Odoo Community Association: Odoo, the community way – J. Grand-Guillaume

Odoo Community Association

Walid : welcome to this new episode of Projet Libre. Today we’re going to talk about a subject that I particularly like. If you’re a loyal listener, you’ve heard episodes on other ERPs before. But today we’re going to talk about a tool that I really like called Odoo. And in particular we’re going to talk about the Odoo Community Association, which I’ve done a lot of research on, but I still have a lot of questions. And to answer these questions, well who better than to have with me the president of the board of the Odoo Community Association, Joël Grand-Guillaume.

Joël, listen, thank you very much for accepting, welcome to the podcast Projets Libres!, I hope you’re doing well.

Joël : well yes, hello, I’m very well, thank you, thank you for your invitation, I’m looking forward to spending this little moment with you to share a little bit of everything there is to know in this world.

Presentation of Joël Grand-Guillaume

Walid : First of all, I would like you to introduce yourself for the listeners who don’t know you.

Joël : okay, so my name is Joël Grand-Guillaume – that’s a long name – I live in Switzerland. I am 43 years old, 3 daughters. I am in charge of the business solution department at Camptocamp who has been working with Odoo since its very beginnings. And I also have the honor of being the President of the OCA and a member of the Board of Directors for 10 years now.

Walid: How did you discover free software? By what means?

Joël : So that’s a pretty funny anecdote. I was on a fixed-term contract at Camptocamp at the end of my studies and then I had the opportunity to participate in FOSS4G. FOSS4G is the largest geospatial open source event in the free world. It is an international conference where innovation and collaboration converge for the future of geomatics. And really it was there that I discovered this whole international community, met extraordinary people and this way of creating software that I didn’t know at the time. And I fell in love with it and so I went to see the bosses to get them to hire me, which was done and so that’s when the whole adventure started.

Walid : Okay so you’ve spent your entire career on Odoo, almost?

Joël : yes absolutely, yes, so since my first work as an engineer or almost I did a little bit of geospatial at the very beginning and then I embarked on this extraordinary software.

Walid : At the time it wasn’t called Odoo, what version was it when you started?

Joël : It was TinyERP version 3.9. So it’s a bit old, I think it’s been 18 years. It was a little before 2006, all the end of 2005 that I discovered the software for the first time.

Odoo Overview

Walid : Before we talk about the OCA, could you start by presenting Odoo quite succinctly for people who don’t know?

Joël :

Odoo is in fact a suite of open source business applications. It is a very broad functional scope. In fact, it’s a kind of online app store, but for companies, a little bit like what you would have on the App Store or Google Store, but simply for the business world.

It is a solution that is published by a Belgian publisher called Odoo SA. It’s a company that is now worth several billions, but obviously it can still be the case. And it’s a business model called Open Core. There is a community version that is available and released under an LGPL license and you can subscribe to the enterprise version which gives rise to a number of services including migrations and some additional features.

Walid : I would put in the notes of the episode links to interviews with Fabien the creator of Odoo who explains the whole history of Odoo, it’s quite interesting to see where he went to get to this point.

(Editor’s note: Fabien Pinckaers’ interview on GDIY)

Joël : Absolutely, it’s a very nice adventure.

Walid : It’s a great success of the software.

Joël : Absolutely.

The main stages of Odoo’s development

Walid : Could we just go back for a second to what for you are the highlights of Odoo’s development?

Joël : There may be a lot to say, I hope I won’t miss too much. Already, I think there is its beginning, around 2005, with this software known as TinyERP. And then four years later, around 2009, it was renamed OpenERP after version 5. He wasn’t that small anymore. There is a little anecdote that Danone was interested in software and the boss did not want to pay much for a solution called “Tiny”. So they decided to rename it OpenERP because its scope was much broader than it was then and the community really started to grow from that point on.

In 2012, I think there is another highlight, it’s the arrival of the first web client and the transition from the GPL to the AGPL license. I think it’s a highlight also in the community and also for the users. With a real web client, before we were still on a thick client developed in GTK, so much more complicated to deploy.

And then in 2014-2015, OpenERP became Odoo. And so, I would say that to better reflect their full suite of applications, in their vision, it went further than an ERP. So they wanted to remove the word ERP from the name of the software. And that’s also when Odoo launched a SaaS offer based on their cloud, with Odoo Online, and they changed their business model to this Open Core business model, which is the success of today.

Walid : I think we’ll come back to this a little later on the licenses.

Joël : yes, ok, with pleasure.

Presentation of the OCA

Walid : Now, what I’d like is for us to move on to the presentation of the Odoo Community Association, which we’ll certainly call OCA, for practical reasons in the rest of the episode.

Joël : Very good.

Walid : I would like to understand what the association actually does and why it was created.

Joël : So we’re already a non-profit association so that’s the first thing and we were established to support an open source and collaborative community around the development and promotion of features around Odoo. We actually also help integrators, members to create faster more efficient Odoo solutions with easy access to high-quality applications, and also free migrations. Because today, if you want to migrate one version of Odoo to another, you have to go through the enterprise subscription. So here, we propose an alternative open source project. So I would say that that’s kind of the essence of this association.

The genesis of the OCA

Walid : What made this association created? When exactly did it come into being? And why did you decide to create the association?

