The predicament for modern ERPs: to customize or to standardize?

I’m writing this note in response to Dwight Fischer’s post on ERP trends for Education. Dwight is CIO at Dalhousie University, and IT leader among his Canadian peers. There have been conversations, also largely led by ERP vendors such as Ellucian and Oracle, about the cloudification of ERP systems (or so-called Student Information Systems). Software vendors are interested in selling subscriptions (i.e. recurring revenues), while they can provide economies of scale on the hosting side, as well as more OpEx and less CapEx for universities.

Although this sounds like the future is happening before our eyes, one of the major obstacle has been the wide variety of modules installed by universities and colleges. No one seems to agree on the same bundle of modules, and if we add the custom modifications to the picture, the standardization of ERPs across institutions (a pre-condition to cloudification) remains only a dream at this point. Dwight advocates that encouraging standardization is the natural course of action for CIOs.

I wanted to make two simple points:

  1. the value of ERPs comes precisely from customization
  2. customization is affordable (and desirable) when industry best practices are followed

I’m drawing from the savoir-faire of the Free/Open Source Software community, widely used across industries (80% of the software is open source), and in particular from the ERP practice at Savoir-faire Linux. In the last four years, we helped more than 50 customers digitized their practices, while leveraging Odoo, the Open ERP.

odoo_ca_white

I’m also sharing what I learned from my own experience at the Ontario Ministry of Education, helping school boards share their IT services. Over several years, IT teams across organizations learned to collaborate in progressively sophisticated ways. Today, they accomplish more together than they could ever have done in silos.

Here is my response to Dwight:

Thanks for the post Dwight. Great summary of the disruption happening in the ERP industry. One idea I would challenge though is that standardization is a good thing for ERPs. Since the role of ERPs is to digitize (and enforce) business processes, standardization may only work for an organization with standard processes, but is there any? For the regular guy or gal, it may mean some gymnastics to fit what the software thinks he or she should be doing in an utopian organization, thus a lack of adoption at best, and a lack of productivity at worse. It sounds counter-intuitive to me, since adoption of IT technologies (and responding to user needs in particular) is the top factor explaining the software crisis we’re experiencing since the 60’s. Projects go over budget, over time, or don’t deliver on expectations (in some cases it’s all the above). Can we meet user needs with a standard/generic ERP?

Most of the customers we’re helping with their digitization actually find more value in custom-fitting the software to their needs, and not the other way around. Although buyers think about software first, they quickly find out the whole purpose of the ERP implementation is about increasing productivity in their organization. We identify and we avoid processes that are not mature, to focus on those processes that are mature and time-consuming. The business case is easy to make when we can show that FTE time can be spared in some area, so that it can be focused where it should be: serving students better (possibly more interaction and customer service). In the end, the ERP pays for itself rather quickly. It does so when it supports people in their tasks, vs asking them to work differently.

I would agree that making modifications on school ERPs has led to complexity and exponential costs. Primarily that is because IT teams have been working in silos. The industry practice is to collaborate on software development, thus outsourcing and lowering the maintenance cost. The Linux operating system is a good example. You find it in Android phones, data centres, Samsung TVs, networking gear (Cisco, GE, Brocade, etc), planes, cars, public clouds (e.g. 25% of the Microsoft Azure workloads), now Blackberry… In the end, the cost of maintenance is very low for a single organization, and near zero for a university and college (most work being handled by Intel, Microsoft, Google, and companies like Savoir-faire Linux). Companies compete on areas of differentiation and core competencies, while cooperating on the non-essential. The same can apply to ERPs in education. Why keeping these customizations secret, when someone else is out there to help you pick up the tab? It is only a matter of collaboration and managing code repositories effectively. This is what the Odoo Communication Association members, for example, are aiming to do. There is no secret. Collaboration is key!

When it comes to ERP implementation, you can have your custom cake, you can eat it too with your friends, and you can still pay for it.

