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I don’t know if it is the recent change in weather but recently I’ve been seeing two distinct trends regarding best practices.

On one hand, I have clients who just want us to give them best practices when selecting an ERP system: “Just give me the diagrams/lists/processes/interpretive dance of my industry’s best practices and we’ll buy the software that best supports them. Sometime in the [unspecified] future; we’ll make our employees switch over to the best practices [using an undefined method].”

On the other hand, I have clients who act as though I’ve just called their firstborn ugly when I mention best practices: “My company will not adopt best practices because we’re like a beautiful and unique snowflake and no best practices will fit how our company does business.”

The truth about best practices lies somewhere in between overzealous adoption and outright rejection, and the three largest myths about best practices need to be sorted out before making a decision on what’s best for your organization:

Myth 1: Every company is unique. At the base level, all companies provide a product or service in exchange for a form of compensation. The methods of producing the product/service and even the product/service itself might be unique in the patent sense of the term but the process of bringing the product/service to the market is not. A unique process may even be detrimental — if a company decides to create unique accounting practices, more than likely, it will be getting a nice visit from an IRS tax auditor.

Myth 2: Every company is a boilerplate. In the most basic form, yes, companies are the same (see above), but there is more than one way to skin a cat. For example, if I have to deliver a document to another department, should I email it, snail mail it, fax it, hand deliver it or courier it? Because many companies perform functions differently, ERP software vendors have to provide more than just pre-configured industry solutions to encompass the myriad of ways companies do business.

Myth 3: Only my industry’s best practices matter. Looking at your industry’s best practices is a great start. Industry best practices help provide a benchmark for your company’s current state and where you’d like to be in the future but that practice is a bit short-sided. If you are discussing best practices with people from the same industry, you might pick up some good tips. On the other hand, if you are discussing best practices with people from a variety of industries, you will definitely be treated to some valuable insight.

When beginning an ERP implementation, remember there’s a happy shade of gray between business boilerplate and business uniqueness. The best ERP consultants take the time to determine your company’s competitive advantages, map your current state and desired future state processes, and make recommendations from your industry’s best practices as well as other industry’s best practices.