Joël : So we have to go back a lot of years. At the time, what you have to understand was my very beginnings in this community and I was actually discovering a world, an international community and I had a lot of fun collaborating with all these people.

But something pained me a lot, and that was that everyone was redeveloping the same modules in their own name to have the prestige of publishing this application in their name. So a lot of work was done twice, there was little collaboration on competitors’ modules because we don’t want to contribute to a competitor’s modules, etc. And there, it made me ask a lot of questions about the relevance, in fact, of being in an open source world, but ultimately not collaborating.

And then, I have the chance to work at Camptocamp, so in the geospatial department that has been founding open source projects for a very long time. I actually discovered how OSGeo worked. It’s a geospatial foundation for open source and I understood how this association structured and how they actually managed to make this collaboration a success. And in particular I would say one of the highlights of this association is the fact that the code of the different contributors is given or the copyright is… We give a version of our copyright to the association so that the association holds the copyright of the code we publish and therefore the code is under the aegis of this foundation and no longer under the responsibility of each of its contributors. And neutralizing that under a common entity allows everyone to contribute freely.

We keep the author obviously to have recognition of the work that has been done by everyone. On the other hand, that’s kind of the principle. And so I started with this idea and I actually proposed on the mailing-lists of the time the foundation of such an association with my first ideas on the subject and it was very well received.

And so I started with this idea, with a few integrators of the time who were really playing this open source game and we decided to found this association.

And what’s incredible is that at that time it was the same time when everything started up, when OpenERP became Odoo and they changed their licensing model. They have gone from the AGPL to the LGPL plus its corporate subscriptions, so on this open core model as it is called.

And so that day, in the announcement room of the creation of the association, there was a world but crazy, we could no longer pass through the corridors and in fact the OCA was perceived that day as a lifeboat for many people who were convinced that the open source method was necessary for this ecosystem and to ensure the future of the Odoo solution.

So today we have a very different objective. The future of Odoo is now assured, there are millions of satisfied users who enjoy it all over the world and so we have redirected the objective of the association a little bit to be able to meet the challenge of the day.

Walid : When you announce on the mailing-lists, what are the reactions at Odoo in fact? Are there people at Odoo who give feedback on this? Do they look at it in a benevolent way? Aren’t they actually making a comeback? What’s going on?

Joël : So I’ve always been transparent with Fabien, so I was very lucky, I would say to be in the very first place. Fabien is someone I know, we talk to each other, we write to each other, we answer each other, so there is a mutual respect I would say that has been established for all these years that we have been rubbing shoulders, that we are rubbing shoulders. And so at that time I didn’t do that behind his back, it’s something he was aware of, we had talked about it, he even came to participate at some point in this session of the creation of the association to answer a few questions. So there was never a desire to be in front of him.

I’ve always had a spirit of collaboration, we’re stronger together. And the goal was never to fight against either Fabien or Odoo, but to look at how we can bring an open source version to life, how can we bring this vision to life and support the publisher in its Open Core movement so that it goes well for both parties in fact.

The OCA association

Walid : Before we go into a little more detail about that. I would like to know, so the association is an association under Swiss law?

Joël : Yes.

Walid : Okay. That you created because you’re Swiss in fact, so you created it directly where there was a particular reason to put it in Switzerland?

Joël : So, partly because I was established in Switzerland, Camptocamp also has branches in France and Germany, so I also had other opportunities, but I think that the Swiss regulations are really well done and especially recognized when it comes to non-governmental organizations. There are plenty of them here in Geneva, so we have a right, I would say constitutional, that favors this kind of association and that makes it credible abroad for the stability, the neutrality for which Switzerland is known. And I think that this is something that was unanimous at the time, when I proposed it, no one questioned the fact of doing it in Switzerland, it is something that people immediately adhered to.

Walid : And the association, does it own intellectual property? Is she just there to promote what you do? What does this association actually have?

Joel : so maybe we can specify this in the context of the licenses, but in fact to be able to contribute code in the OCA, you have to sign what is called a CLA, Contributor License Agreement, and that gives… So there are several forms, ours is very restrictive compared to open source licenses, so when you sign this CLA, you give a copy of your copyright to the association. That is to say that you keep yours and you have the right to change the license of your piece of module as you see fit, but you have also given a copy of this right to the association which therefore allows the association to be the legal representative of this module. And that’s the most important thing, is to be able to have authority with the justice system in relation to the ecosystem that is being created in the OCA.

And this is what gave credibility to Open Source contributions and the willingness of everyone to want to contribute to this association because it finally held the rights. And so that’s the really important aspect of this ecosystem.

Walid : At the beginning when the association is created, how many members does it actually have? Who are the first to join you in this movement?

Joël : So I think there are eight or nine founding members who were the main contributors to the different Odoo modules, the additional features that we needed. So it was really clearly small or medium-sized integrators around the world who agreed to federate and share this under an Open Source license to be able to avoid duplicating work and to be stronger together. So that was really the will. There were developers, functional consultants, and even some users and clients. So I would say that’s really a pretty broad landscape.

Walid : Oh yes, even as a customer you can be part of the OCA?

Joël : Absolutely, yes, we have a few customers who sponsor the OCA because they use parts that are essential for their operation of their Odoo instance and the features that are necessary for them.

Walid : Now, how many members does the OCA have?