Toronto Magazine: Activities for February

This month Savoir-faire Linux celebrates its first 100 days in Toronto. By engaging with the community early on, we have demonstrated our commitment to the people of Ontario, and laid the foundation for open innovation to play a major role in the digitization of businesses and cities. And we’ve just started to pick up speed! Savoir-faire Linux invites everyone to join a critical conversation every week to improve productivity and accessibility.

Downtown Toronto skyline at night
Photo: Rick Harris via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Feb. 17: Odoo Meetup (the community-driven ERP)

Odoo Toronto MeetupMaxime Chambreuil, co-founder and Board member of the Odoo Community Association, is organizing a second session of this monthly meetup on open source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). We are inviting everyone to consider joining this community. It’s an open group and everyone who valuable thoughts and/or knowledge to share about Odoo and ERPs is welcome to contribute.

Join and register now

Please check and register also our community website (http://odoo.ca) where you will find more information and resources about Odoo and the organizers.


Feb. 24: Toronto OpenStack Meetup

OpenStack Toronto LogoOpenStack is the gold standard for cloud computing. Jonathan Le Lous, VP Cloud Infrastructure and Business Development at Savoir-faire Linux, is a leader in the French OpenStack community and an active speaker and organizer in the Montreal OpenStack community. Rather than starting another group in Toronto we approached the local OpenStack community to revive their meetups, and Jonathan will talk this month about OpenStack deployments in Canada.

Join and register now


March 1st: Digital Accessibility in Ontario

march1st-logoAt this lunch & learn, we will hear Mike Gifford, official Drupal 8 Core Accessibility Maintainer, Founder and President of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, speak about Accessibility in Ontario. Accessibility is inherently the result of an open and inclusive ecosystem. Open Source technology — and Drupal in particular — provide great examples of community-driven projects improving accessibility.

Register now

Toronto Businesses are prime for Digitization

CN TowerThe Toronto area is becoming a top spot for tech innovation. While the IT sector is propelling industry transformation, business owners are still struggling to capture the benefits of digitizing their business. What are the IT trends that really matter? When is the right time to digitize processes? Which solutions fit the business best? How to best use technology to maximize your investment?

Business digitization boosts competitive edge

John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, working with the Tech community at TechTOFirst of all, we should rejoice that technological innovation is booming in Toronto, in Ontario, and Canada. John Tory’s speech at TechTO last week was all about supporting local start-ups — many of those among the 400 attendants at City Hall — and Cisco’s launch of its Innovation Centre. The week before, the Ministers of International Trade and Small Business and Tourism announced a new export program funded with $50 million.

Combined with a lower loonie, this initiative can help Canadian businesses gain a strong competitive edge. Southern Ontario is becoming a powerful tech corridor, very similar to the iconic Silicon Valley, from Kitchener-Waterloo through Toronto to Ottawa. The region ranks fourth behind California, New York, and Texas, in terms of finance and technology strength. At the same time, the latest report from Oxfam raises concerns about growing inequalities. The 62 richest individuals control as much wealth as the bottom half of the humanity. The wealth of the poorest dropped by 40% in the last five year, and the gap between the extremes keeps increasing: there were six times more people at the very top in 2010. Chances are small business owners fit closer to the bottom half.

Every company is a tech company

Small businesses are the strength of Canada, amounting for 98.2% of Canadian business (i.e. under 100 employees). They account for more than 25% of the country’s GDP, and more than 30% of R&D spending. Small businesses also employ close to 70% of the total private labour force. With such profile, it is clear that small businesses are at the root of business digitization and country digitization.

Cover picture of 'Bold', book authored by Peter Diamandis, on business digitizationToday, every company is a tech company. Every business leader needs to understand the opportunities described in books such as Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Bold. Small businesses can indeed apply simple lessons immediately to stop paying too much in some areas, and to figure out where to start investing more. The barriers of entry in technology have never been lower. Now is the time to lead or to survive.

