How to Customize Your ERP

By Neil Zawacki
Updated: August 12, 2011

Small businesses that decide to adopt an ERP solution often face an important choice: they can either adapt their business to the software parameters or modify the system so that it better serves their needs. This article will discuss what is needed to customize an ERP solution.

You will want to start by using the ERP solution as intended. This will show you how the system operates and hopefully reveal the various gaps in the system that need to be filled. Be sure to take lots of notes—it’s easy to forget something when you’re delving into the minutiae.

Once you’ve done this for a few days, you will need to write up a fit/gap document that describes the different issues. You should then send this file to your system administrator and have them determine whether the changes will conflict with other applications that you are currently using.

It’s also important to check whether the data you’re going to need already exists in the system. If it’s not, you’re going to need to define the new data structures or find a way to modify the existing ones.

The next step is to decide whether you want to modify the system or simply “bolt-on” the changes. If you modify the system, you are going to have to change the tables, screens and programs. If you “bolt-on” the system, you keep the existing structure but add new tables, screens and programs. The system administrator and functional owners can probably offer advice on which will work best.

You will then want to design a series of screens and report layouts. This should take into account the processing rules and data tables that will be involved with the processes. You should also write down potential scenarios that may negatively impact the functions that you are changing.

You’re probably going to want a software professional for the next part: you need to make direct changes to the code or write entirely new programs that support the changes. Everything will also have to be thoroughly tested to make sure the system is working properly. Be sure to use all the functions—you may have unintentionally caused a problem with the related system components, and you need to know this before you start using the system.

You should also keep track of all the different changes that you are making. This isn’t just for the records - you’re going to need to re-apply them every the software vendor releases a patch to the system. If everything has been done correctly, however, this shouldn’t be too big of a deal.

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