Joël : So I don’t have the latest figures, but it’s between 350 and 400 members who are members and therefore want to participate in the active life of the association. On the other hand, there are several thousand contributors on the modules, so you don’t have to be a member of the association to contribute to the OCA ecosystem.

Being a member means wanting to support it financially and to have the opportunity to participate in its governance and its future. However, to be a contributor, the only thing that is required is to sign this CLA and from that moment on, you can contribute to the entire OCA ecosystem without any problem.

OCA funding

Walid : Precisely, we’re going to move on to the next part, which is, I think, one of the very interesting parts is financing. Where does the money you have come from and then afterwards we’ll talk about what you do with this money.

Joël : So the association’s operating money comes mainly from sponsorship and membership fees as we have just explained, so these are people who want to support and show their support to the association, that’s the main source of income for the association.

But then there is also a lot of income in terms of time and which ultimately weighs much heavier on the scale. That’s all the time that our contributors dedicate to us to participate in these different Open Source modules, these contributions, the bugfixes, the functional evolution, all the discussions that there are on the mailing-lists. And in the end, that’s perhaps what is most valuable to us, much more than the budget that allows the association to operate in an administrative way and to finance the few servers we need.

Walid : You don’t have any employees in the association?

Joël : So today we don’t really have any employees but we have just hired a CEO, we call her Virginie Dewulf, since this year. Before that there was Rebecca (Editor’s note: Gellatly) who follows us as secretary general, who really takes care of all the administrative practice, organization of events, who is an incredible person whom I thank very much for all the contributions she has made to the association. But today there are no employees, it’s mandates renewed year after year.

Walid : Okay. You said earlier that there was sponsorship too. So there are customers who sponsor you?

Joël : Absolutely. So today, sponsorship is really someone who subscribes to us for Gold, Silver or other sponsorship, to show their support for the association. So there, it gives him the right to a certain visibility on our website, to publish a certain number of customer references or different blog posts on our website. And then on that, there are also customers who support us in this because they need certain parts and they want to support us economically, if not, for example, to contribute directly to the various code repositories.

It should be noted that we are also building a subscription offer for Odoo integrators, so that they can access training, documentation, probably specific toolboxes. And the objective is really that integrators who use the open source method or who are affiliated with the OCA are more efficient than others and that they are recognized as such. So that’s really a project that we have in the process of building this year.

Walid : In all the members we’ve talked about, so companies that sponsor, we’ve talked about integrators, there are individual members too, right?

Joël : Yes, so what is very important to note in the governance of the association, we did not want the association to be run by companies from the beginning. So as a company, I can sponsor the association, soon I will be able to take advantage of a program and a subscription to access content, best practices, etc.

But today, the governance of the association is governed by its members. So the governmental political aspect of the association is really governed by the members themselves, and so they are individuals and not companies. This seemed very important to us to guarantee the neutrality of this association and its credibility also vis-à-vis the world.

Walid : And so, the board you’re part of, how many people are you’re on?

Joël : So there are nine of us today and the board is elected by the delegate members. And the delegate members themselves were elected by the first founders and then annually by the Assembly of Delegates. So in the association, the governing body of the association is the delegates, it is what constitutes the general assembly of the association and it is they who vote for all the important decisions related to the association.

So each year we elect 10 new delegates and these delegates then elect the board for the coming year.

Walid : okay, I was asking myself a question that I hadn’t written down but it takes you a lot of work time, you for example, to work on the organization and on the OCA in relation to your professional or family schedule in fact?

Joël : Jocker (laughs)! yes, listen, yes, it’s… There’s the time you actually spend in meetings which is quite reasonable, where you try to be efficient, and then there’s a time that is more difficult to calculate, it’s also all the mental load, everything you have to think about in your head so that all this, It continues to move forward, that it is going in the right direction. And I think it’s more this aspect that is not heavy to carry but that is still a certain responsibility too.

I’ve been here for ten years, people have a certain confidence and so all this inevitably causes a certain pressure in the mental load of everything you have to think about on a daily basis.

Projects supported by the OCA

Walid : What are all the projects you do and then which ones are the most important or on which you put the most energy, for example?

Joël : So what you need to know is that it’s our contributors who provide the energy and who decide on what and how they want to contribute to these different repositories.

So we will finally have a relatively limited capacity to guide or finance. That’s really in the hands of contributors, like any open source project, I want to say. Now, what types of projects are hosted with us? I would say, on the one hand there are tools that are rather technical to help maintain Odoo instances, to be compliant with different standards. So there you have it, there are a whole bunch of toolkits that allow integrators to do their job in a proper or efficient way.

Then there is also another point that is more related to low-level libraries, typically to do batch processing or asynchronous data processing, to import things, to connect things, so really low-level layers. A third category of modules or features that can be found is all the open source alternatives to the enterprise versions of Odoo. The most well-known is probably everything related to accounting that is switched to the enterprise version when switching to Odoo. And so there we have a number of free alternative modules within the OCA ecosystem.

Then there is a project that is not yet completely known but which is starting to be, it is Open Upgrade. So this is this tool that allows you to do Odoo migrations by yourself, without being dependent on the publisher’s company license.

And then, and I would say this is the largest portion, is the thousands of advanced functional applications that make it possible to adapt Odoo to almost all sectors, and ultimately to make Odoo much more efficient or more relevant in a context for a given industry.

