The words configuration and customization can be equally challenging to understand. As related to ERP software - the challenge comes from the fact that every software company builds and defines their software a little differently.

Configuration typically refers to the ability of a software to natively perform a certain function. A general way to think about customization is building, coding or modifying something within the software that didn’t originally exist.

When selecting ERP software, an important goal is finding software that than be “configured” to meet most of the needs of your company. There are determining factors in assessing configuration, i.e. identifying the software that can best meet the requirements you’ve defined.

ERP configuration

Here are some helpful points to keep in mind about configuration that we’ve discovered as independent ERP consultants:

  1. If a software seller says the software can do it, it does not mean it’s true
  2. Is your company ready to amend current state processes to align with how new software works?
  3. Will the configuration meet the computing/timeliness performance your company needs or expects (now and as your volume grows)? You don’t want to degrade performance
  4. While a software may be configurable, you’ll need an expert resource that knows how to do the configuration
    Sidebar: This is a big issue with certain software packages. Modern ERP software is highly capable which means highly technical. There is a shortage of experienced SI technical resources that know the advanced mechanics of configuring software
  5. Validate the concept of configuration with the same careful eye you would a customization especially if your business can be categorized as highly complex. What are the odds a software is going to come out of the box and meet your requirements?
  6. Seek to understand and validate if the configuration(s) you’re asking for have been configured in other similar size and types of businesses

The difference between ERP software configuration vs. customization

After reviewing these points, you have a better appreciation of why software configuration and customization aren’t as clear cut as one might expect. The takeaway is sometimes the promise of a configuration really needs to be a customization, or worse, perhaps the wrong software was selected. At Third Stage Consulting, we’re of the belief that customizations should be reserved for the most unique differentiators of your business.

As this blog points out, it’s not always that cut and dry. Even if your ERP business requirements are complete and validated (and most are not), you are at a disadvantage when trying to understand the capabilities of new software i.e., what is truly configurable in a way that would work well for your organization.

As this video points out, ERP software best practices and out-of-the-box configuration need to be balanced with the tension to further customize the software:

YouTube player

We’ve been called to help customers trying to save derailed implementations because the software was “configured” but wasn’t performing in a way the company could live with. We’ve also been hired to address customizations that didn’t work out as expected. These issues should have been flushed out during ERP software testing - Unit, System, Integration, User Acceptance, etc. but were not.

Part of the struggle between configuration and customization comes down to understanding the wide range of software options available in the marketplace. Identifying which of the top ERP systems best fit the defined needs of an organization is a critical factor in why businesses require expert assistance to choose an ERP system.

We have seen the aftermath of ERP projects where organizations who implement systems that are not well-suited to their business will pay more, take longer, and receive less benefit from the system. Often this is not discovered until an initiative is overbudget and well into an implementation.

Let the unbiased resources at Third Stage Consulting have the ERP configuration vs. customization conversation with you. We are here to help educate you on this and all things ERP related.

Please contact us to arrange a time to brainstorm with one of our consultants. We are happy to help in your digital transformation journey!

Bob Blanchette
Bob brings a creative blend of understanding operational benefit and navigating employee resistance to change, ultimately helping organization realize success and benefit through maximizing the effectiveness of people. He holds a successful track record of HR leadership and promoting fair and unbiased outcomes.
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