Two questions ask if you cannot decide between using a standard system or making a custom application

Sometimes you must choose between using a standard product like an ERP-package or developing something from scratch to support a business function.

Let’s say you are seeking a system for managing a quality control process: Should you use the quality management functionality in the ERP-system or another standard application, or should you develop an application scratch yourself to handle these functions? 

In these cases, there are two questions you should ask before deciding:

  1. Can the standard software packages support the work processes without the need to do large modifications to the standard code?
  2. If “no” to the above: Is it possible to change the work processes to make them fit the standard system?

Is the answer “No” on both of the questions above; you should consider on making your own application. 

It is possible to change and extend the standard software code of most ERP-systems and other standard business applications. But doing a lot of these code modifications can be a disadvantage in the long run. The work associated with making these changes can be costly, and sometimes it can more expensive than buying and additional software or creating a custom application for managing the task. In addition, the functions that you are adding into the system yourself will not be a part of the standard application, and therefore will these not be in the software package’s regular maintenance and upgrade paths. This can make the standard application very costly and sometimes near impossible to maintain. Making you stuck with old versions of the software without the possibility of doing an upgrade to a newer version of the application without a tremendous cost for reprogramming all your modifications. 

Cloud-applications can increase the negative aspects of doing such add-ons to the standard software code. Cloud software is often delivered as SaaS (Software-As-A-Service) applications, where the producer can upgrade the standard software as often as in a monthly basis, this may force you into an almost continuous loop for doing regression testing to keep your custom-made modifications up to date with the underlying standard software code.

Therefore, avoid doing such modifications and rather seek to change the way you are working to fit the functionality of standard system. Alternatively, create a custom application yourself if you cannot find the right standard application that fits your functional requirements.

There are many IT-consultants that are specialized in helping their customers with these topics. If you do not know who to contact, you can always contact me for help by clicking on this text and I will point you in the right direction

Are you considering an ERP system to support your organization’s Supply Chains and are unsure on for what functions you should use the standard ERP-functionality and where to consider other standard- or custom applications? Then I will recommend clicking on this text to get mine and Erlend´s book to get an overview of our view on how you should best use the standard functionality of the ERP-system in a manufacturing supply chain.