Some ERP companies like to say that the way their ERP does things is a best practice, and that businesses should therefore conform to their system.
The International Standards Organization (ISO) is an example of an authority on standards or best practices. Their members debate on standards for months, and not until two thirds vote in favour is the standard adopted as an ISO standard. The point being that best practice surrounding any process is a matter for thoughtful analysis of the particular practice.
I’m sure many businesses benefit from following these so-called best practices, but pretending that there’s only one right way to run a business is like saying all businesses are the same.
Call me a cynic, but when an ERP company says that the world should do things the way they say, I see good marketing covering for an inflexible product rather than solid business advice.
Best practices is an imprecise term. We should really call them what they are, an easy way to pre-configured ERP systems to support the ERP functions.
SYSPRO just celebrated our 35th anniversary. Our lineage traces back to the prehistory of ERP. Your industry may have evolved over a longer period as have your business practices. In a lot of situations, you will have business systems in place that are designed to meet niche needs.
Music fans may recognize one of our clients, the cymbal maker Sabian (pdf). Sabian’s manufacturing processes are a secret. The founder is a member of the Zildjian family which has kept their processes and alloys a secret since the times of the Ottoman Empire. They are part of a rich manufacturing history that has refined and evolved over time. Sabian has customized SYSPRO to suit their mature manufacturing processes over the years.
While your business probably doesn’t have the same kind of history and secrecy as Sabian, there’s a very good chance that your processes have been refined over time and there are some things that you do that you probably know better than anyone at SYSPRO or any other ERP vendor.
There are things that ERP systems do better than your custom processes. Usually it’s the stuff that everyone else has to do like managing inventory and suppliers and people.
So should you conform to your system or customize it?
That decision depends on how important your custom software and processes are to your business. The less you need to customize, the less ERP will cost you. But you will want to weigh these ERP costs, against the costs to your business.
Just don’t let people waving best practices in your face distract you from your business goal.