Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, like Microsoft Dynamics GP, plays a significant part in streamlining business operations. From product development planning to supply chain and human resources management, you can integrate the fundamental forces in your company into one centralized system and evaluate data to inform and support your decision.
The purpose of ERP software is to meet your business’s needs, but out of the box, more than one-size-fits-all software may align with your business needs. Just like any software, ERP software also benefits from some form of customization as it becomes fine-tuned to the unique processes of a company. However, learning and managing customizations with meticulous planning is crucial to keep the bank intact.
While you should consider an ERP implementation as an investment, there are specific ways to minimize or reduce your ERP implementation costs and keep your project from going over budget. We’ve identified three strategies to help you cut down your ERP implementation costs.
Strategies to Manage ERP Customizations
1. Understand the Difference Between Customization and Configuration
ERP configuration and customization are often used interchangeably in many cases. However, there is a subtle but significant difference between them, and this knowledge can help you manage the customization process.
With out-of-the-box ERP software, tweaks are made to the default settings, for example, in your —access control, custom fields, and units of measurement. These changes are usually chosen and implemented from a pre-set list or menu of options, with no alterations to the ERP’s underlying architecture needed.
Types of configurations include (but are not limited to) things like:
- Creating company-specific roles
- Changing field labels using internal terminology
- Developing organization-specific BI
- Changing current reports to mirror the business requirements
- Alteration in current interfaces to echo the needs of the business includes changing the flow of field entry or concealing fields
ERP customizations have much broader parameters and usually involve extensive modifications to coding. As a result, they’re far more labour-intensive, and there are virtually zero margins for errors.
Below is a list of some of the kinds of customizations include you can expect:
- User interface: Cosmetic and design changes depending on user preferences
- Certain integrations & automation
- Creating new functionalities for modules that already exist
- Developing additional solution functionalities for specific business requirements, current modules notwithstanding
- Developing data exports
- Developing integration points to import data
- Creating Business Process Automation or workflow development
- Altering solution process to add or delete steps according to the specific needs of the business
- Adding fields or tables to use in process automation and performance of calculations
It is wise to use customizations with caution and in a limited way. As you create more customizations, so the complexity of your system grows, making it more challenging to install the critical software updated from the vendor.
2. Add Abstraction Layers
Customizations that are poorly managed have long-lasting consequences on your system, impeding your ability to install future upgrades and causing it to conflict with necessary vendor updates (which, in cloud-based systems, install automatically).
An abstraction layer, at its core, is a type of customization laboratory. An additional interface or parameter within the app that separates your ERP customizations from the underlying code, thereby protecting them from vendor updates. By separating the two, businesses can test a customization’s compatibility and tweak it without damaging the system.
Most modern ERPs have built-in abstraction layers. If yours doesn’t, or its layers need to be more adequate, consult your vendor to determine the best way to integrate them into your system. It won’t be cheap, but it’ll save money in the long run.
3. Analyze the Utility of Customization
Although customization may be critical from a business standpoint, not all updates are created equal. To ensure the long-term success and smooth functioning of a customization, it is necessary to ask some crucial questions and analyze updates. It’s important to consider whether a given modification solves any current issues, adds core, long-term value, and can be added to the software without changing the basic code.
Apart from researching the criteria mentioned before customization, it’s equally important to declutter your existing programs, for some updates might have lost their utility over time. Furthermore, if you don’t remove or modify unrequired code, it can accumulate and reduce your system’s speed.
Here are three ways to declutter your ERP software:
- Removal: If customization doesn’t impact the primary system in a significant way, then it’s safe to remove it entirely.
- Disabling: In cases where customization spans various system components, it’s wiser to disable or hide it not to impact the entire system adversely.
- Rebuilding: In cases where removal and disabling are impossible, the only option might be to rebuild the customization in a new ERP system. Since this can be highly tedious, we recommend choosing this way when you’ve exhausted other options.
In the end, ERP customization might seem daunting at the outset. However, with the help of these three management tips, you can use them to positively impact your ERP software and improve your company’s productivity in the long run.
BHC Group is committed to providing our clients with cost-effective and productivity-driving ERP projects in Microsoft Dynamics GP. Contact our team to schedule an ERP technology assessment, demo, or consultation to see how to best begin your ERP journey.