Walid : ok, because I had listened to a conference or a Q&A session, I don’t remember in which conference it was in 2022 or 2023, in short, where you said that in fact part of the funding they were put on the OpenUpgrade of memory.

Joël : Yes! So in fact what happened is not really that we placed it, that is to say that the OCA also runs its website and its management system which is Odoo to everyone’s surprise. And so to migrate this instance of Odoo we decided to use OpenUpgrade. And so, in the RFQs (Editor’s note: request for quotes) that were issued to migrate our instance, we decided to finance this through the migration of our instance to be able to publish the scripts in a free way. You should know that it’s a rather complicated project. Migration is always very difficult. It’s complicated to finance it properly. And that’s really one of the challenges we faced.

So, we found this option, this way to finally allow this project to come to life. And this is something that we want to take even further tomorrow to professionalize this free migration service a little more.

Walid : It’s not easy knowing that there is a version that comes out every year, you have to catch up a little bit all the time.

Joël : Exactly, it’s a real challenge and I think it’s going to remain a challenge for the years to come to finally keep a free project to allow everyone to migrate their community versions.

Relations with Odoo SA

Walid : I also wanted to talk about the relationship you have with Odoo SA. We talked earlier about the fact that you knew Fabien well. What I’d like to know is, are relationships still pretty good? Are there times when you have a bit of tension because you have divergent opinions? How is the relationship, not daily, but regular with Odoo the publisher?

Joël : As I said, the relationship is really friendly. I’ve known Fabien for a very long time. Now, what we need to understand is that the purpose of our two entities is decidedly different today. Odoo SA, he wants to conquer the world in the global ERP market, he wants to make Odoo the first most efficient business application in the world, that’s really what it’s all about, it’s really his dream, that’s what he’s making happen.

And then the OCA, in view of this, supports an open source approach to the tool, or an open source vision of its development. For us, this is how customers get the best return on investment who go further with the same money.

Our goal is always to make this Odoo project more efficient, to help support collaborative developments and also to avoid vendor lock-in. So on that, we haven’t always been in that state, especially at the very beginning when there was this change of license, but today there is a rebalance that has been created.

We finally turned out to be one of the spearheads of innovation in the Odoo ecosystem today. In the last 4-5 versions, there are many features that have been integrated into the core, which come from the ideas of the OCA. So, we realize that it’s a bit of a win-win situation today, where Odoo, thanks to its success of this Open Core model, can finance the open source part and the community version with much more effort than it has been able to do in the past. The OCA, in exchange, produces many innovative modules that end up landing in Odoo one day or another. And we are a kind of incubation pole with regard to this relationship with Odoo.

After that, we are moving towards offering integrators the opportunity to better integrate these open source modules and to be able to stand out from the competition or other ways of integrating Odoo, especially with proprietary modules. And that’s really the program we’re implementing this year.

Walid : You don’t have people working at Odoo SA who contribute to OCA modules?

Joël : It happens but it’s rather sporadic. We have several times people from Odoo and developers who have come to participate in our code sprints for example. It’s wills, individual initiatives that are not specially sponsored by Odoo. These are people who want to participate in the community and the Open Source vision of the software and they are always welcome in our events.

Walid : I was also wondering if there are any Odoo modules that are more popular than others? Did you talk about accounting earlier?

Joël : Yes, so I can’t comment much on that, but there is certainly a subset (Editor’s note: subset) of modules that are much better known in the OCA ecosystem in any case. There’s this whole story, or this whole set of modules around Queue Job that allows you to do asynchronous processing and processing that is widely used, or very widely used. There is also a famous module called MIS-Builder that allows you to build reports, especially financial reports, a kind of framework that allows you to configure it.

There you go, we have a few projects like this that are very widely used. But also the strength, I think is the multitude of these few thousand modules that make sense in one case or another and that actually avoid paying for a specific development 100% by the customer, but which allows to be co-financed in the end by a community of users and that I think is the most interesting aspect.

Walid : I discovered, now I remember it, it’s because I was trying to make the connection between a Magento and an Odoo, I came across the module, I don’t remember what it’s called, well the connector that allowed you to synchronize an E-Commerce site and Odoo and that’s how I discovered, how I discovered it.

Joël : That’s an old module that I worked on a long time ago.

Walid : So we talked about the relationship with Odoo, the fact that you manage to influence, well you, you don’t have a control over the evolution, over the features that are added in the versions? Do you know them in advance? you discover them at the moment when it’s… well how does it be…?

Joël : Fabien is the only one who knows where the product will go. He has a very strong involvement
In the product orientation, this has always been its strength. So he’s growing up and of course
that there are a lot of relays now at Odoo with their Product Owners who are very
Good job. But I would say Fabien is really at the helm, the spearhead of the development of
its product and that’s what made it successful.

And in this regard, neither the integrators nor the OCA really have a say today on the direction that the product is taking in the future. But it’s also true that sometimes they ask for ideas and there we are always free to contribute to them and finally propose the topics on which we think Odoo should work more.

Walid : another question I ask myself: the fact of working with an Odoo integrator who is a bit privileged, because it’s been a very long time and you are still very very recognized on this at Camptocamp, and I think it’s the same for other integrators who are members of the OCA, you don’t have any other information or ways to discuss with the publisher either? Or are they two completely different things?

