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People first, machines second

A possible starting point

It is hard to tell whether it is the fault of Odoo or the policy of the respective partner. Perhaps it is just one’s personal view on one’s own development or a reflection of what all the projects have in common when you take them over. Maybe it has to do with the fact that, when you receive them, some of the requests or specifications already contain precise functional descriptions. Or maybe it is only a question of a partner’s maturity once he gets involved.

We are quite familiar with this kind of approach from past experience. Quite often, decision-making bodies are present during the workshops, either discussing supposedly missing functions or planning processes and their optimization at the very beginning of an implementation. One of the reasons for these discussions is that the clients are familiar with the processes of the previous system that they regard as the “standard” and are now looking for a new and better “previous system” that covers the standard in the well-known way. Consequently, they now face a situation where implementations, if successful, are more than a little bumpy, consume a lot of support for „remedies“ and, in retrospect, are very difficult to scale.

In a previous blog, we have already discussed our views regarding the definition of the term „standard“, what it is and what it is not.

Our approach

Our approach is quite different, since we align the daily working steps with Odoo. Sometimes this is easier said than actually done. It is not necessarily due to simple habit, but to the fact that in some respects Odoo has a very intelligent and simple approach as well as a novel perspective. Using both actually optimizes efficiency without necessitating subsequent adjustment. However, there a many users who are still looking for their familiar functions and well-known processes in the new tool.

What is Odoo?

Let us step a further step back and ask what exactly does constitute this „novel perspective“.

There are some simplified processes due to the fact that Odoo is an integrated system and not a specialized application or “best-of-breed”-solution. In other words, the focus is on the sharing of information.

As an example, let’s take a look at „Odoo vs Best-of-Breed“: Odoo, of course, maintains a central address book where contacts are kept as customers and/or suppliers. Here, an account may be assigned if the address or contact is either a debtor or creditor. Depending on the subject, one or the other account is used. However, the posting record generated by Odoo is not only used to assign accounts but also to store the link to the partner (i.e. with the address or contact). As an additional advantage, the actual account assignment even includes a general ledger account. The link to the partner may be interpreted as maintaining the sub-ledger. Because it is possible to filter and group quickly and easily in Odoo, a balance on the G/L account or per partner may be displayed or established at any time. With this simple technical trick it is possible, for example, to simplify a monthly statement since there is no balance to transfer.

This is the difference to a best-of-breed solution. Understandably enough, this only represents the facts, not the actual context. In other words, we are working only with the information that pertains to our assignment. In our exemplary scenario, this refers only to the account assignment since we do not know the customer/supplier. Consequently, this information has to be displayed with the on-board resources. This in turn means that we have to create separate accounts for debtors and creditors as this is one of the basic data needed in a posting record. Of course, this entails follow-up issues such as:

a) Accounts have to be created in advance

b) It is essential to ensure that no duplicate accounts are created to avoid splitting the balance. But this task is not easy to accomplish, since accounting is the „executing department“ which is not in contact with the customer and has problems to identify several designations as a single one.

c) At the end of the month, a balance must be transferred as described above to comply with the monthly statement. It is irrelevant whether a system does simplify this function or not, in the case of Odoo it is not necessary.

There are many bigger or smaller examples of this kind in Odoo and across all available modules, from CRM to Finances.


User expectations or impressions of the classical systems are hard to capture, and to find the proper tools within Odoo is one of the challenges during implementation. Meeting this challenge required an excellent knowledge of Odoo, of the typical problems or requirements of the respective subject area as well as the appropriate solution in Odoo.

And as if this is not enough of a challenge, there is one last aspect we need to add: Many clients confuse ERP with a control tool. Among other things, ERP entails the planning of resources and the visualization of workflows between them to be able to make informed decisions. It does not imply, however, that the tool will tell the user what he or she has to do every day. There is no IT solution able to fulfill such a task, since computers are not able to evaluate whether an input is right or wrong.

Another of Odoo’s advantages is its ability to allow document-related communication and to file the various versions in chronological order. Thus, we accomplish a very high transparency in the procedures. It is fair to claim that Odoo contains a structured communication solution. And this is the greatest actual benefit which helps to solve many functions of classical systems.

So what is the solution?

The question “how do we arrive at a solution“ will take us back full circle to our headline.

As a first step to an answer, we need to look that two issues during the analysis phase:

Together with the management we define the objectives for the roll-out. For this purpose, we will establish basic parameters by looking at pre-existing reporting and/or calculations. Subsequently, the employees‘ daily work steps and processes will be recorded for the key users and mapped to Odoo in a further step. This will ensure that the users will actually accept the finalized system.

The essential point is that the focus does not lie on optimization. Instead, we concentrate on implementing an operational system that is actually utilized by its users. As we have already described in the introduction, it is the biggest mistake in many implementations to perform both tasks in only one step. But with two changes at the same time, it is difficult to determine the cause for problems. Is it the optimization that does not fit or the system itself?

Bottom line

Initially, we focus on the people, only then we define new functions or automations and integrate them into the overall process. Because if the new system does not achieve the desired effect or causes subsequent issues, the fault need only be traced to the last modification.

Even smaller companies are certain to achieve this objective. It is even more important here not to add any changes, new functions or automations, since every extension will deprive Odoo of its flexibility. It is not the ERP system that necessarily has to adapt here which may only be achieved by fewer functions and thus a higher transparency anyway. Above a certain size it is even more difficult, especially since company policy is involved.

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