For many customers, Odoo as their next ERP system is a fairly simple choice. The software is robust, customizable, user friendly, and affordable. After making the decision that Odoo is the right software package, you need to put together a plan for how to implement it.
There are over 1500 official Odoo partners across the globe, and likely two times that freelance developers who advertise their services online but are not officially partners with Odoo. The choice of the wrong partner to implement a new ERP system can spell disaster for your project and cost the company precious time and money.
According to the Harvard Business Review, IT projects are particularly prone to failure:
Given the understanding that this decision can in many cases be "make or break" I've decided to outline a few of the things that all customers should consider when choosing their partner:
Official Odoo Partner Ranking
Experience of the Partner with "must have" Concepts
Size of the Implementation Team
Location of the Partner
Service Estimates and Pricing
Official Partner Ranking per Odoo
Odoo ranks it's partners in a very transparent fashion on their website. The partner ranking is only part of the story on understanding the partners credentials but it is in fact something worth understanding. Most notably missing from these rankings is an evaluation of the quality of the partners work.
In many respects Odoo is unable to judge whether the partner has a quality implementation program. For that reason, this is only one of the metrics a customer should use to evaluate which partner to choose. We have seen both good and bad implementations from "Gold" partners and we have also seen "Ready" partners put forward terrific projects. The quality of the project is simply not represented in the number of licenses sold.
I would caution anyone from doing an implementation with a partner who is not officially recognized by Odoo. A freelancer may have the technical ability to complete the project but the truth is they will be on their own with no backstop if things go off the rails.
An Odoo official partner commits to:
- Train their staff by following Odoo training sessions
- Pass the Odoo Certification test
- Have dedicated resources assigned to Odoo projects
- Be available for regular meetings with Odoo account managers
- Be the 1st level of support for the client & use Odoo as a 2nd level of support
- Promote Odoo Enterprise in their region
Experience of Vendor with "Must Have" Concepts
ERP implementation is a difficult business. The projects are long, and can be very complicated. When evaluating partners ask how long they have been in business, how many implementations they have completed and if they have specific examples of projects that compliment yours.
There are partners who specialize in certain industries and usually will tell you that up front during the interview process. It's fair to be weary of a partner who has never successfully implemented the module or feature that you need.
Beware of the development first partner. We have seen poorly constructed systems with custom code that was meant to "hard code" configuration that is possible out of the box with Odoo. In most of these cases, its my opinion that the complexity of configuring the system was set aside because it was easier to just code in the desired settings. This can cause a big problem in the future when the business needs change.
Size of the Implementation Team
Evaluating the size of a vendor is an important component in deciding whether they are the right fit for you. A team that is too small may not be able to meet the demands of your enterprise. A team that is too large may be impersonal and difficult to work with.
I don't feel like there is a right answer here, but I do know you want to have a strong personal relationship with your ERP consultants. I can't think of anything worse than calling a 1-800-Support number and trying to explain a customization or workflow that was completed two years ago. The right size vendor will know you and your needs and be able to respond quickly to your situation.
Location of Vendor
In the world of Zoom meetings and Stay at Home mandates the location of a vendor is less important than it used to be. Most companies are comfortable doing remote project meetings and some really prefer it. Remote implementation can absolutely lower the cost of implementation by not incurring the travel expense. However consider that regional differences in culture and time zone differences in talent do matter.
Remember what I said in the beginning, PEOPLE are the reason these projects fail, usually not the software.
My suggestion is to discuss with the team what hours they normally work, and how often you will meet live. Tutorials and emails will only get you so far in implementing Odoo. A quality implementation requires weekly if not daily meetings to complete. If the vendor cannot meet at that frequency you may need to consider a partner closer to you.
Estimates and Pricing
With a project of this size, the price always matters. There are several different ways that ERP implementation services are priced and I will outline those in another post soon. However, you need to find a partner who is willing to invest time into developing a customized estimate. The partner should be able to spend time on the front end learning the requirements of the project and come back with an estimated level of effort.
Here are a few questions you should consider asking:
What will happen if the project isn't finished on time?
What will happen if I am dissatisfied?
How often will I be billed?
Can I get a discount for pre-payment?
How will I be billed after my system is live?
The answer to these questions should help you to understand the partner's fit for your organization. The great news about Odoo vs. many competitors is that you are never "married" to your partner. The customer is always in control of who they choose to work with for their success. If a partner leaves you with something to be desired, you can shop again for a replacement!
Ask the partner what sort of documentation you can expect throughout the process. Regardless of whether you plan to write custom modules, the partner needs to provide you with a basic level of process documentation. Odoo, while very user friendly, can be complex. Products, for example, when configured incorrectly will not create inventory valuation journal entries. If a new user comes to your company, you need to be able to share the importance of these settings with them in a clear and concise way.
Throughout the course of the implementation you will share some of the most detailed business practices and they will attempt to match those with the proper settings. After finishing their work, you should leave the project with some written processes and critical settings that are shared within your organization.
At SSI, our preferred way of doing this is on our wiki where we store all of the details for the customer forever in a secure website that can be used by your whole company. Other partners might share this information with you via a Word Document or similar. Whatever the format, you need to leave the project with a list of the critical components to your success in writing.
References are one of the easiest ways to verify that a partner has reputable experience. During the interview process, ask the partner to refer you to a different customer who compliments your business processes and has recently completed their implementation. This simple step can save you a considerable amount of frustration and money in the future.