Joël : yes, so it’s not very developed that part. But what you have to understand is that since most of this code is free, we finally have day-to-day access to the different contributions that the publisher will make in the form of Pull Request (PR) in GitHub. And so we can be fully aware of what the publisher is working on in a completely transparent way, which is not at all the case in other software.

So maybe it’s the way that is a little different where proprietary software publishers will, for example, publish a certain roadmap or whatever. In the end, anyone who wants to get involved can participate and follow the evolution of the product through the contributions that are made on a day-to-day basis.

The OCA and Licensing

Walid : The next topic is licensing. What licenses, you talked about it a little earlier, but under which licenses are the Odoo modules, well Odoo OCA? Are they all under the same license? Why this license?

Joël : So all this was a very strong debate one day. Today there is really a consensus and it is very widely accepted. There was a lot of discussion. So to date, what you need to understand is that Odoo is published under the LGPL version for the entire community version and then there is a version, a proprietary license for all the so-called enterprise modules, i.e. those that can only be accessed via a subscription.

Within the OCA, in the statutes of association, it has been defined that any license certified by the OSI is accepted. Now, in fact, most modules are developed in AGPL or LGPL. We have a few other licenses, but most have chosen one or the other of these licenses. What is important to understand is that the author of a module in the OCA chooses his bachelor’s degree. As long as it is a license certified by OSI, the OCA accepts it. So it’s not us who distribute, who decide under which license an author wants to publish his work.

Walid : I’m just going to remind you of OSI, Open Source Initiative.

Joël : Yes, exactly. So it’s the ones who actually react to all these different types of Open Source licenses and try to sort them out and differentiate them by explaining the pros and cons of each. So there you have it, and I remind you that in order for people to push their contribution within the OCI, they have to sign our CLA, the Contributor License Agreement, which gives the OCA a copy of the copyright and which ultimately allows this work to be protected from a legal point of view.

Walid : Okay. I imagined that for the sake of practicality, it was easier to have only one type of license or two, if there was anything, but in fact, I can come tomorrow and take an MIT license and push my module under an MIT license, for example?

Joël : Absolutely. After that, the compatibility of the different licenses with each other and the responsibility of the author too. So people still need to find out what it means to choose one or the other of the licenses. There is a certain FAQ on the Odoo Community Association website that may help or enlighten you in this choice. After that, everyone takes responsibility for that.

Odoo and license changes

Walid : Can you explain why Odoo switched from an AGPL license to an LGPL license?

Joël : Okay, so maybe I’m not the one who should answer, but I’ll try anyway. So in fact, what you have to understand is that from the moment Odoo felt the need to change its business model and move to an Open Core model, they need to be able to add a proprietary layer on an Open Source core, and the only license (Editor’s note: GPL type) that allows you to do that, this is the LGPL license. So the only license in any case recognized in the open source world or certified by the OSI. I don’t know exactly the exact terms but if we want to switch to a license like this of all the GPL licenses, the LGPL is the only one that finally allows you to add a certain number of proprietary modules that coexist.

And so that’s what has allowed Odoo to grow globally since then because they were able to land a lot more contributions in the community version thanks to the paid subscriptions that they had, so one funded the other. On the downside, of course, there are some features that were open source that have switched to the enterprise version. For example, we were talking about accounting earlier.

And that’s where, for example, the OCA offers a range of alternative modules to allow people to do accounting with a community version. I would say overall, this change has been beneficial for everyone. It has allowed the publisher to get to where it is today. And finally, we have never received so many contributions in the community version since this change in Business Model. So he was criticized a lot, but today we have to recognize that it’s a success.

Walid : And why was there a lot of discussion within the OCA at the beginning about licensing? It’s something I’m just interested in understanding. Were opinions very divergent?

Joël : In relation to what exactly?

Walid : You said earlier, I was asking you which licenses are recognized at the OCA level and you said that it was something that had caused a lot of debate. I was wondering why?

Joël : yes so what was debated was the change from Odoo, GPL to AGPL with version 8 and then AGPL to LGPL. This has caused a lot of concern and there have been a lot of debates within the association or its contributors on how to publish my contributions. And there was the choice of the AGPL which is much more protective or the LGPL which makes it much more compatible.

In fact, what you need to understand is the difference between the AGPL and the LGPL. The AGPL, it has a certain component that allows a user to request the source code of the application. So it was done at the time to protect SaaS offers, someone who would make a contribution, and then a publisher who would suddenly offer a SaaS version from this module published in open source, and the initial contributor finally who would not be able to take advantage of the advances that it would have implemented. To protect that, they created this AGPL version that gives any user of this type of open source software the right to request the code. And so by using AGPL modules, we can see that they have placed in a module are, in quotation marks, stolen by someone, packaged in a proprietary module and resold to their detriment. For this, the AGPL license was very appropriate, unlike the LGPL license, which does not protect against this type of use.

Walid : I have another question, from experience. I worked with Odoo SA as a publisher on one of my projects. And in fact, what I found is that in the end, if you work with Odoo, you are not at all encouraged to work with OCA modules, not necessarily, let’s say.

Joël : No, it’s very true, it’s not at all their approach to the integration of their software. In their vision clearly, they will develop particular features that would eventually be missing for your needs and they will make you assume the burden.

