as well as live discussion about the Business Partner topic.