Having now completed around fity (50) ERP implementations, a consistently common theme from customers is - “My business is unique and we need to tailor the ERP software to fit my business.”
This sentiment typically comes out in the early phases of the project planning. This is often even before the users have had ample opportunity to experience the capabilities of the new software tool. When this happens, the project planning process often spirals into endless discussions of how the new software tool performs versus the legacy system. Our natural tendency is to not change processes - instead we tend to want to do things the way we’ve always done them - Pave the Cow Path- rather than an immersion into what the tool can do and how it can positively impact their processes.
Here are some basic features in off the shelf ERP packages that should always be kept in mind.
They are built around best practices and are all very similar in their approach to business processes.
In most cases, the financial modules are GAAP compliant.
They are typically “light” on good business intelligence reporting analytics.
They offer a large variety of configuration options.
The best ERP packages will be open for easy integration to other third-party applications.
They are well documented with a wealth of learning aids.
With these facts in mind, you should consider…
Re-thinking and altering your current business processes when they diverge from the best practices delivered in the software.
Ifyour current financial processes are not lining up well with the GAAP compliant processes delivered with your new ERP tool, then it may be that you do not have a truly auditable set of financials. This can be a problem when dealing with external financial institutions, shareholders, or potential investors.
Spend significant time in the evaluation of your reporting and analytical must haves. I do not see the development of reporting as a customization of the software but as an extension of the captured data into meaningful output.
Make sure that you and/or your implementation consulting team completely explore and present all of the configuration and setup options. There can be hundreds of configuration setup options that alter the process flow of the tool and in the end, make it uniquely yours.
When you absolutely cannot find a way to configure the tool to meet your absolute must have business process then look for a “certified” third-party add-on product or extension that can address your requirements. I will always recommend buying over building.
If you were to choose to customize your new software then do not overlook the need to document and develop training aids for the customization.
In one of my early ERP implementation projects, I was told by the project sponsor that the goal was to make the newly purchased ERP tool to work exactly the same way as their legacy tool. I was brought to the project mid-stream (the first project team had failed to deliver) and there were already numerous customization projects underway. They had even developed a specification to modify the way MRP worked. I quickly realized that many of these planned customizations were aimed at moving away from the best practices delivered with the new tool. They actually spent more money on the customizations than they did for the ERP package itself. In the end, many of these bought and paid for customizations were never implemented. The customer came to the realization that when properly configured the new tool could meet their needs.
In the end I am saying that your ERP should NEVER be customized but customization should be a last resort. Explore the full capabilities of your new ERP before you resort to costly customization. Consider that the deadly statement - “that is how we have always done it” - may be costing you in efficiency, productivity and potential growth.
After all, ask this question… “Why did we feel we needed a new ERP tool?”
Surely the answer is not “to do things the same ways as we always have.”