Eventually, they will take advantage of these experiences and explorations through their different customers to decide to strengthen their version in the next release and to improve this or that feature according to the experiences they have had on the different customers. So here, clearly, they don’t have a vocation to reuse these bricks at all. I also think that it’s for a certain part a strategic decision to be the owner, the owner of the intellectual property of the work they do and by using OCA modules, so he would end up with software bricks that he wouldn’t have the copyright and I think that, politically, in a company like theirs, This can raise a number of questions.

Walid : I could see that integrating modules that are made by other people over whom you don’t have control over the roadmap, you don’t necessarily have control over the quality of the code, all that etc. Well it’s a bit complicated but the other side of the coin is that potentially we will redevelop the same thing that already exists in a module and then you will have to pay for the updates. So it’s a little, there’s a little bit of both sides but it’s understandable but on the other hand you have potentially you can reinvent the wheel a bit.

Joël : So that’s for sure it’s a little bit of a drawback (Editor’s note: inconvenience) as they say, it’s a little bit the other side of the coin. Now it’s clear that as a publisher and given their position, I think that the choice they make is certainly the right one for them and if we want to take advantage of this ecosystem, it’s not with the publisher but we have to find an integrator to do this work, I think that’s very clear.

Odoo verticals via OCA?

Walid : I had other questions now I started thinking because I have colleagues who work in food cooperatives that use Odoo and so there are quite a few versions of Odoo FoodCoop etc. Well a lot of stuff and all that and I was thinking but already are there verticals like here, you see for example, there are a lot of people who have developed a lot of modules to manage a food cooperative with Odoo, do you know any verticals of people who use OCA to make their own verticalized versions of Odoo?

Joël : So today this part is not very well taken in the OCA. That is to say that there are several panels so first of all there are some verticals in the OCA in particular to manage associations or a number of things, you will find them with the small vertical prefix in the name of the rests. So yes, there are a few.

Now, it’s not a job that is very well organized because the big strength of the OCA is really to offer a huge constellation of modules that meet different needs and I would say today it’s still the knowledge of integrators who will know what choice of modules to put for a particular business or for a particular industry.

And I think that this know-how is part of the differentiating factor of integrators who use this OCA ecosystem compared to others. And so everyone has their own recipes, a little bit of cooking, and that’s a part that is more delicate to share, I would say. So these verticals are now with the OCA ecosystem capable of tackling many industries to go much further than what we will find in the box as standard in Odoo, but you need a little knowledge of its system codes to take advantage of them.

Walid : and let’s imagine that me, then any resemblance to a current topic would be fortuitous, let’s imagine that I arrive, I look at Odoo and I realize that for my field of activity, in fact there are things missing, not everything is covered with and all that. I said to myself “if I want to move my subject forward a little to make sure that it benefits everyone, what is the right way to do it to ensure that my needs, which would potentially be standard to my entire field, a profession, improve the OCA modules”?

Joël : Yes, so first of all, what’s important to understand is that by working with the OCA, the whole point is that we’re already going to take advantage of a whole existing base. So, by going to, I would say, develop the few small modules that we will lack and by relying on the existing base, in the end, we manage to cover needs with very little development.

That’s really the huge added value for end customers. In the end, we will finance the development of a few small differences or a few small additions to features. And by relying on the existing tank, you immediately obtain full functionality by having only financed a fraction.

And on top of that, these existing features are based on best practices, so we’re actually going to take advantage of the best of the state of the art and that’s really the big advantage for the end user.

Now, how do you get there? I would say, first of all, you have to find a partner who participates in this OCA ecosystem, that’s fundamental, or failing that, you have to find out what exists, possibly challenge the integrator you have, ask him to use the ecosystem, to refer to it.

And then, I think that we must also ensure that, at the very least, the code that is developed by the integrator, we can recover the copyright or that it can have an open source license, to avoid lock-in selling and that we have the freedom of hand to be able to change service providers if we are no longer satisfied (Editor’s note: sentence modified after registration). And I think that’s really the important thing in this story. It is also important to understand that there is an important difference between an integrator who will play this game and an integrator who will not.

I can very well use an OCA module and ultimately not contribute to it. So in the end, I’m only going to pull things out of the OCA, I’m going to use them to set up my commercial offer and finally maybe be competitive. But for the end customer, the fact that when I discover problems, I don’t re-contribute the bugfixes, the improvements I make to the OCA codebase, and very quickly there is a discrepancy that is created between what we have done for a given customer and the original version of the OCA which will continue to evolve and in fact the cost of going back from one to the other will always be at the expense of the customer at the end. That’s why it’s important to find an integrator who will play this game, who will contribute to the evolutions, the bugfixes that you will make for your project in the heart of the original repository to finally capitalize on it.

This is where the customer will really benefit, especially on investment, on the maintenance of his solution and if we have an integrator who does not play this game in a fair way, we will quickly have customers who will find themselves paying these maintenance costs by themselves and who will ultimately not have been able to take advantage of the lever that this open-source ecosystem can offer.

Walid : In the end, it’s the in-depth knowledge of this entire ecosystem that you want to work on to offer integrators the opportunity to increase their skills and work with you, if I understand correctly?

Joël : Absolutely. And we would also like to make them visible, so that there is also a directory, so that people can consult to find the most appropriate partner for their sector of activity, for their region. So this now seems to us to be the next step to take to finally offer the best to end customers.

