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Adapting your ERP system – what to consider?

In one way or another, every company is unique, but something many have in common is that they have an ERP system. Maybe even the same one. At the same time, they all have business-specific processes, which often results in having to adapt the ERP to be able to handle these.

Adapting ERPs = software development

Making adjustments to your ERP can be a good idea. It can also be a really bad idea that has a negative impact on your business for years to come. It is therefore important to think through your decision carefully and be cautious about the adaptations you make. A bad strategy now can have expensive consequences in the near future, more than just more development hours. It can even lead to losing customers and market share. Read more about what ERP customization can lead to in our article Adapting your ERP system – an unfortunate necessity.

What many people don't think about when they start adapting their existing system is that what they’re doing is actually software development. The only difference comparing to more "traditional" software development is that it takes place within a certain environment, in this case your ERP. As a result, the first step you should take is to establish routines for developing software, for example putting in place proper processes for capturing requirements, working out how you will handle version management and ensuring you have established testing processes. Also, keep in mind that it isn’t just individual people who should be involved in the project - adapting an ERP is something that affects the entire business. As a result, make sure that your CFO doesn’t become the sole system owner and setter of requirements.  

Things to consider when adapting your ERP system

Here’s a list of some things that are important to do if you need to adapt your ERP system:

Set clear requirements

Define what you want to achieve and why, and think through the order in which the requirements should be prioritized. It is also important to carefully go through the current functions of the existing system – perhaps there are already functions there that meet your needs?

Evaluate whether the functionality fits the current system

Does the type of functionality you are looking for fit your current system – and does it seem reasonable? This includes looking at the functions and data available in the system today, as well as evaluating from a technical perspective. A door can easily function as a tabletop, while an... upholstered plush armchair needs quite a bit of work to fulfil that particular function.  

Test, test and test

Keep testing, testing, and testing, to be really sure that the changes you’ve implemented don’t affect anything that they shouldn’t.


Make sure that the adaptations you’ve made are well documented and that you have a backup plan to protect against any loss of data.  

Don't stress

You don’t need to have every new function in place at the same time. Instead, add new features gradually and let the process take its time. This way, you can ensure that you will actually use each function you develop. If you plan to add every new function at the same time, you can easily end up in an endless project and it can take years until the system can be used. And who knows, maybe at that point you won’t even need some of the functions you wanted initially?

Avoid too much customization

Adding a lot of adaptations to your ERP could potentially result in some negative consequences – something you might not notice until years later. It is common to do adaptations for a long time, all in order to be able to keep the ERP as your central system for as long as possible. But then suddenly you’re standing there, and what you’ve created is no longer compatible with your business. You’ve grown and as a result, your processes and working methods have changed. You could then find yourself locked in a system that you are completely dependent on, but that at the same time, doesn’t suit your business. Read more about what difficulties this can cause when adapting your ERP system.

In the end, your only option may be to replace the entire ERP system - something that won’t be too easy considering all the adaptations in the old system that can’t be moved to the new one. If you replace the whole system, you may also have to redo all the customizations.

What is the alternative to making adaptations?

The alternative to adapting your ERP system is having multiple systems with functions corresponding to the adjustments you were going to add - for example, an order management system or a customer service system. The big advantage here is that you make it possible to iteratively make changes and replace systems, in line with your business needs and requirements changing.

It’s about time companies stop viewing their ERP as a central system and integration platform in one, containing every little function. You can read more about how an integration platform can help your business in the article How do we integrate our systems in the best way?

Don’t make your ERP something it’s not meant to be. Instead, invest in several systems that are best at exactly what they are built for. Here, there are two routes to choose from:

  1. Build your own system for what you want to do and then integrate it with your ERP. It can sound like a much bigger project but it is “just” software development – just like adaptations of an ERP.
  1. Find an off-the-shelf solution that meets the requirements you have. It’s built for a specific business domain or department and will work much better than adjustments in an ERP trying to fulfill the same purpose.

How do you know if adapting your ERP is a good decision?

So, how do you know if it’s a good – or bad – idea to make adjustments to your ERP system? Think in terms of reasonability and ask yourself the question: how far is what we want from what we do in our ERP today?  

Is it a completely separate area, that also requires data that doesn’t exist in your ERP today? Then it’s most likely a bad idea. Is it, on the other hand, more of a tweak of a current process? Go for it. If you’re not entirely sure and feel like you want to talk to someone about it? Give us a call and we'll come up with the right conclusion together.  

An adaptation that allows you to, for example, create a new kind of report, with data that already exists in your ERP, will usually be no problem. On the other hand, case management with associated back-office processes is an example of a process that doesn’t fit smoothly into an ERP system. ERP systems are primarily focused on core processes and are therefore often incompatible with other kinds of workflows.

Do you feel that your ERP is not quite performing for you, when it comes to things you want to do? Then think twice before deciding that adaptations are what you should invest in. There are other options that, although they might feel more complicated initially, will benefit you in the future.   your ERP system is not fully adequate for what you want to do? Then think twice about whether it is adaptations of what you are going to invest in. There are alternatives, which, although they may feel more complicated initially, are something you will benefit from in the future.  

Want to know more about ERP adaptations?

Then read the article Adapting your ERP system – an unfortunate necessity
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