Heavy ERP customisation problematic

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 12 Jun 2013

The heavy customisation of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can prove chaotic if not done properly.

So says Eric Kimberling, managing partner of Panorama Consulting Solutions, who notes that most organisations customise their ERP systems to some degree.

According to Panorama Consulting's 2013 ERP Report on organisational change and business process management, 90% of ERP systems have at least minor customisation. "So while most executives want to manage their implementations by simply using basic configuration, set-up and personalisation of the software, an overwhelming majority also end up making fundamental changes to the source code," Kimberling says.

"So two things are clear - most organisations fear customisation, yet most also fail to implement without heading down that tricky path," he adds.

Kimberling argues that ERP customisation can create problems during implementation, adding that most executives have read the horror stories of ERP failures largely attributed to over-customisation of ERP systems. "So it's only natural that they would err on the side of 'no customisation' to mitigate the associated risks."

He also explains that customisation is hard to manage, can break an organisation's implementation budget and can be a symptom of employees refusing to change their business processes.

"Perhaps most concerning, customisation is also sending your organisation 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."

According to Kimberling, ERP customisation can also create problems after implementation. "Even if you are able to successfully navigate the implementation risks associated with customisation, it can create more problems later on after implementation."

He adds that upgrades become more difficult since the code often needs to be rewritten to support newer versions of the software, which often leads organisations to defer upgrades - sometimes indefinitely.