ERP Customization Conundrum: Best Practices for Implementing Your ERP System

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Unfortunately, businesses often find out far too late that they are required to customize their ERP which can be a slippery slope. Some customizations can have major productivity increases, but over-customization can force a system into a corner, making it obsolete or inflexible when it comes to future upgrades and usability. Usually, out-of-the-box functionality can deliver on the needs of an organization without the addition of over-the-top customizations, but where is the line between needing more and doing too much? Learn how to prevent the downfall of your ERP system through the application of best practices in this installment of the ERP Advisor.


 

ERP Customization Conundrum: Best Practices for Implementing Your ERP System

What are best practices for ERP Implementations?

Whenever the topic of ERP implementation comes up, you hear business leaders demanding best practices for their new system, but what does the term “best practices” really mean? Best practices for ERP implementations refer to utilizing as much out-of-the-box functionality as possible, without the addition of customizations for special automation or capabilities.

Too many customizations can impair the upgradability of an ERP which is why many leaders begin an ERP project demanding best practices and “out of the box” functionality. The unfortunate reality is that customizations can break when you upgrade, nullifying the effort originally put into developing the customization. Breaking customizations prevents many businesses from upgrading their ERP to the most current version. Fortunately, leaning on your vendor’s best practices can mitigate the risks associated with customization if leaders remain engaged and alert during implementation processes.

Why Do Some Businesses Choose to Customize?

ERPs are designed to meet industry-specific and operational needs out-of-the-box so it is possible a packaged application may not meet the unique needs of an individual business in its entirety. This is why businesses veer off the best practices path into ERP customization, despite warnings from their implementation specialist.

When an enterprise needs special functionality, it will often choose to customize and automate processes with the help of developers. These customizations may seem necessary to an end-user, but many times it is not in the company’s best interest. Users will demand customization because they believe it will deliver the necessary functionality they specifically need to perform their job.

Whether or not it is operationally necessary, users will still make arguments for specialized functionality. It is up to executive leadership and partners to see the real value in customization and make decisions surrounding the risks associated with going against implementation best practices.

Pitfalls of Over-Customizing a System

The over-customization of an ERP system can force it to become obsolete because businesses will skip the upgrades. Upgrades typically include necessary compliance updates, security fixes, hotfixes, etc. that the customized system will not benefit from. A major consequence of this is that the system will be vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks. Another consequence is losing access to future regulatory compliance updates. And even on a practical day-to-day level, excessive customizations can hinder the overall performance of the ERP, causing slugging response time in performing basic operations.

Unfortunately, all too many ERP customizations are implemented to meet the requirements of a single employee. This can be detrimental to a business when those individuals leave because often, no one else understands the customization or the purpose it serves within the system. When this occurs, a business's ability to grow is significantly hindered by useless functionality that will only continue to blockade future upgrades.

A major pitfall is also that customizations are extremely expensive, so when they are done unnecessarily, it wastes a significant number of resources and creates automation that will only be harmful to the system in the long run. Upfront, the customizations may appear groundbreaking, but leaders often neglect the future implications of this sort of functionality, including upgrade hindrances as mentioned above.

Users may request specific functionality to enhance their experiences and solve problems they perceive. Developers may devote time to creating solutions for the organization, only to find the user who requested wasn’t accustomed to the built-in functionality and unnecessarily built complexities to circumvent the best practices. Users who are used to a custom-built interface will particularly need oversight to ensure they do not attempt to “pave the cow path” to make the new system feel like their old one!

Gaps in a system's specialized functionality can only be accurately identified and improved upon after a system has been implemented in its entirety. It will also be painfully obvious that customization is necessary when users are unable to perform certain actions in order to do their jobs effectively. This simple practice can save an organization thousands of dollars. Most importantly, be aware of the adjustments being made to the system and be able to justify the role of those customizations in your operations to cut down on associated risks.

Conclusion

Overall, organizations should stick with best practices when implementing an ERP system to avoid creating obstacles later in the lifecycle of their product. If a product expert or executive employee within your organization is recommending customization, trust their viewpoint, but also verify the information with other potential users and experts before making the investment. In the end, the most important thing to understand about your ERP system may be that the need for too many customizations could be a major indicator that your organization has the wrong product, so it is important to be vigilant when implementing a system for warning signs that the customizations are getting out of hand. If you are in need of expert guidance, schedule a consultation with an EAG consultant, today!

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