Where to Customize your ERP – Core vs. Context

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Should an ERP system be customized? That is a question asked by many companies. Although some people say it should never be done, in almost every ERP project one of the first user requests is for customization.

If you accept that customization is a fact of ERP life, then what criteria should the project owner use to select and prioritize customizations? One objective framework for deciding on customization has been provided by consultant and author Geoffrey Moore. In his book ‘Dealing with Darwin’ Moore proposed the concept of ‘core’ and ‘context’ as a way to prioritize growth strategies, but the concept can also be extended to ERP customization.

‘Core’ is any activity that creates sustainable differentiation, ‘context’ is any activity that does not create differentiation. Core processes tend to be what customers value, but this doesn’t mean you should ignore context activities. Failure in a context process may contravene a regulation or alienate a customer, but you don’t show value to customers when performing a context task. All businesses have core and context parts.

Using Moore’s argument, the areas of your ERP which should be prioritized for customization are those that can create value through competitive advantage for your business, or increased productivity.

Once you have identified what parts of your business are core activities, SYSPRO gives you a range of options for customization. From changes that can be made by ordinary users – what we call personalization – to more sophisticated modifications that an administrator or skilled user can do – customization. You can also use SYSPRO e.net Solutions to create bespoke applications that work with SYSPRO (for your very specific needs), or to integrate with third party applications. The great thing is that if you follow SYSPRO’s guidelines for customization, you can upgrade your system without having to worry about or spend money on upgrading the customizations.

A point to remember is that for most companies core becomes context over time. Therefore you cannot relax once you have identified your core, and must always look for new core. Applying that to customization, you should keep re-visiting your customization to see if they still deliver differentiating value and your ERP system doesn’t fall into disrepair.

To paraphrase a comment from Moore’s book, to update customization requirements is not a strategy, it is a requirement.

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