Customization, no one wants it (almost) everyone has it

​Is changing your ERP-system a good idea? It is a question that has kept me occupied from the moment I started implementing ERP-systems 25 years ago. People have asked me this question repeatedly and I have repeatedly changed my view.

My gut instinct says: "No, don't touch this and keep it simple". The world is not always simple though and I believe changing your ERP-system can be a good idea. Customization enables companies to adapt their ERP system to their exact needs, making the system more compatible, user-friendly and efficient. It also allows companies to adapt more quickly to changes in their industry or add new features as needed.
ERP-systeem ​

In almost every sales pitch I have had, it is immediately stated that customization is not desired and that the company wants to work completely standard. They often say this before their processes have been properly mapped out and it is not yet known whether Odoo (or any ERP System for that matter) is suitable for their purpose. Anyway, the customer doesn't want it and my starting point is always that you should avoid it. But, it can't always be avoided...and that's okay!

My position is therefore that customization is something that no one wants, but that almost everyone has it.

Why is that? What is the impact on the implementation and maintenance of Odoo? Let's dive into that.

Why would I need customization?

Customization is useful when the standard functionality in Odoo is not covering your business processes and it is not viable for you to change them. By chaning Odoo you can expand on the functionality of Odoo and adjust it to the needs of your business. It will allow you to create functionality that is no available in the standard Odoo-Apps. It can help you streamline your business processes, increase productivity and reduce costs.

What I often see when we Implement Odoo, is that the change in an ERP System is more than changing software. It also calls for changes in the way people work. And this transition isn't always easy for everyone involved. In these cases, it is sometimes easier to change the software than to change people.

Even though it is often better to avoid customization, sometimes there is no better way to move the project forward. Often these costumizations are removed in the long term when users start to understand the new software better.

Does Odoo not support all business processes?

No, Odoo does not support all business processes. Odoo is an incredibly versatile platform and can be used to manage many different processes, but it will not always cover the processes specific to your company. It might also be that Odoo does support the process, just not in the way your company needs.

Although it is often said that the company and people will adapt to the software, this is not always possible in practice.

What can be customized in Odoo?

Odoo is a highly customizable platform, which allows users to customize almost every aspect of their system, such as the website, webshop, accounting, CRM, HR, sales and project modules. Odoo also offers a wide range of options to customize the user interface, workflow, data storage and reporting.

The user interface is one of the most important aspects of ERP customization. This entails changes to the "look and feel" of the ERP-system. The user interface could be changed to improve navigation, show specific data or add new functionality. By customizing the user interface, the organization can make their ERP-system more user friendly and intuitive.

It is also possible to adjust the functional operation of the software or create something completely new. With customization, the possibilities are endless, which makes it very powerful, but is also a pitfall.

For connecting to other systems customization may be required. When the connection is initiated from Odoo and there is no existing connector, you will require customization. Additionally if the other system is using the Odoo API to connect you will still have to be careful that your changes do not effect this other application that is no dependant on Odoo. Not to mention changes Odoo might make to the API in future versions.

But we have Odoo Studio, right?

Yes, using Odoo studio you can do wonderful things. But you can also break Odoo because the user doesn't understand how Odoo works. 

We as an Odoo implementation partner have a love-hate relationship with Odoo Studio. One thing is certain, if you are going to make customization through software development by a programmer, don't use Odoo Studio. Combining software development with Odoo Studio is not a good idea. 

Read our blog Why Odoo Studio is not the holy grail?

What about the apps in the Odoo App Store?

The Odoo App Store offers a variety of apps that can be used to extend the functionality of Odoo. These apps extend the functionality of Odoo and make it possible to link Odoo with other applications and services. Many apps are free, but more and more apps have to be paid for.
The quality of these third party apps ranges from excellent like apps maintained by the Odoo Community Association, to very bad, with developers trying to get a one-time quick win.

The real downside of the Odoo App Store is that no quality control is done by Odoo itself. This makes it easy to post bad apps that may look nice but give you a headache to deploy and maintain.

Read our blog Why we stopped using Apps from the Odoo App Store?

What about customization and updates?

Odoo supports 3 versions maintained at the same time, so that means when Odoo 16 is released, Odoo will also support Odoo 14 and 15, but support for Odoo 13 has stopped.

So preferably you will migrate every year (migrations get easier if you keep up with the pace and maybe customizations can be removed in favor of standard functionality) but at least once every 3 years. In those 3 years a lot will change in Odoo. That is not only functionality being added (or removed), but will also consist of technical updates, to enable Odoo to scale more. Those technical changes and the change in the functional logic make it a requirement to also update the customization you have.

And yes, updating your customization costs money. Don't let this be a surprise and budget these costs from the start. These costs have to be part of the cost and benefits analysis we advise you to do every time you require customization.

Is customizing Odoo a good thing or a bad thing?

To answer this question, we need to define what value the customization brings to the business. It is important here that it must bring value to the company and not just to one individual. Many people are looking for a button that does all their tasks automatically, but that is not a realistic value.

Modifications entail costs in development and maintenance. And like everything in a commercial business, all investments must be earned backWhen I look at the Odoo Experts customers, we see that the majority have done minor tweaks and these minor tweaks have mostly been done because it makes the way they work easier. Larger customizations are done due to missing features for their type of business.

As an Odoo partner you have to be transparent about the advantages and disadvantages of customization and by being open, people understand what it will bring them and what the costs will be at the start of Odoo, but also in the coming years. By being transparent, everyone can make their own assessment of whether customization is really necessary. We as Odoo Experts will always advise and challenge you.

I imagine you might want to know more about this topic. Feel free to contact me here if you have any questions

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Customization, no one wants it (almost) everyone has it
Erwin van der Ploeg April 18, 2023
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