Odoo vs Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central

How do they compare, particularly when it comes to the needs of SMEs?

Not so long ago we blogged a compare and contrast between Odoo and SAP Business One, going through the pros and cons of these contrasting Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications.

In this blog, we’re doing the same thing – but this time we’re comparing Odoo with Microsoft Dynamics. How do they compare, particularly when it comes to the needs of SMEs?

Introduction

Microsoft has a line of business products which are collectively marketed as Microsoft Dynamics 365. This can make it difficult for customers to understand what it is they are actually purchasing when investing in the platform and it makes feature comparisons between “Dynamics 365” products and other solutions challenging and confusing. 

Before we dive into the main article, here’s a brief overview of this line of products. The suite is built by combining two products acquired in Microsoft’s purchase of Navision Damgaard A/S-  Navision and the Axapta -  with Microsoft’s internally developed CRM package and presented as “Dynamics 365”. (Wikipedia article) Microsoft markets the “Business edition” to small and medium sized businesses. The ERP of the business edition version is known as Business Central which is the new name for Navision. All other ERP offerings are fulfilled by mutations of the Axapta product. I hope this explanation does something to clear the muddy waters of Microsoft’s market strategy. 

Odoo provides functionality to compete against all the offerings of the MS Dynamics line but today we are focusing on the choice for smaller businesses and will be considering Odoo versus Business Central. 

History of Business Central

Navision -> Microsoft Dynamics NAV -> Business Central was first released for Windows in 1995. This was before MS SQL Server was considered a usable product and so it used a proprietary isam database. This database was for its time amazingly robust and the product contained its own development language C/AL meaning that a developer could make changes to the core application. Being so far ahead of its time Navision generated a community of dedicated developers and a loyal customer following. 

History of Odoo

Odoo started life 10 years after Navision when Fabien Pinkaers started work on software to support his father’s business. Fabien decided to open-source his project under the name OpenERP. In 2014 the company was re-named Odoo and started to experience the explosive growth it’s enjoying today. The release of Odoo’s enterprise edition contributed to its success. Though a licensed model the enterprise edition is an open environment with the flexibility to develop applications specific to a company’s requirements.   

Technical Comparison

 

Dynamics 365 Business Central 

Odoo

Database

MS SQL Server

PostgresSQL

Business Logic Language

AL (proprietary Application Language)

Python

Business Logic Extensibility

Extensions and defined events

Inheritance and overrides

Client Language

AL (capability to include javascript)

XML / html / javascript

Business Documents

AL Reports via RDL

HTML converted to PDF

API (for interfacing external applications)

SOAP / OData / REST 

XML-RPC (other APIs are available)

 

Feature comparison

For a full comparison of the features across the two systems then this is a comprehensive overview…  https://www.odoo.com/page/compare-odoo-vs-dynamics#features

Choosing between Business Central and Odoo


When selecting an ERP there are a number of criteria to consider.

  • Price – a quick way to make a return on investment is to start with a low price. For startups and very small companies then the Odoo community package is a clear winner as it’s free. However, the Enterprise version aimed at small to medium sized businesses, though a pay per user model has a suite of great out of the box apps and is still very cost effective. Furthermore, the solution does not require additional licensed software such as Windows Server and MSSQL in order to run. Microsoft Dynamics comes with storage and licensing costs which smaller businesses might find prohibitive. Even the cost and licensing document might be tricky for some businesses to make sense of if they are new to enterprise software and ERP systemsIn a nutshell for the same functionality Odoo wins against all of Business Central’s pricing options. 

  • Support - While Business Central has a well-established network of resellers in the UK, Odoo has only a handful of established and credible partners. However, Business Central resellers are finding it tough to attract younger developers to work with the proprietary Pascal based AL while children are learning Python at school.

  • Look and feel - Many people think that BC looks like a more solid product based upon the look of the client. It should be understood that the BC client achieves its look by interpreting the AL code through a host of proprietary controls resulting in a very slick environment at the cost of performance. Odoo’s client is browser-based and as such is far more responsive. This is helped by the database being addressed using SQL instead of emulating the old ISAM database meaning that Odoo is quicker and that this advantage grows as the database size increases. Many users comment on its modern, clean UI and the simplicity of navigation and standardised app design across all modules also appeals to customers. The Odoo client is also capable of doing things natively that the BC client cannot - such as pivot tables and draggable cards. 

  • Extensibility - There is no such thing as a standard business and very few businesses are satisfied with an out-of-the-box ERP. Navision was always known as the product of infinite extensibility although with the move to development by extensions in Business Central this is not as true as it once was. Both BC and Odoo can be extended with Apps (Extensions) though Odoo offers a much greater range of out-of-the-box functionality within its base apps. The Odoo environment enables the development of custom modules easily such as workflows to meet unique business process requirements. It also offers Studio which allows a business to develop its own coddles extensions. Similar things were possible in the Windows forms flavour of Navision but Business Central has no such offering.

 

What’s the best choice for your business?

There’s no denying the Microsoft Dynamics offers a comprehensive range of ERP features for any business, and it comes with the pedigree and the massive support system of Microsoft behind it.

However, for small to medium businesses with big plans, Odoo offers a perfect balance of cost-effectiveness, a quick return on investment and sophistication, as well as the freedom and flexibility to customise it precisely to your needs. Its limitations are rapidly being improved as the system gains maturity and more developers join the picture – it certainly comes strongly recommended by us.