Why your ERP should embrace customizations

By Glenn Saunders – Having worked in the mid-market ERP space for 10 years now, customization can be a very dirty word when it comes to ERP implementations.  When I first started my career, a customization could mean hours of consulting and coordination between the business, a functional consultant and a developer.  That would be just to gather the requirements, then you had to unit test the functionality, plan to roll the change into production and actually move the new code into production.  So many steps, so much time spent with a lot of non-value added steps.  And to be honest, it was great for our consulting services.  We had customers that needed changes, we could complete those changes and it took a lot of time to do the work.  Utilization for consultants was up and revenue came in the door. 

But honestly what was the value to the customer in that scenario?  The customer may have received something of value and there were no toolsets capable of easy customization at the time.  Well the times have certainly changed.  Modern ERP platforms come enabled with simple customization toolsets that make tracking specific business information that may not be inherent in core ERP platforms. 

For a real life example, let’s consider a company that provides services to buildings boilers.  They have service contracts and projects where they are installing, repairing, and/or replacing boilers for buildings in a predefined geographic area.  There are some key components that would need to be tracked about the building, the boiler, and the location of both entities.  Further, the boiler may have other equipment or parts that need to be tracked for a technician to properly diagnose and repair the part.

In older ERP systems there would be no easy way to track this type of information.  You could certainly track the customer, the service, and bill that customer – but good luck tracking the detailed information on the boiler and building.  Well luckily modern ERP has made this type of functionality very capable.

For the example above, in NetSuite you would simply define a Building record type and associate that to the Customer entity record.  From there, you create a Boiler record type that would be associated with the Building record.  That may seem like a highly complex process, but it can be accomplished in about an hour.  Plus, with NetSuite’s native document management structure and support for images, you can create a place for images to be immediately uploaded so that technicians can quickly see schematics or pictures of the building and boiler. 

Effectively, something, that 5 years ago, would be an add-on to an existing system, or worse, a separate application that had to be integrated can now be reasonably incorporated into a core ERP system. This allows all parties to access the same information in the same system.  Instant visibility to the entire organization about the business and its operations. 

Companies that adopt systems like NetSuite have a competitive advantage over the competition because business processes can be continuously streamlined and functionality is constantly added to the application allowing organizations to adapt to changing market conditions and capitalize on new opportunities.