The Long-Term Effects of Heavy ERP System Customization

June 5, 2013

“No customization” is one of the most common mantras we hear about ERP systems among our global client base. “After all, ERP vendors have spent billions of dollars in research and development over the years and we can’t be the first ones to have tried reengineering our business processes in these key areas, so there’s really no need to reinvent the wheel, right?”

As utopian as a zero-customization ERP implementation may sound, the unfortunate fact is that most organizations customize their ERP systems – at least to some degree. In fact, our 2013 ERP Report on organizational change and business process management shows that 90% of ERP systems have at least minor customization. So while most executives want to manage their implementations by simply using basic configuration, setup and personalization of the software, an overwhelming majority also end up making fundamental changes to the source code.

ERP Customization

So two things are clear: most organizations fear customization yet most also fail to implement without heading down that tricky path. But what are the reasons for such concern over customization? Below are just a few thoughts to keep in mind as you find yourself navigating the slippery slope of ERP system customization:

ERP customization can create problems during implementation. Most executives have read the horror stories of ERP failures largely attributed to over-customization of ERP systems, so it’s only natural that they would err on the side of “no customization” to mitigate the associated risks. Customization is hard to manage, can break your implementation budget and can be a symptom of employees’ refusing to change their business processes, so customization is a very valid concern. Perhaps most concerning, customization is also sending your organization down a path of relying less on tried-and-true, proven and tested off-the-shelf software functionality and relying more on unproven functionality, which should be a big concern for any CEO, CIO or implementation project manager.

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