Selection tips for finding customized ERP software

None of the ERP systems you looked at and analyzed matches your prioritized requirements to your satisfaction.  One option is to use a customized ERP. This opens up both risks and benefits. What are some paths you could follow?

First, agree on a vision for your customized ERP

You and your ERP team spent considerable effort developing your prioritized requirements list.  Put in a similar effort towards the customized vision as well. Agree whether the customization will create or enhance features necessary for the future of your business or will enable workflows that use standard features realigned to create the future you desire.

Use an off the shelf ERP and modify it

Now that you and your team have a solid vision for your customization you need to decide how best to implement that vision.  Very commonly, a business will choose one of the well-known ERP systems from a reputable developer with the backing of a good ERP reseller.  Use the reseller to write the actual customization you want. They are already familiar with the data structures and the flow of the programmed application and once your needs are communicated, they can begin immediately making the updates you need.  Because they already are familiar with the ERP, they might also have suggestions that could improve on your customized vision.

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Be aware of some risk with this method.  The developer of the ERP will make changes and improvements over time.  These will be available for your use with a support agreement but some customizations will interfere with future changes.  You can choose which updates to install but there is a chance of a conflict at any point in the future.

Use an open-source ERP developed to be customized

There are several excellent ERP systems available that you can use as open-source software.  The application source code is freely available for you to download and modify in any way necessary and the updated code is yours.  If you have developers on your staff already, they can learn the program flows and data structures. This way, you have complete control over the customization and can maintain the customizations as your own needs change and as improvements in the application become available.  There are developers around the world using the same open-source ERP and their modifications are freely published and available for your business if they will help.

Many open source ERP systems have third party support businesses available to help with your customized development.  Like the companies that support off-the=shelf ERP, these are already familiar with the ERP application. Some of these businesses are staffed with third-world developers and you can find a significantly lower cost than developers who work in your country.

Develop an ERP specifically for your business

Many businesses want such extensive customization that developing a completely new ERP is their best option.  This method requires a first-rate development staff and complete agreement from top management. However, you will have an ERP that uses process flows and vocabulary that your users already completely understand and use regularly.  You will have no features that you do not use taking up screen space and requiring transaction steps only to input data in a cell that adds little value. Your reporting will match your needs completely. This could be the ERP you all dream about.

Finding the best vendor

Look for a developer who will understand and share your customized vision.  Ideally, they will also understand and agree with it but they might not as they are not in your business.  The developer should understand the application flows and the programming language already or you will pay for their training.  You also want a developer who will be in business well after the customization is complete for ongoing support and future development.  Check their financials and check on their references. 

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at

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Tom Miller

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