Is Traditional ERP Customization Dead?

There is no easy answer to this question. Some advisors say that 85% of all ERP implementations include customization. We can assume that statistic is valid. But is ERP customization necessary? Maybe not.

Many past ERP customizations were simple format changes that can now be easily made with user configuration tools built into today’s ERP systems. These can be used to alter UI elements to suite the user, or to set the fields a particular user might need, hiding all others. Some ERP system configurations also have the ability to change quick link buttons to switch to a commonly used screen directly bypassing the menus.

A modern ERP will also include many user-defined fields within most tables to allow for most businesses to capture needed data. These will allow for text, numbers, dates, and other typical kinds of data. These user-defined fields can be added to transactions and labeled as desired by the user. They can be calculated values such as a transaction time stamp automatically generated.

One Foot in the Grave

Another area where we used to see a lot of ERP customization is integrating different systems. This used to require programming code but often now usually can be relatively simple web services or XML interfaces to move a value from one application to another. A demand might appear in a warehouse management system from one vendor and be passed to the purchasing module of an ERP system from another vendor. This capability, which exists in many ERP systems today, allows us to continue using applications we already have with little or no ERP customization. We can also get the benefit of best in class applications regardless of the vendor.

The sheer number of ERP choices today is remarkable. There are ERP choices in almost any vertical industry segment imaginable. This means the probability of finding good choices in your industry is high which also means the probability of necessary ERP customization is reduced.

Customization of ERP systems may not be dead, but it could have one foot in the grave - Tweet This

My own experience is that much desired customization never was needed. From the beginning, ERP systems have been based on APICS and similar standards. Just because we were used to working a certain way did not mean we couldn’t change and use the standard processes found in ERP. Often that meant we found process improvements after the difficulty of change and realized that we did not know everything we thought we knew.

Recently I read of a business where the ERP project manager refused to allow any customization until the system was completely implemented and had run for months. They completed their implementation in a few weeks, when a typical ERP implementation takes more than a year. They also found they could continue their business pretty well with the out of the box implementation.

So, customization of ERP systems may not be dead, but it could have one foot in the grave.

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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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