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Thomas García, ICON

Customization Options for Your ERP: Third-Party Products


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This is part 1 of 3 of a series in which we examine the basic options for customizing your ERP system.

In project implementation jargon, we talk about a “FIT” when we can use your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software’s built-in configurations to comply with a specific business process requirement.  On the other hand, we talk about a “GAP” when the system is not capable of satisfying a particular requirement and thus we need to resort to customizing the system to adapt it to this need.

In my experience, as well as that of other partners, there is no system out there that can be adapted to all of a company’s business processes using just its built-in configuration options.  Every system is created with certain process flows embedded within its DNA.  Depending on the system, you will have a little or a lot of flexibility to alter its core processes and adapt it to the way you do business.  The reality is that most businesses can benefit from the proper dose of customization.

But how much customization is healthy?  As an ERP consultant, I will always be the first to recommend implementing a product with minimum customization.  If a project requires too much customization it is likely that the product is not a good fit, and you may need to look for another product.  Make the right choices, however, and the proper level of customization can make a product go from barely being a fit, to add true value to your business processes.

So, what are your options?  If the requirement is specific to a vertical market need, the first thing to do is to search for third-party solutions for your industry.  It is possible that there is a product out there to satisfy this need.  By definition, third-party products are applications that are not made by your ERP software vendor, but by independent software vendors (ISVs), and have been designed to work with your specific ERP system.  As some may point out, third-party products are not—in the strict sense—customizations.  I wanted to discuss them here, however, because many of these products are utilities that add flexibility to existing ERP functionality, although many are complete modules or even full-fledged applications.  In any case, third-party products improve or even replace the default functionality of your ERP, and in that respect they fit my definition of customization for the purposes of this blog.

In the case of Microsoft Dynamics GP (Great Plains), the third-party product offering is fairly abundant.  As one of the modern ERPs with more time and presence on the midmarket, there are hundreds of third-party products available to meet many particular needs. You have complex approvals for purchasing?  Look at my recent blog about ReQlogic. Is your company in construction, field service or rental equipment? Maybe WennSoft is for you.  Own a chicken farm? Need to bill utilities?  You get the idea. The list is endless, and for sure some of these third party products may be useful for your company.

Third-party products offer advantages over other kinds of customization.  Firstly, they are properly developed products generally offered by well-established companies that guarantee your investment with maintenance plans similar to your ERP’s. Then there is my favorite characteristic of third-party products: People who know the specific vertical market well typically design them, and their functionality can be on the spot.  Finally, variety is the spice of life: Before you jump into programming a special function for your ERP, do your homework and look for third-party products… If your ERP is Microsoft Dynamics, you may find there is a solution for your need available in the market.

ICON has been working with third-party vendors for the past 15 years, and our consultants are certified in many of the best-of-breed products out there. If you have a vertical need, don’t hesitate to contact us first.

In our next blog, we will discuss the next option to customize your ERP... so stay tuned.

By ICON, Dominican Republic Dynamics GP partner

 

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