During an ERP project, no one wants to hear the dreaded c-word: customizations. We often encounter executives and stakeholders who are eager to implement a new system, but with as little customization as possible. There is a rational basis for this fear — old, poorly maintained, or broken customizations are usually one of the reasons companies look for a new ERP system in the first place! While it’s important to use as much of the base functionality as possible, we believe no customizations across the board is the wrong decision, and decision-makers should take a more nuanced approach.
This customization issue comes up during early stages of the project. Users document their business processes and compare against the functionality of the new business application. Once this process, known as gap-fit analysis, is complete, project teams must decide how to close the gap. They can either change the business process or change the software to fit the process. There are pros and cons to each approach.
Pros and cons of each option
Asking people to change their process is risky and time-consuming. In an earlier post, we defined ERP implementations as change-management initiatives. During an implementation, old business processes are being replaced, which makes users nervous. People get used to doing things the same way. When users see that a new system is going to change certain aspects of their jobs, they resist.
When met with this kind of resistance from users, customization may be seen as the way to go. In the short term, it’s faster, easier, and makes everyone happy. But using customizations as project shortcuts can cost much more in the long run — they need to be maintained, updated, and unforeseen changes can break things later. There are a lot of contingencies you can’t plan for.
Important questions to ask
So, how do you decide whether to customize a business process or not? A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “will this make my business more competitive in the marketplace?”
Here’s why: every company is unique. Your business processes drive this uniqueness. An ERP implementation can make your company more efficient, save on long-term costs, and in many cases, is essential to your company’s growth. But losing some of your key processes due to a no-customization policy isn’t worth it. Strive to maintain what makes you, you. By applying this rule consistently, you can maintain what is unique about your company, while still realizing all the benefits of a modern ERP system.
The good news is customizations are not as invasive as they used to be. With Dynamics 365 and its cloud-based platform, the system architecture makes it much easier to create extensions without harming other code.
Frequently asked questions
While it’s true that excessive or broken software customizations are harmful, throwing out the whole concept entirely isn’t wise. A good implementation partner will have a system and rationale for deciding whether to customize the software.
A process to determine if software meets a business requirement.
Determine if the business process is part of what differentiates your company in the market. In other words, is this essential to the way you do business?
Dynamics 365’s architecture is different from AX. The architecture of Dynamics 365 has made it easier to create extensions to model business processes without touching the core software. You can read more about extensibility here.