Should you customize your ERP system to match your existing business processes or adapt those processes to the best practices embodied by the enterprise software? It’s an old and oft-considered question; second only to “build or buy?”
Conventional wisdom tells us to just leave software alone to get the best value and return from it. The stated reasons are also classic and valid: the ‘domino effect’ of breaking some unintended function by customizing another, much more costly and complex upgrades (or being prevented from upgrading), delayed go-live dates, lack of vendor support for your customized code, dependence on whoever did the customization, and increased documentation costs to have help files accurately reflect the customized system’s operation.
In the face of such common sense reasoning, why would anyone undertake an ERP customization? It’s notable that despite many companies’ best intentions for vanilla implementations, the majority of ERP customers use customized software. The primary reason is competitive advantage. If your business process delivers an advantage, it’s likely to be worth the cost and complexity to adapt your ERP software to match that process. If not, it may be simpler and less costly to adapt your processes to the best practices built into the software.
In either case, careful consideration of the comparative value of business processes and software solutions should always precede customization. The inclination to change one often indicates a shortcoming of the other.
Once you’ve determined that customization makes sense, the project should be approached like any other implementation: Careful project controls and a disciplined framework are strong predictors of success.