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In search of the perfect (ERP) fit

Posted on 25 April 2013 by Wouter Combrinck

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perfect ERP fitRecently I have been exposed to a big debate on an ERP LinkedIn forum around the use of descriptions in the industry such as customizing, personalizing, tailoring, and configuring. Is this just marketing semantics, or are there very real differences in the meaning of these phrases and the implications of using these phrases when describing, or more to the point, promoting an ERP system?

Working in SYSPRO, I know we pride ourselves on the fact that our ERP system is, and I quote: “highly flexible and customizable”, that we are known as the "go-to" solution because of this, but I think it is important to unpack what we mean by these phrases and what the consumer understands by these phrases. If we are to be responsible in ensuring that what our customers see and understand they are getting, is in actual fact exactly what they are getting, then I don’t think we can use the excuse “I can only be responsible for what I say. I cannot be responsible for what you understand”.

In the debate someone suggested that when they hear the word ‘customizable’, it conjures up all sorts of negative thoughts, the primary one being…“now I have to do the work to make the system fit my business,” followed by “we don’t have the resources or the training to be able to do this,” and finally, “why can’t I just buy a system that works out-of-the-box?”

A work colleague used the metaphor of a car…if you replace the exhaust to a free-flow system you customize. If you set the odometer to show kilometres and not miles then you configure. If you paint it white then you personalize. The effect of all of these is what we in SYSPRO refer to as power tailoring.

So, after much debate I thought I would put forward my own ERP glossary of words used to describe the perfect fit ERP solution:

  • Customization – is to alter to suit individual requirements or specifications. This is what is done by consultants when implementing SYSPRO.
  • Personalization – is the capability to dynamically change content so that it is relevant to the individual user.
  • Tailoring – is the SYSPRO term for the software’s ability to make changes to a user’s experience of SYSPRO, from simply re-arranging fields to completely changing the application interface.
  • Configuration – refers to how an organization arranges and structures its software and infrastructure.

According to one source, these days customers are prepared to accept one of two propositions for solutions; these propositions are at either end of the spectrum.

  1. Offer cheap and convenient solutions, but don’t expect extras
  2. Offer expertise to bring insights, solve problems and help create specific solutions, for which a premium will be charged

Because of the nature of the software, and how organizations operate, SYSPRO’s offer falls into the item 2 range.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with my glossary of terms or will you contribute to the debate?

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Topics: Business software, ERP Implementation, Technology (or Enterprise Technology)

Wouter Combrinck

Wouter Combrinck, Solution Architect and Specialist Services for SYSPRO Africa, joined the company in 2010.

With his passion for the manufacturing environment and his love for data management, Wouter drives collaborative interaction of software and flow processes to provide workable solutions for the manufacturing business.


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