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Custom Programs versus Process Discipline in the ERP world

2 Minutes Read

We occasionally talk to businesses who run custom software programs in their manufacturing or distribution companies.  Such systems are often tailored to very specific needs of the managers or owners.  At some point in time, something was written, coded, and deployed to meet a perceived need.  These programs can be from the ground up, or as a modification to an existing software package.  They can be standalone, or integrated.  So, there are lots of scenarios.  But there is one common trait:  They have “An Install Base of 1”.  This means the programs are not used anywhere else and do not benefit from scale. Being “customized”, potential problems loom.  For instance: 

  • Single point of failure – meaning limited places the program actually runs.  But more typically, this means it was written by one person, who understands it and may win the lottery.  That’s a real risk. 
  • Upgrades – meaning that as hardware, OS, databases and technology change, so will the environment.  This will force the program to require change.  No software developer can stop Microsoft from making new releases. 
  • Upgrades - that are necessities.  Meaning if you want functional changes, you rely on the programmer.  You won’t see things which are common in other software packages revisions.  Examples are release notes, beta testing/ controlled release plans, a product roadmap, or a support organization.  
  • Lack of documentation – In rare cases custom programs are documented.  But as a rule, documentation doesn’t exist.  In supported packages, documentation is a given, and resources like chats and videos are common.

An ERP, or enterprise resource planning, system is a powerful option to custom systems and one-off processes.  Well deployed ERP’s have minimal bugs and proven robustness through several deployments.  In contrast to the “Install Base of 1”, there are 80,000 worldwide companies using the ERP package we proudly represent: SAP Business One

Additionally, custom systems and one-off processes are often dependent on "tribal" knowledge and may not be well understood by all employees. This can create bottlenecks and inefficiencies as certain tasks are too people dependent.  When key people are absent, things can get stalled, eventually causing customers to wait.

In contrast, a well deployed ERP system, offers standardized and integrated information flow that streamlines and automates business processes across departments. This eliminates the need one-off processes, as all necessary information is easily found.

Process automation using an ERP system can be incredibly important for businesses of all sizes. By automating repetitive and time-consuming transactions, an ERP system reduces employee workload, and permits focus on higher tasks. This improves productivity and reduces costly errors. Additionally, process automation can help standardize operations across the organization, ensuring that all employees are following the same processes and procedures. This will help improve the accuracy of data and will facilitate better decision making. Overall, process automation using an ERP system can help businesses operate more smoothly, leading to improved profitability, which leads to growth.

In summary, look carefully at existing custom programs, or ones under consideration.  While they may seem tailored to you, they don’t come without risk.  Also consider the broader view of an industry ERP which can replace, and go beyond a custom program by offering your company discipline.  

Chat with one of our team members today and learn what ERP can do for you!


Joseph Timmins