This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of WQP as "Modern & Modular"
Clearwater Systems recently spent time researching and choosing a new enterprise resource planning solution, or more commonly known as an ERP software system, to integrate and manage critical business processes, such as finance, manufacturing, retail, supply chain, human resources and operations.
For water treatment dealerships, like Clearwater Systems, there can be even more components. With diverse processes, including equipment sales, retail point-of-sale, field service, water delivery, routes, rentals and multiple locations, it was key for Clearwater to find an ERP system that would cover all the aspects of the organization’s needs and provide an easy transition from their current system to the next. In an effort to standardize all business process throughout their locations, Clearwater Systems needed to have a centralized database where data collection could happen in real-time. In a centralized system, data from various departments and locations could be easily accessed and provide accurate measuring of productivity and profitability.
Odoo is a software suite that enables companies to manage and run their operations more effectively. Their software is open source and cloud-hosted, which provided a cost-benefit due to the reduced investment cost for a cloud-hosted solution, and the minimized licensing fees associated with an open source program. After learning that their current ERP system was being discontinued, Clearwater Systems sought a new ERP system that was evaluated around five aspects:
- Integrated system for all facets of the company;
- Web-based application that can operate on a variety of desktop and mobile operating systems;
- Open-source software that could be modified and customized to their specific needs;
- Implementation that could be done quickly; and
- Implementation and ongoing maintenance costs.
Four ERP systems were evaluated for the change and only one met all needs with high marks. The Odoo ERP platform was selected as it met all these requirements and even with additional costs associated with the customization of the code to specific business processes, it was still the most affordable of the four options considered.
The ERP Solution
Odoo is a versatile and customizable ERP platform that enables both narrowly focused and broadly diverse companies to manage their critical processes more effectively. Additionally, the ERP platform is modular, open-source and cloud-hosted, enabling companies to better integrate and manage their many-faceted business.
There are currently thirty-seven core Odoo modules, each enabling the management of a critical business process. This allows users to pick the modules that best suit their business needs. Additionally, a community of third-party developers has created hundreds of additional modules, allowing for versatility. Accessing a single database, each of the modules are integrated with the others, reducing the redundancy of maintaining multiple software platforms for varying processes within the company.
As open source software, users have full access to the source code, allowing customization of any features or functionality. Additionally, it is possible to create custom modules to cover even the most unique business processes.
Requiring only a web connection, Odoo is server-based software, allowing 24/7, 365 access from any location or device. Companies are free to deploy Odoo to their SPEserver, or to utilize Odoo.sh, Odoo’s own SasS (software as a service) hosted solution.
Clearwater Systems had five months to make its transition from one ERP system to the next. They had a limited amount of time to send out proposal requests. With multiple locations across the U.S. and retail sales and service centers as their core business, they needed a platform that would fully integrate their accounting, payroll, installs, deliveries, service, inventory, retail, rentals, marketing, leads and emails. Upon selection of Odoo, Clearwater Systems sought out ComstarUSA, a New Jersey-based Odoo partner with programmers and a solid understanding of the software, to assist them in the customizations needed to serve the size of their company.
ComstarUSA and Clearwater spent the first month planning a roadmap of business processes that had been managed by multiple software platforms. Accounting, CRM and ERP workflows were managed in three different programs. While the ERP system was being discontinued, the first choice was to decide if the new system would only take the place of the old system within the work flows or if all functions—including accounting, CRM and ERP—would be moved to the Odoo platform. Based on the benefit of using one, fully-integrated system, the decision was made to migrate all systems to Odoo.
After spending a month planning, two months were used to customize elements of the program. ComstarUSA, while being one of the most reasonably priced companies, had also adapted their working hours to make themselves readily available to the Clearwater Systems team for any issues or coding errors. ComstarUSA was able to assist in having multiple platforms updated within Odoo in a quick manner, thus making the transition as effective and smooth as possible.
There were several modules that needed adjustments from the base program. Clearwater identified the process needs and ComstarUSA made these programing adjustments. One unique solution was with respect to the scheduling process. The Odoo system has a built-in scheduling function; however, this base function required a specific person to be scheduled. For scheduling a sales call, this default function worked. When scheduling a service call, the appointment would be put on the schedule for a specific day, while the decision of which service technician was going to run the call was not made until the day before the call. The customization allowed for both the scheduling of a sales call to a specific salesperson as well as the scheduling of a service call to a group, which could then be assigned to an individual.
In addition to the scheduling customization, there were additional functions that Clearwater Systems desired, such as the ability to run and track email campaigns from the system. Within the standard framework of Odoo, Clearwater Systems quickly reached the daily limit of 200 emails per day supported by the Odoo email server. This issue was addressed with Odoo’s open-source flexibility by adding a separate email engine seamlessly to the backend of Odoo, resolving the email volume limitation.
Clearwater Systems also faced other issues such as merging data, creating a sales form that collects all relevant information for in home sales, including site photos, and setting up their loyalty program. In each case, the open-source flexibility of Odoo allowed Clearwater Systems to either find a third-party app that had already been created to address the issue or have ComstarUSA modify the open-source code to match the organization’s specific needs.
The final two months in the transition timeline were used for data migration and training. With such limited time for implementation, Clearwater Systems was unable to fully test the platform prior to its launch, resulting in programming challenges that needed individual attention as they occurred. With the support of ComstarUSA, these bugs and training needs were resolved day-by-day, until the organization was fully confident in the operation of the new system. Together, Clearwater and ComstarUSA transitioned from three independent platforms for accounting, CRM and ERP to one integrated system in just more than five months.
Odoo has provided Clearwater Systems with the efficiency of having one software that handles all the company’s business processes under one umbrella. The dashboard function provides improved analytics and reporting functions. Reporting that once needed to be pulled from different sources is now generated in minutes. There is no concern about the inaccuracies of transferring data between systems, since data is now compiled and stored in one system. The ComstarUSA team assisted with the implementation of a centralized program where the lead setting, scheduling of service and deliveries, inventory management, accounting, payroll, marketing, and reporting can be hosted.
Beyond these applications in Odoo, Clearwater Systems can continue to customize and grow this platform as their company continues to expand. One aspect that will be incorporated within the coming year is the e-commerce module that is linked directly to accurate inventory and warehouse locations, which will streamline online product sales to their customers through a private customer portal. Odoo has showcased itself to be both modern and modular, making it a viable platform to accommodate the continual growth of Clearwater Systems.