Let’s explore together, starting by sharing our experience with ERPs. Three years ago, Savoir-faire Linux migrated to Odoo, a Free/Open Source Software ERP. As far as I can see (as a standard user), it replaces expensive solutions from ORACLE and SAP that handle expenses and procurement, but it does much more than that. Odoo handles our accounting, invoicing, and hiring too.

A couple of weeks ago, I’ve been pulled seamlessly into a workflow to review a job candidate. The interface is beautiful and responsive, with a social component that allows teams to communicate effectively. It’s working well, and so we should be soon migrating more data from SugarCRM to Odoo. Yes, Odoo does CRM too!… and e-commerce, and much more. This comprehensive solution saves us a lot by avoiding duplication of records and saving time.

Even better — it is free software.
Why is that better?

Free Software is often referred as Open Source Software, or Free/Libre Open Source Software (to skip the subtle difference). The first advantage is that downloading useful software is free (as you might be familiar with Firefox or Chrome on your PC, and with apps on your mobile). However, free means more than free of charge, since at the same time it warrants four freedoms including the right to use the software, and the right to study it so you can modify it.

Empowered by this right, our team localized Odoo with a Canadian chart of accounts, tax configurations, interaction with Canadian banks… and we made it free (thanks to the last two freedoms), so that any Canadian business can leverage it with the same freedoms. In addition, Savoir-faire Linux is leading meetups (communities of practice) in Montreal and Toronto.

Some will ask where is the catch with free software, and whether it makes business sense. There is no trick. It is just a different business model.

The Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) model is at the core of the most successful businesses we know. Not only Google, Facebook, Apple, Tesla use open source (not reinventing the wheel), but they contribute back to the FLOSS ecosystem to gain traction and adoption (e.g. Apple Swift, Microsoft .Net, Google Android). To take an example from Peter Diamandis’ book, the Linux project has evolved into a $30 billion dollar ecosystem, whereby Linux is present in data centres, cars, planes, phones, TVs…

Small Business in the captain seat

In addition to FLOSS ‘the product’, there is also FLOSS ‘the methodology’ which inspired the modern software industry (distributed team, agile methods, DevOps). Small businesses can leverage the same products and techniques that made large businesses successful.

We’re talking about putting Small Businesses in the captain seat. The challenge is real to our mindset, wrongly educated to fit the business around whatever technology was available off-the-shelf. We know the results in the ERP business: costly and challenging implementations leading to project delays and more cost overruns.

If branded products are not cheap, servicing them is not cheaper because certified professionals command high daily rates. In comparison, working with Free Software is a little like cabinet making. You buy the materials (some of it is freely available, other you have to finance e.g. servers, hosting, premium subscriptions), and then you call the local entrepreneur to assemble everything to fit your needs. Naturally, you always have the option to do it yourself. It’s not about the product, it’s about making it work for your company!

Savoir-faire Linux, Best Odoo Partner of Americas!

Savoir-faire Linux’ Odoo team (formerly OpenERP) learned yesterday, with a great deal of pride, she had won the Best Odoo Partner Award for the Americas. Three of our colleagues (Maxime Chambreuil, Pierre Lamarche, and Sandy Carter) were present in Louvain, near Brussels, where they participated in OpenDays 2014 this week. They will brink this award back in their luggage early next week. 😉

odoo-best-partner-award-americas

This award is further recognition of our technical expertise and our involvement in the Odoo community. The same day, Maxime was elected as Vice-President of the Odoo Community Association alongside Joël Grand-Guillaume (from Camptocamp) who was elected president.

As for Pierre Lamarche, which received the Odoo v7 certification recently (and after our colleague Marc Cassuto), he obtained the highest score of the PoS Workshop one day before. 🙂

Additional links

Maxime’s presentations on Slideshare

Our Social Media Sources

Odoo Community Association: First General Assembly on June 5th in Louvain

Odoo Community Association▸ Read this press release in: FR | ES | PT | NL

Following the recent announcements made by OpenERP SA, now renamed Odoo, the OpenERP Community Association has decided to rename itself into the “Odoo Community Association” (odoo-community-association.org) and to move its activities from Launchpad to GitHub.

