Everyone knows that a bespoke solution — be it in building architecture, clothing design or exercise routines — is a better option than the off-the-rack alternative. Sure it’s more expensive, but the payoff is almost always worth it. So why do so many organizations balk at the idea of customizing their ERP systems? It’s hard to put a number to the times we’ve heard of an organization going into an ERP implementation with the idea that it would sacrifice its own business processes — the very processes that made it successful in the first place — for the sole purpose of completely eliminating ERP customization and instead relying on an out-of-the-box ERP solution.
The great irony is that because these solutions usually are designed to match a software vendor’s idea of the “best practices” of an industry, their unaltered use can have the effect of eradicating key differentiators that the implementing organizations once held. Worse still? Even organizations that struggle valiantly to avoid customization at any cost often end up ceding the point anyway once they realize that the canned ERP software purchased isn’t really the saving grace of their entire operational structure.
Data from our 2012 ERP Report show that seven out of ten companies have participated in either minor (one to ten-percent) or some (11- to 25-percent) customization. Eleven-percent of respondents are using ERP software with no customization.
As the report mentions, customization can be quite costly. Organizations that were once certain they could get away with an out-of-the-box enterprise solution may be a bit flabbergasted by both the money and time that ERP customization actually takes. Even organizations that planned for some level of customization can quickly find themselves overwhelmed by the situation — especially when the customizations start looking more like ERP system workarounds than actual process enablers.
It’s a tricky situation so let’s face facts: nearly nine out of ten companies who implement ERP software have to customize. The question then remains, how does an organization limit the duration and cost of these customizations? The answer is just five words, but it’s five words well-worth remembering: business blueprinting and requirements gathering. Companies that invest the time and resources to accurately document their organizational requirements and map their “to be” processes during the ERP software selection phase of the project frequently end up with a better matched ERP software solution than those who do not. And a better matched ERP system means less customization.
Move your company down the path of ERP success by a. accepting the probable role of customization in your ERP implementation process; b. spending your energy making sure that the blueprinting and requirements gathering is done upfront and c. requesting that the shortlisted ERP software is demonstrated against those requirements. Don’t fight the tide; control it and make it work for your benefit.