Despite the standard advice against doing it, sometimes you just have to modify an off-the-shelf ERP package. Here are the main routes that ERP vendors provide.
It is an oft-repeated mantra in the ERP world that companies should not modify ERP packages. Consultants, experienced users and software vendors will tell you that modifications to ERP packages are difficult, expensive and detrimental to the ongoing operation, maintenance and development of a system.
Yet, it is widely acknowledged that a packaged software product cannot fully meet the needs of any one company. In response to this conundrum, software developers build a considerable amount of flexibility into their ERP packages to allow users to tailor the look, feel and functionality to better suit their needs and desires. Ideally, this built-in flexibility enables the user to adapt the package enough to eliminate the need for customization — and, in fact, that is the case for many companies.
The tailoring capability in ERP software packages can be as simple as the ability to move things around on screens and menus or as extensive as changes in calculations, database formats and content. Generally speaking, such changes are stored in a control table that is not altered or replaced when the software is updated by the developer. This means the changes will survive an upgrade and do not have to be redone or revalidated when a new release is installed.
Here is an overview of the types of changes allowed by major ERP software packages. Understand that each developer has its own tools and approaches, so your package may include some of these or others not listed.
Tailoring the user interface
Most ERP packages have some capability to alter the user interface by moving items around, changing labels, adding or removing items, etc. Often, these changes can be made and stored by an individual user or group of users — such as all users within a division or department — or for all users.
Similarly, you can make the data fields on certain screens view-only or restricted to certain acceptable entries. The ability to change labels can be extended to multiple language capabilities: user x’s or division y’s screens are in Spanish or French, for example.