When should you customise an ERP solution?

Business management software known as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions help businesses digitise and streamline their operations to save time and money, and ultimately offer improved customer experiences. Sometimes business may consider customisation to fit unique needs.

‘Customisation’, what does it mean, and when should you do it? Well, customisation can be as simple as a screen change, right through to creating complex business logic providing new functionality that your business requires. Customisations can be complex and expensive, so they should be made only after considering the benefits to the business, and assessing the all-of-life costs.

OptimySME is a Gold Odoo Partner

We’ve chosen to work with Odoo ERP & CRM because it is a cloud-based, modular solution, allowing Kiwi SMEs to scale as required, while employing a powerful toolkit designed to meet the unique needs of businesses across diverse industries. Odoo delivers rich functionality customisable to your business needs at an affordable cost, for both implementation and on-going support.

Odoo distinguishes itself among ERP solutions by actively supporting customisations, so when they are required, the all-of-life cost can be surprisingly affordable. Here’s a brief explanation of how this is possible:

Python, a programming language, is the underlying foundation of Odoo. One cool thing about Python is that it lets us add new features to Odoo without messing with its main structure. This is like adding extra rooms to a house without changing its foundations. This alone makes Odoo unique in the ERP world! In addition, Odoo makes it easy to change how things look on screen without needing to change the technical stuff behind the scenes. This is like rearranging furniture in a room without any heavy lifting!

As a Gold Odoo partner, OptimySME has access to all of Odoo's code, and can use the same tools for customisations, ensuring that the look, feel, and functionality, remain consistent across custom and standard Odoo components, making life easier for our clients. 

So the question remains, should you customise?

If possible, the answer is ‘no’. Here’s why: customisation takes time, it costs money to design, build, and test, and they will almost certainly make future upgrades more expensive. In most cases, it’s better to change an existing business process to work with the solution, than it is to tailor the solution. 

Customisation should be restricted to unique business process, allowing you to do things as an organisation that make you special to your customers, and set you apart from your competition. Such business processes are typically not going to be covered by normal or out-of-the-box functionality from any ERP system. 

If you decide to proceed with customisation, consider the following areas to stay on track, and get the most from your investment: 

Determine which customisations bring value 

If you’re going to customise, we recommend defining the value proposition so it’s clear how customisations are going add to your bottom line. If a proposed customisation is not adding enough value to be worthwhile, consider alternatives. 

Establish clear business requirements

Next, be very clear on your requirements. So, what is it that you're trying to achieve? Documenting this information helps keep customisation on track, preventing scope changes and additions that can add further cost and complexity, and ultimately delay implementation benefits. 

Plan to test … and test again 

Testing is important, and may be complex in its own right. If you’re creating a brand new bit of functionality for a completely new process, testing may be relatively straightforward. However, if you're changing something within an existing integral process, then you need to think about what else could be affected by the changes.

In terms of testing and deployment, it’s prudent to think about the process, and define:

• who's going to carry out testing? 

• how is it going to be done? 

• when is it going to be done? 

Consider custom documentation and training needs

Customisation often adds to documentation and training needs. From a training point of view, the more customisations you introduce, the less you can rely on core training materials. While this is the case with any new solution, it will be necessary to consider how you are going to roll out  a new customised ERP solution to your employees. You may need to write specific training tools for your team to ensure knowledge sharing and retention.

Set aside extra budget and time for future upgrades & migrations 

There is a cost involved with custom development each time you go through an upgrade. Customisations can, and do, add complexity to any upgrade and/or migration process. Customisations often increases costs and can cause project delays as there require special consideration whenever there is a change / upgrade of the platform.  All custom code needs to be checked against any new functionality and checked to determine if it will be adversely impacted by anything that has changed in the new version. When upgrading, it is sensible to consider each customisation and whether it is still required.  

So what are the alternatives to customisation? 

The simplest alternative is to change existing business processes to fit with standard functionality. These will be processes that are not critical to your organisation’s competitive edge. If you have the ability to change business process to fit your ERP solution, then that's the best course of action rather than using development. 

How OptimySME can help

We help our clients select the right ERP solution for their needs. Where Odoo is a good fit, we work with you to define your requirements, and map business process to get the most from our investment. Our experts take the time to understand your needs, and will be with you through every step of the implementation journey, including training and support. 

If you would like to know more about OptimySME and how we’re helping New Zealand SMEs improve efficiency, save time, and reduce costs, please get in touch. 

Understanding the Total Cost of Ownership for ERP Solutions