ERP Customization Tips for Small Businesses

ERP Customization Tips for Small Businesses

Small businesses that adopt a new ERP system often find that they require ERP customization for making necessary changes to the software, so it meets specific business requirements. This can be a somewhat difficult process since it increases the complexity of the code and may result in unforeseen complications. On the other hand, with ERP implementation and training being a particularly complex part of investing in a new ERP solution, it is important to get this right the first time - else risk losing valuable time and money in a bid to rectify errors through ERP customization. 

Additionally, how long it takes to implement an ERP system for a small business is dependent on extra factors such as stricter budgets and drastic scalability within a very short period of time. Therefore, identify core business issues, outline objectives, and reach out to vendors with this assessment as the prime point of reference, when searching for the best ERP suite. Your business (and bottom line) will thank you for it.

For now, here are some tips on how to customize an ERP - especially for a small business. 

1) Wait a few months before beginning ERP customization

You might be tempted to start your ERP customization immediately. It’s generally better to wait between one and three months before attempting to do so, however, so your employees have sufficient time to get to know the system and figure out any limitations that the system might have. This will also help to determine the quality of integration between multiple business units, since ERPs are typically configured to transfer key data from one department to another, in order to create seamless workflows.

This, and many other key characteristics of an ERP system can only be identified with the passage of some time; that way, you can decide whether the system you currently have is sufficient, or needs an upgrade.

2) Define your business requirements

ERP customization projects are notorious for their lack of direction. You should determine your specific goals at the outset and use that as a roadmap throughout the entire ERP customization process. This will also help you when you compare and rank ERP vendors for your company, during the research stage. While this shouldn’t be a sole deciding factor, an ERP software review or two will also go a long way in influencing whether a prospective vendor is worth your while, after all.

3) Make sure you have strong project controls

You should set up an executive steering committee that will determine the specific changes that are needed to be made in the ERP customization. They can prioritize the most important modifications and run a cost-benefit analysis to determine which changes are simply too expensive to perform.

Restrictive budgets aren’t the only reason to limit ERP customization; the more you customize the features of an ERP system, the more problems you are likely to face. You will need to write up complex training manuals for everything and the code may contain hidden errors that reveal themselves at inopportune times. You should therefore try to use the standard ERP configurations whenever possible.

4) Document every single change that you make during ERP customization

You need your IT department to log every modification that they make, no matter how minor or inconsequential it might seem. While this information is especially resourceful for tracking and resolving ERP implementation issues, it will also be invaluable when tracking down bugs within the system. This way, your IT department will be aware of what the existing system harbors, and what needs to be changed in order to facilitate improved ERP customization.

5) Know the difference between ERP configuration and ERP customization

ERP configuration and ERP customization are two different things. Configuring the ERP solution involves making standard changes to existing parameters, workflows and fields. ERP customization involves making changes to the actual code (and in some cases, rewriting huge portions of it). Depending on your reasons for undertaking an ERP, it could turn out that you only need to configure the solution in order to meet some company requirements.

Therefore, ensure you maintain a robust partnership with your ERP application provider, especially one that welcomes complete transparency when issues arise. That way, you can depend on your vendor as they offer you advice on what needs to be done, when attention is needed.

6) Beware of runaway costs

If you’re not careful, the cost of the ERP customization could quickly spiral out of control. You might need to hire an ERP consultant or any other extra personnel to make the changes, lest there is a crisis. Therefore, set a specific budget for the ERP customization project and make sure the team sticks to it.

Benefits of ERP customization

Successful implementation of an ERP system requires the commitment and efforts of the entire workforce. With their involvement, it becomes easier to understand how the new system is benefitting your business and if you require an ERP customization. A few of the many benefits of using a customized ERP system that is tailored to the unique needs of your business are: 

  1. A system that allows your company to balance between ERP integration and specification.
  2. An improved ERP interface design, ultimately leading to a boost in sales and employee productivity.
  3. ERP customization leaves no need to adjust to the existing database system and retool, as your system is designed around your existing resources and infrastructure.
  4. A customized ERP provides improvements through learning from the experience of several businesses and customers, and provides solutions tailored for your specific business issues.
  5. You can enjoy automated workflows without having to change or overhaul the existing infrastructure and systems.

Asking a software development company to facilitate ERP customization that is precisely tailored to meet the unique business needs of your company should provide you with solutions for every detail of your data management framework. However, selecting the right ERP vendor is the first step towards successful ERP customization, so your business has a partner that is reliable yet adaptable to changing business requirements.

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