How does the community around the OCA materialize?

Walid : How does this community around the OCA materialize? Do you have events? What tools do you have to collaborate, is it just GitHub? Well how does this community look a bit? How do you meet, how do you work around the OCA?

Joël : First of all, there is a whole infrastructure that the OCA provides. So there, it goes from all the rules or, I would say, the framework in which people commit to work. How can we make these contributions?

So there is a whole bunch of documentation and rules, processes that allow everyone to contribute, that are made explicit and everyone can get along. If we don’t speak the same language and don’t have the same way of operating, it’s difficult to contribute effectively.

Then there’s a whole bunch of frameworks, CI tools and other things that actually allow this ecosystem to collaborate internationally and asynchronously. So that’s also very important. And then, finally, there is this whole system of code review and advice that is created around this community by the rules that are established, which allows everyone to grow when you contribute, to learn from your peers and to finally become better and one day also contribute to the training of others. So I would say, this whole notion of Peer Review collaboration, it helps everyone grow.

And then, finally, there are events, including the OCA days which take place the same week as the Odoo Experience in Belgium. We take advantage of the fact that the international community travels for the Odoo Experience in Belgium, so that they don’t have to pay for two plane tickets and so we stick to the same agenda to offer two days that people can meet, I would say, face-to-face, exchange and participate in conferences on a lot of super interesting subjects, whether it’s on OCA modules, its future or simply taking time to work on complicated topics together.

Walid : ok, so there’s a meeting, a big meeting, are there any communities that are a little more local?

Joël : Yes, then absolutely. So here, not all countries are equal with regard to local communities. Some countries are much more organized than others. The best known are certainly in Spain, Mexico or Italy where there are communities that are really local, that are quite strong and there they will manage their own events by also promoting the open source way, the ecosystem of the OCA, which will actually participate in training people and which are very well organized in these different countries.

And it’s typically a network of local communities that we want to develop in the future because it’s really by being close to people that we can have an impact.

The challenges of the OCA

Walid : By the way, I didn’t note in my questions, I wanted to know a little bit what your challenges were in fact, what were the big challenges for the coming months? I don’t know why I didn’t take note of this question.

Joël : No, no, that’s a very good question. So I think there are a lot of them because Odoo it has really taken an absolutely extraordinary lift. This solution is exploding, it is a dazzling success, it has incredible growth in all countries and there is a great challenge to maintain a vision or an Open Source ecosystem in this landscape that is becoming more and more competitive and therefore the challenges of the OCA are to continue to grow in the face of this completely staggering expansion of the product, to continue to promote an Open Source vision and above all to succeed in making users and end customers aware of the value of this ecosystem and this way of integrating Odoo.

So, the challenge, I would say, is that customers, they hear about the OCA ecosystem, all the benefits that this ecosystem can bring them. And that’s going to be one of the challenges.

The other challenge will be to elevate the integrators who participate in this ecosystem, to be able to take them further, to make them more efficient and to also provide, I would say, a certain number of guarantees, perhaps one day in the form of maintenance for a certain number of our modules, which are still to be defined.

The other challenge will be to elevate the integrators who participate in this ecosystem, to be able to take them further, to make them more efficient and to also provide, I would say, a certain number of guarantees, perhaps one day in the form of maintenance for a certain number of our modules, still to be defined, but there you go, so I think that the challenges, it’s really that the OCA can provide guarantees on the work that has been done so far, that it makes known to the general public and end users, the benefits and advantages of working with a free ecosystem and for integrators that they finally understand that this open source vision is a win for everyone, it’s a win for the customer in the end because they go further with the same money, it’s a win for the integrators because it allows them to participate and be collaborative on these developments, to share the maintenance costs of these different features and in the end it’s a win-win I would also say for the product because these innovations that are at the end of the day or the other is in the heart of Odoo and so there you have it, I think the challenges are really up to the task, at the height of the expansion of the product these years.

How does the OCA make itself known?

Walid : yes that’s it, I was wondering about making the OCA known. How do you promote the OCA? Because I, for example, don’t know in meetings, in the free software stores I go to, such as FOSDEM, etc. I don’t see an OCA conference you see and I say to myself “why? In fact, if you are looking for developers and to make yourself known, why is there no conference in the big shows in the European countries where there is an OCA conference? To explain a little bit what they do etc. You have many other foundations that come to give conferences, why not the OCA for example, it’s a question of time, it’s a question of money?

Joël : I think a bit of both. And that’s all the questioning we have this year. I think that we must now carry out a small revolution within the functioning of this association to finally move to another level than what we have always been. And we must make this change now to continue to exist tomorrow.

And I think attending these fairs or events that you mention is one of them. There are also a whole bunch of other stocks that we have listed.

We now have quite a challenge ahead of us to reinvent ourselves a little bit, to continue to move forward with the product and to make ourselves known to the general public. Clearly, this is really the major challenge of the next few years.


Walid : We’re coming to the end of the interview, in any case we’re coming to the end of the questions I had listed. Before giving you the floor for an op-ed, I wanted to ask you two questions.

The first one is to summarize, what would you say to an Odoo user who doesn’t know the OCA?

Joël : I would say that in this association there is an immense know-how and that there is probably already a solution to his problem.

