WHAT MAKES ODOO DIFFERENT?

Although we have covered many of the differences between Odoo and other systems in previous blog articles, there are a few essential features where Odoo uses a novel approach. That is sufficient reason to highlight some of these features. In some cases, these elements even replace classic functions, and you may not immediately find specific functions in Odoo simply because they look looks unfamiliar. In other instances, Odoo uses approaches that are fundamentally different. In this blog, I would like to concentrate on Integrated Communication and different View Types of a process, and the option to flexibly combine Groups and Filters.

On the surface, the masks and workflows in Odoo primarily look cool and intuitive. They entail a noticeable reorganization of the daily work processes of its users. Because integrated communication is different, it requires many users to re-think. Basically, however, it is similar to working in Outlook.

The necessary first step here is, of course, to create confidence that the system is actually working. Once you have achieved that, you can start the process of getting used to it.

But let us first discuss the individual features that make Odoo different. Mind you, Odoo did not invent any of them, but rather re-discovered them and integrated them in their unique interpretation of “ERP.”

Integrated communication and version management

The first guiding principle is that communication and version management of a transaction are treated equally. It actually makes sense from the point of view that versions or changes within a process either trigger or are triggered by an exchange of correspondence. This is demonstrated in the so-called “Chatterbox“ below or next to each transaction (depending on screen size and resolution).

Odoo’s option of internal or external integrated communication, regardless of process, type of process, transaction, or master data record, and a readily available follow-up system is implemented more consistently than in any other system I know.

In other words, in addition to the customary points of transfer in any ERP system (order generates reservation, reservation generates delivery, logged times generate billing, invoiced times generate bookings, etc.) Odoo has added a communication system that treats almost everything as some kind of ticket while maintaining communication and versioning in a transparent and chronological order.

So far, we have only known this kind of workflow from CRM or ticket systems, where it is limited to these specific areas of application. Subsequent processes follow the classic route, with Outlook and a connector or some other kind of integration. The consequence, however, is that it is the user who decides which communication is relevant and should be attached, or if the information cannot be displayed chronologically for versioning, since the time of uploading is not or does not have to be synchronous with the change of the transaction.

Since the user is able to distinguish between external and internal exchange of information, it is also possible to include internal queries, releases, and reviews in the chronology. In other words, the versions of a document can be traced completely and reliably, at least in theory, and if the process has been followed scrupulously.

This is a huge opportunity, but often also a huge step to take.

View types

The first thing a user sees when calling up something in his ERP system is a list – the   classic concept. If he then clicks on a data record, he is presented with the details in one single view. Odoo, however, takes it a step further and offers various view types, including list, single view, diagram, Gantt, calendar, Kanban, and Pivot.

This means that for each entity (entities can be customers, quotations, orders, deliveries, reorder levels, tasks, invoices, etc.), the system defines at least one list and one single view, and more, if necessary. The user may switch between all available view types. Since grouping options are also included (which will be discussed in the following section), this option can be used for orientation and mass processing, but also for analysis.

Orientation

By default, Products, for example, are not opened as a list but in a Kanban view. Kanban appears to be intuitive since humans can process images faster than lists. This is easily understandable since every list provides a flood of information that a user needs to recognize before processing it.

Let us look at an example:


As a list, the same example would look like this:


And we all know that other systems sometimes provide not only seven columns as above but sometimes 15 to 20 or even more.

But even for this example, it becomes clear that orientation in a Kanban list is much more convenient. And you have to admit it looks much more attractive!

Analysis

Other applications prove that the concept of view types is very well thought out indeed:

  • Frequently, we receive the question: How do I see when to expect my delivery? à The answer is quite simple: you go to inventory, then on outgoing or incoming deliveries, switch to the calendar view, and – voilà!
  • Other questions are: Where can I find my turnover? Which products are the strongest? How do my best customers develop? à You simply switch to the chart or pivot view in your invoices (or orders, depending, of course, on your access rights and the data you are interested in) and group according to product groups, customers or customer groups.

Mass processing

Again, the Kanban view sometimes provides unexpected solutions for your problem. Let us assume the following issue: An account manager has left the company, and a new one takes over this area of responsibility. What is the best – and easiest – way to technically implement this transition? The first option is to export the data, generate an update in Excel, and re-import into Odoo (refer to our last blog regarding exports and mass updates). The other option is to open your Contacts (the default view already is Kanban), group by Salesperson, and drag & drop each contact from the former colleague’s column to the new one.

Here is an example based on the Odoo demo data:



The filter is set to Companies, grouped by Salesperson. Unfortunately, there is only one in our demo data. Here, you would have to move each card from the “Undefined” column to “Mitchell Admins.”

Quality control

Everyone complains about data quality. This is an important issue, regardless of whether the system is integrated or docked since, in both cases, the collected and connected data have to be useable for analysis or marketing purposes.

During implementation or first usage, customers usually notice that some fields are supposedly missing in Odoo (first and last name are the absolute classics here). This is followed by the equally steadfast request to solve this problem with – mandatory fields. Again and again, customers tell us that Odoo does not have enough of them. Their first reaction to this apparent deficiency is to ask for more (especially regarding another timeless classic – the address). However, these demands are based on misinterpretation. We will discuss this problem in more detail in our next blog.

In any case, it is safe to conclude that more fields and more input lead to less intuitiveness. But this does not necessarily result in better data quality. The more mandatory fields there are, the more rigid the system, and, subsequently, the less confidence in the results. The only remaining approach is the introduction of work processes to control the quality and plausibility of the data.

Now we have come to the point where view types come back into play since they provide the most effective way to solve our problem. In the process, filters are used to create and group appropriate criteria of data records that need to be reviewed. Via the Kanban view, the user immediately sees which values are too high or inconsistent, and correct them directly via drag & drop. He can also, via the follow-up tool integrated within the system’s core, forward them to another colleague for review.

Filters and groups

Not much to tell here. Everyone can use filters, it’s much the same as in other systems. Filters are filters, there is little that you can do for worse or for better. Whether you implement a bar of filter options above a list (as many do) or a search line where the user types in his query à la Google and the respective options pop-up in a vertical window, there is not much difference, at least in my opinion.

It is much more interesting to see that there is a grouping option in Odoo next to the Filters:



With this option, you can freely aggregate or filter your selection of data records. If you want to review your turnover by month, you only need to group by order date. All view types are based on this principle, i.e., the list view groups the data by directory, as in the file browser. Here is another simple example, again based on the Odoo demo data:



If you switch to the diagram view, you will get another report:



or the pivot view:



Theoretically, it does not end here, you can, obviously, group and change views to your heart’s content.

In other systems, reporting is usually outsourced, while in Odoo, it is integrated and immediately available at every point.

Conclusion

It is always possible to make things complicated, but if they can be done simply, why not? The tools described above have been consistently integrated into all areas by now. In our opinion, they are quite easy to apply and – most importantly – to combine. These are the kind of solutions, where IT does justice to its basic task of being supportive rather than causing new problems for the user that he would not have without them.

31 August, 2020
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