Why would you customize your ERP and what are the ways you can?
Sure, everyone wants to leverage their ERP system and use all the feature that come with it, but there is nothing wrong with adding some customizations to leverage your business process. It is almost inevitable that when a project team gets into the details of the software during an implementation cycle or after you have been using the software for a while, your users start asking the questions on how the system can better be used to eliminate manual process or process happening outside the system.
Tips to Help Manage Customization in ERP Software
- Understand the difference between software customization and ERP package configuration:
This definition, found on LinkedIn, may be the best (edited for clarity and grammar):
“A customization is a feature, extension, or modification that requires custom coding and /or some form of special implementation. A configuration is when you use native tools in the system to change its behavior or features.”
A customization to your ERP system is when you are building functionality that doesn’t currently exist anywhere in the software. A customization very frequently requires technical software development and coding skills:
- Requires deep technical and product knowledge
- Unique to your solution
- Add new features to meet your requirements.
During a ERP implementation you go through the Setup features and options. There are these options for each module and they are A LOT of options and it is helpful to have advanced knowledge of your ERP system’s inner working when trying to configure to work a specific way.
ERP partners have this experience with the ERP as well as multiple industries to help with a system configuration.
- Must have deep product knowledge
- Set up features to meet requirements
- Configurations can be carried across the ERP for multi-company use
Have a clear, company-wide definition of business processes and requirements:
To successfully create a customization in your ERP your company needs to have a clear business process and requirement. When you have clear business processes your partner / system expert can identify if the process can be complete by configuration your ERP in a unique way or if a customization is needed.
Without a clear defined business process, you will run the risk of adding un needed customization and bastardizing your software to meet requirements that are not defined properly.
With a clearly defined business process you can walk thru these processes within your ERP and test that process with your ERP configuration and see what if any steps are missing that will help you identify if there are any customizations needed for your process. Your ERP partner should be able to identify thru your business process what is configuration and what is a customization in each process.
During your project implementation you need strong project controls to make sure that your project team does not just customize everything.
The first step is to prioritize the users’ needs and wants. A need is something that a system must have so that the user can complete a business process or function. A want is defined as something that will make the user or business process easier but is not mandatory. Once you identify the needs and wants the next step is to go thru the system and the core functionality and verify what the system can do thru configuration and what the system can’t do.
Next take this list of process that cannot be completed thru configuration and the PM should have a clear definition for the potential customizations. With these potential customizations there should be a clear definition of each potential customization, including a cost benefit analysis of the customization to ensure that you are only customizing where it provides the company with a unique competitive advantage and where there is no viable workaround within the system.
ERP Customization and Configuration Examples
Some examples with ERP implementation activities and how they line up to configuration and customization.
Personalization – Mostly Configuration
- Changes to field labels
- Security roles specific to the organization
- Business intelligence specific to the organization
Tailoring – Mostly Configuration
- Making modification to existing reports
- Modifying existing forms ex hiding fields, change the flow for entry
- Adding business specific fields to forms but this does not impact processing of transactions or calculations
Automation – Some Configuration, Some Customization
- Adding steps to a form to complete a business process
- Adding business specific fields to form that are used in processing of transactions and/ or calculations
Integration – Some Configuration, Some Customization
- Development of integration points for importing data
- Development of data exports
Extending – Mostly Customization
- New functionality within existing modules based on business processes
Products Available for Customizing Dynamics GP
When you have a business process that cannot be completed within GP using basic GP configuration the first step is to investigate the ISV products that are available to use with Dynamics GP. There are multiple ISV products available to assist all types of companies with their business processes and feed directly into Dynamics GP.
What do you need prior to contacting your partner to investigate a potential customization vs ISV product?
- Have a clearly defined business process and know what can be done within Dynamics GP and what cannot.
- Understand your GP configuration
- Does this process have to happen within Dynamics GP or can it happen outside and feed into GP at a point?
How would a customization affect your ERP Upgrade?
When you are doing a customization, there are somethings to consider helping you get thru a Dynamics GP upgrade. If your customization is inserting columns into existing GP tables, you need to make sure that you have proper documentation so that when you upgrade you know what tables you have, and that the data is not dropped and lost during the upgrade process.
Part of every customization in your system you should have the documentation that identifies what modifications to GP your customization is making and there should be steps to upgrade. If you have modified forms and your developer used dexterity to upgrade your forms there might be some additional work to the forms needed during an upgrade.
Also, if you have additional data being added to tables from your modified forms you will need to verify that these tables will upgrade or if the data is going to be dropped you will need a backup of the table prior to the upgrade so that you can upgrade your customization and then add the custom data back into the table after the upgrade.
This is one reason why you want to work with your ERP Partner when doing the customizations because any developer can add fields to a form and insert that data into a table however if they do not have extensive knowledge of the software like a Partner would then when you go to upgrade you will have to possible redo your customizations so that you can update your ERP.
You don’t want to have to be unable to upgrade your ERP because of a customization.
Configuration vs. Customization:
- Understanding which one you need you need extensive knowledge of your ERP
- Having a clearly defined business process is key in your decision
- Understanding your business needs vs business wants
- Having a clear project plan of the customization
- Investigate using ISV products rather that developing custom code
- Make sure you have detailed documentation of any customization
- All customizations should have an upgrade process
All companies are unique, and there is no single ERP that is going to meet 100% of your company’s requirements.
Use these steps to help you identify the right software and you can ensure that your customization needs are minimized. And if you’re looking for additional guidance, we’re here to help.