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While the number of data points here is obviously limited, meaning we can’t take these numbers too literally, the picture painted does gel with our general observations and experience of the ERP space over the years. And despite the statistical limitations, the following charts are also consistent with what we are seeing across the general market (Figures 2 and 3).

Figure 2

Figure 3

Put simply, the majority of those in our poll who originally put the emphasis on tailoring the package when it didn’t fit current processes would, based on the lessons learned, take the opposite approach if they could start over.

This whole discussion, of course, highlights the importance of considering the ‘out of the box’ fit of the package during the evaluation and decision making cycle. Participants in the poll from larger organisations, for example, stressed the importance of the product being designed to handle the scale, complexity and diversity of a large group environment. This is undoubtedly because smaller footprint solutions are more likely to give rise to gaps that need custom development work to fill, though see here for a discussion of so called ‘2 Tier ERP’, based on the principle of surrounding a corporate system with more lightweight packages installed in individual operating companies.

Coming back to the poll, those from smaller organisations highlighted alignment with their industry as important, which is understandable given that unlike their larger cousins with different shapes of business across different subsidiaries and divisions, they are more likely to fit into a single industry category. In practice, such industry alignment will be a function of the experience of the consulting firm or reseller assisting with the implementation, as well as the design or templating of the package itself.

Not surprisingly, when looking at solution fundamentals, the most frequently highlighted attributes were a modern (open, scalable, extendable) architecture and a good level of out of the box integration with third-party products. The logic here is clearly that where gaps or mismatches exist, they can be dealt with through a combination of soft configuration and the use of complementary products, rather than hard core development work.

Based on the above, the bottom line advice for anyone embarking on an ERP project is to accept the realities we have outlined as early in the process as possible. We are not saying customisations should never be carried out - it’s more a case of acknowledging the really quite serious implications of implementing them in terms of ongoing cost, disruption and inflexibility down the line. ®

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