OCA Mission

The OCA mission is to support the collaborative development of the Odoo features, and to promote the widespread use of Odoo by :

  • Helping and promoting the collaborative software development of Odoo;
  • Encouraging the development of Odoo and its features while coordinating and organizing the collaborative work on the software;
  • Assisting the community while defending its interests and the sustainability of its developments;
  • Promoting the use of the Odoo solution;
  • Facilitating synergies, collaborations and fund raising efforts;
  • Actively collaborating on the definition of the roadmaps of new versions of the tool and their implementation.

First OCA General Assembly

During the OpenDays 2014, the first general assembly of charter members will be held on June the 5th at 5:50pm in Hocaille room.

  • The first step to joining the general assembly is by filling the form at http://sflx.ca/ocaga
  • By joining the OCA as a member before the OpenDays, you will make yourself eligible to become a charter member, apply to the first board and elect it.

For more details regarding OCA membership, please visit our web site.

Make your voice heard

The OCA is willing to get your feedbacks and ideas to represent your interests in our next meeting with Odoo. Please fill in the survey available at http://ow.ly/x8n1E

About the OCA

The Odoo Community Association, or OCA, is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the collaborative development of the Odoo features, and to promote the widespread use of Odoo. The association provides financial, organizational and legal support to the broader Odoo Open Source community. It also serves as an independent legal entity to which community members can contribute the code, the funding and other resources, with the knowledge that their contributions will be maintained for public benefit.

▸ More info on odoo-community-association.org
▸ For any questions, please contact oca-board AT lists.launchpad DOT net

OpenERP becomes Odoo

odooBig news from Grand-Rosière, Belgium, this morning:
 

OpenERP is moving into new territories, beyond ERP. Over the past weeks, we released an open source CMS, a disruptive eCommerce and a Business Intelligence engine. Integrating your sales floor with inventory, accounting and manufacturing plant is one thing. But we think modern companies deserve more than this.

Great companies should integrate all their sales channels: point of sale, eCommerce, inbound sales. Great companies need to have strong inbound marketing activities linked to a 360° reporting engine and to their CRM. Great companies need their project management application linked to their timesheets, financial and accounting applications.

With 3.000+ apps, OpenERP is unique. No other product allows such a level of integration out-of-the-box. For these reasons we think it’s time to differentiate OpenERP from traditional ERP players. There is no comparison anymore.

So, we renamed the product and company into “Odoo”.

Read more on odoo.com

Savoir-faire Linux becomes OpenERP Gold Partner in Canada

openerp-gold

Learn more about OpenERP’s advanced features and value-added services provided by Savoir-faire Linux!

Montreal, April 22, 2014 – We are excited to announce that Savoir-faire Linux has been promoted by OpenERP to Gold Partner status. OpenERP is is an integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and a great platform for the development of business applications.This promotion demonstrates the raising adoption of OpenERP in North America.

As an OpenERP partner since 2012 and a contributor of the Canadian localization, Savoir-faire Linux has built a solid team of 20 consultants dedicated to help organizations implementing OpenERP with hosting, training, consulting, development and support services.

Becoming an OpenERP Gold Partner is a great achievement made possible by our customers, our continuing effort with the OpenERP community, and our strong relationship with Igor Cardoso, our Account Manager at OpenERP”, states Maxime Chambreuil, OpenERP Practice Leader at Savoir-faire Linux. “It also demonstrates our involvement and support to OpenERP.”

Savoir-faire Linux is a safe choice for companies looking for an OpenERP integrator in Canada considering their 100+ employees specialized not only on OpenERP, but also on industrial, infrastructure, and enterprise soluions“, says Igor Cardoso. “In addition, they have one of the worldwide Top 3 OpenERP Certified Professional in 2013 in their team.

