Customization Series, 3 of 4: Finding the Right Fit

Now that we have better defined and explained some of the hidden costs of customization, it’s time to determine if customization is the right fit for your company.  One important point to keep in mind is this:  Your ERP system should fit your company’s main needs without adding customization.  There is probably no system out there that will be a 100% fit, but the fewer customizations you have to make the better.  Remember with every customization you request, moving forward with your vendor (original start date, implementation, updates, etc) may be dramatically affected.

In some cases customizations may be good.  For example, a software package has a set of standard reports it provides as part of the solution.  In some cases you may want more or less information on a particular report and therefore have it customized to fit your needs.  You may need a report that the system does not offer as part of the standard offering so you write one or have one written.  These examples, although they can still require extra work when upgrading to your vendor’s newest release, are not uncommon. 

The real issues come into play when you need an actual program customized.  Now you are asking for something that requires much more effort to code and to maintain.  This is where moving forward to newer release levels can really get muddy.  IF it is something you absolutely cannot be without then try asking your vendor to consider it as standard code.  If there is a benefit to others in the marketplace they certainly should be willing to do so.  You may still have to front some money for accelerated development, but you’ll have the security of knowing it will become standard code and be maintained as part of the standard product. 

Although there are pros and cons to customization this series has shown that there can be significant pain, operationally and financially, when having to rely on heavy system customizations.   As outlined in the previous blog concerning costs of customization, with heavy system customizations you are dependent on your vendor to write the code and update that code if you want to remain on their current release levels and the costs could end up significantly increasing the total cost of ownership.  The question that should be asked is whether the outcome is worth the hassle and resources spent.

We have met with prospects that were overwhelmed by the amount of system customization they ultimately had to have in order to use their ERP systems, which is why they were looking for new solutions.  Their major requirement was to eliminate or at least minimize system customization.  If the system cannot be a 100% fit it should be at least a 80% fit for your business needs out of box.  If it’s not, then keep looking.  Not everyone will be able to do this, but it’s good to keep in mind when deciding what ERP system is best.

  Our last blog in the Customization series will cover what’s behind the scenes on Customization.

Posted by Ken Hayes, Vice President, ProfitKey International
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