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ERP – Adapt or Customize?

By Jerry Lee

To adapt or to customize your ERP? This decision requires prudence when implementing an ERP system.

Often, business problems are tackled with a customization rather than evaluating if the business process can be adjusted to work within the base system design of the ERP. Businesses also often start applying customizations without fully understand any implications that may have an impact in the long run. There are times where custom functionality is needed and customization is great to get “what you want”, but what’s the catch? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:

PROs:

  • It resolves specific required functionality not native to the ERP system. Even so, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, why customization?
  • We are living in a customizable world, in the era of new technologies allowing users to customize and personalize their own applications. Been accustomed to this flexibility, it becomes difficult for people to adjust.
  • Protect competitive advantages that have made organizations successful. This is what makes the organization unique from its competitors. Because it is unique, no ERP software is able to provide as an out-of-the-box functionality.

 

CONS:

  • Upgrades becomes more complex, costly, and risky because a special upgrade path will be necessary.
  • Help desks typically does not support customizations, this is because they do not have the knowledge of the customization.
  • Potential interference or incompatibility with future implemented modules if the customization is poorly designed.
  • Outdated (or zero) documentation is very common for customizations often due to delivery pressures.
  • Having to do your own testing extensively for every affected module in the ERP system, because you are the only one with this unique requirement.
  • The risk of customizing for the wrong reason. For every customization that has been identified, we need to ask if the customization is really necessary. It can be a possibility that the customization is required because the people does not want to adopt new business processes and software functionality. This could suggest that the organization should invest in change management to help people adapt to new ways of doing things rather than investing in customizations.

 

Customizations can be inevitable in organizations, the key is to understand the implications and find the right balance. And most importantly keep it simple because “Simplicity is a competitive advantage”!

 

Take Away: Applying Industry Best Practise

As feasibility allows, make efforts to implement the customization outside the ERP system. The customization can be either an interactive interface or a batch process as a standalone. This approach can be to your advantage over customizing your ERP in the long term. Having a standalone may mean not having a seamless interface but you need to consider the key advantages for adapting to your ERP:

 

  • Easier upgrade path allowing you to take advantage of the standard software upgrade releases with minimal upgrade effort.
  • Less time and costly to upgrade by eliminating custom functionality troubleshooting and debugging efforts.
  • Access to support documentation and knowledge-base because you are not the only one with the knowledge of the system’s functionality, information will be widely available.

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