For small businesses, home offices, national or international organizations, Savoir-faire Linux is the place to go to adapt your OpenERP-based solution to your needs, your budget and your deadline.

For more information, please contact Savoir-faire Linux: savoirfairelinux.com/solutions/en/openerp

ABOUT OPENERP

OpenERP is one of the leading Open Source ERP platforms that cater to multiple customer segments and industry verticals. OpenERP is supported by an active community that has over 400+ partners, 1500 developers and has customers in over 70 countries.

ABOUT SAVOIR-FAIRE LINUX

Savoir-faire Linux is the leading Free/Open-Source Software company in Quebec and Canada. Since 1999, the company has developed a unique expertise which it supplies to companies and public organizations to meet the challenges of information systems in constant evolution. With a multidisciplinary team of 100 consultants in 2014, Savoir-faire Linux delivers services to a customer base of over 500 organizations, including Quebec and Canadian government organizations, major international agencies, industry giants, and SMEs/ SMIs. Silver member of the prestigious Linux Foundation and ISO 9001/ISO 14001 certified, Savoir-faire Linux has a strong presence in the Free Software community.

Launching The OpenERP Community Association

oerpcommunity-logoFive major OpenERP community and business partners have launched this week the OpenERP Community Association, or OCA, a not-for-profit organization based in Switzerland whose mission is to support the collaborative development of OpenERP features, and promote its widespread use. As one of the major North-American partners and contributors of OpenERP, Savoir-faire Linux is naturally one of them.

A Provider Perspective on Mission-Critical Open Source Software Adoption by Organizations

Pr Placide Poba-NzaouProfessor of Information Systems and Human Resources Management at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) Placide Poba-Nzaou will introduce the OpenERP event of the year in Canada next week by providing an overview of his latest research to be published and presented at the 19th Americas Conference on Information Systems in Chicago (AMCIS 2013): “Barriers to Mission-Critical Open Source Software Adoption by Organizations: A Provider Perspective”.

Mission critical Open Source Software (OSS) adoption by organizations is relatively new and the research field related to the issue is new as well. The research team used the Delphi method to investigate barriers to mission-critical OSS adoption as perceived by two panels of experienced providers in France (n= 18) and in Quebec, Canada (n= 11). On average, panelists had 15 years of experience in the software industry including 9 years with open source software. By comparing the barriers selected by each group, zones of concordance and discordance were identified. Finally, the open source adoption literature is complemented by adding new insights to the existing body of knowledge dominated by client perspective alone.

Starting at 1:00 PM this scientific presentation will be followed by a panel discussion with Pr Poba-Nzaou, Marc Laporte (COO of OpenERP) and Christophe Villemer (CEO of Savoir-faire Linux) starting the actual OpenERP Business Model and Partnership Program seminar. Space is limited so please book your seat promptly in order to attend this great event of shared learning and business networking around Open Source Enterprise Resource Planning.

[button color=dark-gray url=http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5973425677]Detailed schedule and free registration on Eventbrite[/button]

The OpenERP event of the year in Canada

Logo OpenERPSavoir-faire Linux is co-organizing the OpenERP event of the year in Canada. This half-day conference on the open source enterprise resource planning (ERP) software OpenERP will be in English, in Montreal, on June 5. This is a unique opportunity for networking and learning for both integrators interested in this solution and its current or potential customers, who will be able to better understand how development and technical support communities work in open mode.

Savoir-faire Linux launched the OpenERP Montreal Meetup last year. This is one of this editor’s most active partners and his only training partner (see Training Centers) in Canada. As a matter of fact, Savoir-faire Linux consultants will deliver half of the conference presentations. Program Summary: Discover the business model of OpenERP s.a., its partnership program, a demo of the latest version of the software and some case studies.

Register now to discover the benefits of a business model based on openness, collaboration, pooling efforts and gains:
 
[button color=dark-gray url=http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5973425677]Detailed schedule and free registration on Eventbrite[/button]