Walid : and what would you say to an odoo provider who doesn’t yet work with the OCA?

Joël : Alone we go faster, but together we go further. I would strongly advise him to get involved now to get recognized before customers finally start asking for it. I think that’s really in my opinion, customers are more and more aware of these Open Source environments, it’s more of a taboo or little-known thing like it was back then. People realize the value that this has and I’m convinced that tomorrow customers will ask for this, will ask for expertise, will ask for Open Source and therefore first come, first service and now we have to take the train.

Walid : Nothing to do with it, but in terms of funding, with European organizations, I’m thinking of the whole NGI0 fund, or stuff like that from the European Union and everything, you don’t have things to do?

Joël : It’s possible. We have begun to study these issues. The procedures are quite cumbersome. Today, there is a real step to take in terms of finances. You see, today, to really scale up our situation, we need a budget that is much higher. So, our accounts are public, so there is nothing to hide, but in the end we operate with very few resources and a lot of volunteering.

And today, that’s also why we decided to invest in Virginie’s position, in this position of CEO, to move projects forward, because today, we’re going to go much faster than what volunteering time allows us to go. And to go further, you need funds and time. And today, the board members who do most of the management of this organization don’t have any more time to devote to it. So this can only be achieved through the commitment of resources and therefore through the financing of these new resources.

And so that’s the challenge we’re going to face now, it’s to figure out how we’re going to finance these resources in a sustainable way to be able to move up a gear. And so we have a lot of ideas but not yet the means to make them all happen.

Walid : Not long ago, I had the chance to interview one of the French-speaking people who works in the Nelnet Foundation (Editor’s note: Lwenn Bussière), who is the recipient of the NGI0 program funds and who explained the simplified funding where you can have between 5000 and 50,000 euros, even as a person, as an individual to work on subjects and in fact there may be things to do on this side on certain subjects precisely because it’s very simplified, you fill out a form, wait two or three months and then Then behind it we say ok you make the code and you get paid when the code is produced. So there are certainly very interesting things to do on this side, I advertise them whenever I can (laughs).

Joël : yes you’re right, it’s a good remark, I think that there are also funds that exist like this in some countries locally for this kind of thing and it would clearly deserve to be studied. I totally agree with you.


Walid : ok, we’re coming to the end of the interview. I would like to let you do an open forum. If you have a message to pass on before we part, I’ll let you speak.

Joël : you take a flaw from me, I hadn’t thought about this free question.

Walid : I forgot to write it down again. I forgot to note the op-ed again…

Joël : I think that at first, my message would be addressed first of all to all the contributors of the OCA.

I would like to thank them all for the time they have devoted to finally creating what we have become today. That’s thanks to all the contributions we received. So, I think my first message would be for our contributors, to thank them for all the time they’ve spent, for the great work they’ve done, for the quality of what’s been produced. And I think that’s really a great source of pride. And so that’s it, that would be the first thing I’d want to tell them.

The second thing is that I would like to thank the integrators who are finally participating in this adventure, who believe in it, and who have had unwavering support for many years towards the association, because of the time they leave their employees dedicated, but also for all the support they have shown us all these years. So that was my little thank you note.

Then I would have a word for the customers. To get the most out of your Odoo project, you need to take into consideration what exists in the OCA. There really is a solution for almost every problem you have encountered. There is someone who has already seen it, there is someone who has certainly already proposed something about it and rather than reinventing the wheel, there is a whole landscape of features waiting for you and so I think it would be worth your interest and you have the keys to guide your integrators so the world of business management with Odoo of tomorrow will be built too by the requests you are going to make. It is the one who pays who decides in the end. The customer is king and so if you demand to switch to an Open Source technology or stack because you believe that this is where you will have the best return on investment, well that’s what will ultimately lead integrators to change the world.

And finally, a message for integrators, start taking an interest in the OCA, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, if it’s a bit foggy for you to get your foot in the door, I simply invite you to write to us, so that we can support you, so that we can explain to you how it works, how your teams can get involved in these projects, What’s in it for you?

Because all those who have experienced it so far, they have stayed. So there are certainly good reasons to enter this ecosystem, also for your own benefit and not just for philosophical interest. So I mean the OCA is really something that allows everyone to come out of it stronger. And so, I will invite everyone to approach us to discover what they have to gain.

Walid : great, nothing more to add except to tell listeners of free projects if they use Odoo or if they will start using Odoo to look at the OCA maybe to go see the OCA Days?

Joël : Exactly!

Walid : Is it open to everyone?

Joël : Yes, it’s open to everyone, you can buy your ticket today on odoo-community.org.

Walid : And dear listeners, don’t hesitate to share this episode. Do not hesitate to react to this episode as well. I like to have little feedback, you can do it by email or by Mastodon or potentially by LinkedIn too, why not.

So don’t hesitate. I think it’s not the last time we’re going to talk about Odoo, I already have other stuff in the pipeline on that, other episodes, but I wanted to do the OCA first and I’m happy because it’s been a year, my first emails were a year ago, so I’m very happy that we were finally able to do this episode. Joël, thank you very much.

Joël : With pleasure, it was a pleasure. I thank you for your trust and patience. It’s a real pleasure to spend this moment with you. Available for future episodes, adventures or others, if you deem it necessary.

This episode was recorded on June 3, 2024.


This podcast is released under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license or later.

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