To Customize or Not to Customize?

Every business has their own processes but when you’re selecting a new ERP  your criteria will probably be based on your current needs.  Chances are no ERP is going to match those needs exactly so the next question is can it be customized?  You need to also consider if you really want to customize, what are going to be the consequences later if you do and are they worth it?

If you are considering a cloud solution your options to customize will be limited but your ability to upgrade will be well protected.  Solutions like NetSuite give you specific things you are allowed to do like add a certain number of new fields to specific areas or add some additional business logic that runs  after the transaction processes.  Is that enough to handle your business needs?

Other solutions like Sage X3 allow you to customize your solution as much as you like.  There are best practices you should follow so that you can still safely upgrade later.  But you can also choose to ignore those best practices and you can make the solution do anything you want.

So how far should you go to make the system match your specific processes?  I’ve worked with some clients that limit their customizations to the bare necessities while others customize everything.  Who’s happier?

Here are some things to consider:-

  1. Are you changing standard structure or rules? You should avoid changing field sizes or altering standard parts of the solution like expanding a product number field.  Any key identifier fields will be used throughout the system.  Changing them will take a lot of development then testing and you may need to re-do those change every time you upgrade.  Instead of changing standard fields, considering adding a new field of your own instead.  Always follow the solution’s best practices for development.  If your need means you have to break those rules you may want to reconsider.
  2. Will the customization prevent or hinder future upgrades? Some changes will mean that you will have challenges when you upgrade.  Even solutions that provide ways to protect the customizations during the upgrade process will mean you still need to test those changes with upgrades.  There is nothing wrong with doing the customization but be prepared to spend time reviewing and testing it with each upgrade.  If the customization is for something that is hard to reproduce then your team will have problems during testing.  That’s also a good sign you might not actually need it.
  3. Will the customization make the user’s job easier?  The answer to this question needs to be absolutely a yes.  If it doesn’t improve the user’s job then you definitely need to review the business process.  Customizations need to handle the business need but they also need to make things better for the user.  The value to the user may outweigh the down side.  Select the customizations that are easy to explain and add clear value to the business.