In recent years, ERP implementation has become a natural step for any enterprise aiming to grow. By adopting an ERP, enterprises can collect data from various business processes, including logistics, finance, and sales, in one place, increasing operational efficiency, enhancing employee productivity, and fostering workflow transparency.
However, practice shows that ERP systems are rarely implemented with default settings. The majority of organisations customise their ERPs before or after the deployment, tailoring the solution to their needs and increasing its value. According to the 2022 ERP Report by Panorama Consulting, more than 64% of all ERP projects involve moderate to heavy customisations.
This article provides valuable tips on how to ensure that an ERP customisation project goes smoothly and brings the expected results.
ERP customisation vs configuration: which one do you need
Customisation implies improving an existing ERP solution and tailoring it to the company’s workflows by modifying its functionality, UX and UI, or other aspects. Typically, this is a complex and costly modification involving custom code development.
However, customisation is not the only way to improve an existing ERP, as there is also ERP configuration. The latter implies the use of in-built ERP settings to make the software meet certain requirements. Examples of ERP configurations include fine-tuning email templates, page layouts and field labels.
Although customisation is typically more invasive and resource-heavy, it can turn out more efficient than configuration if done correctly. After all, it’s through customisation that organisations can equip ERP with cutting-edge technology, add new functionality, and make other enhancements to make the ERP solution more powerful.
3 tips to ensure smooth and effective ERP customisation
Here are three steps to help an organisation carry out an ERP customisation quickly and successfully.
1. Run a business analysis beforehand
To begin with, we recommend organisations initiating ERP customisation to examine their business environment. Such an analysis can help determine the overall viability of ERP customisation and understand whether the organisation's business goals can be achieved through a configuration.
If it turns out that customisation is the best option, the analysis can help the company determine where to start and how to carry out the planned customisation. To run a brief business analysis, decision-makers should arrange a series of meetings with managers and IT staff to discuss the following questions:
- What are our primary ERP goals and pain points?
- How can we improve our ERP’s performance?
- Should we initiate customisation, or would configurations be enough?
- Can our corporate IT department develop and implement planned customisations, or should we hire third-party developers?
- What KPIs can we use to measure customisation success?
Based on the answers to these and other questions, the organisation can better understand the approximate scope of modifications and improvements required. Down the line, this information can be used to formulate and document business requirements.
2. Identify the most relevant customisations
We recommend decision-makers to become familiar with the main types of ERP customisation and get a clearer understanding of available options. Below are the most common ERP customisation paths.
- UX/UI customisation – this type of customisation involves modifying ERP’s graphic interface (pull-down menus, buttons, scroll bars, png icons, etc.), look and feel, and navigation
- Forms and workflow customisation – revamping the existing dashboards, forms, and workflows or implementing new ones to tailor the ERP to the organisation's existing processes
- Functionality extension – involves integrating new modules and plugins to add missing or more advanced functionality to the ERP
- Feature customisation – this customisation type involves developers modifying the ERP solution’s code to extend its functionality
- Custom integrations – developers build API interfaces to integrate an ERP with business systems like ecommerce, CRM, HRM, and others
- Automation – by implementing rule-based or robotic process automation, and intelligent data capture, developers can automate some day-to-day enterprise resource planning tasks
While all of these ERP software aspects seem equally important, we would not recommend customising them all at once.
On the one hand, developing multiple customisations increases the project’s budget. In the long run, this can also make maintenance and upgrades more difficult and lead to over customisation. In such a case, any future updates can affect the health and performance of the entire ERP system.
Ideally, we would recommend to identify one or two most valuable customisations and proceed with them. Then, if necessary, developers can implement the rest of nice-to-have improvements.
Here, workflow mapping will come in handy to identify their most essential workflows and visualise the relationships between them, helping to determine which customisations would bring the most business value.
3. Consider ERP consultancy
If decision-makers can’t identify the most suitable customisation solution, they should turn to third-party ERP experts. The latter will conduct a more thorough and unbiased business analysis, identify the most relevant customisations, and come up with a step-by-step project plan.
In addition, if an organisation does not have properly skilled developers to carry out ERP customisation, they can hire consultants with relevant expertise to develop, implement and then maintain customisations.
Enterprises across industries can benefit from ERP implementation, as they allow organisations to get a unified view of disparate business aspects.
However, companies can reap even more benefits from their ERP solutions if they customise the software and tailor it to their unique business needs. Still, customisation is a rather complex, costly, and risky process, and must be approached carefully.
We would recommend companies that want to customise their ERP to start with a business analysis and identify customisation goals, requirements, and KPIs. Then, decision-makers should select the most critical integrations, which will be developed in the first place. Finally, if these tasks seem too challenging, or if an organisation lacks the skill to carry out planned customisations, they should consider hiring ERP consultants for the project.
About the author:
Roman Davydov is a Technology Observer at Itransition. With over four years of experience in the IT industry, Roman follows and analyses digital transformation trends to guide businesses in making informed software buying choices.