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Why Customisation is No Longer a Dirty Word When It Comes to Cloud ERP


“Over 80% of legacy ERP implementations involved heavy customisations that added significant cost and complexity."  This startling statistic underscores why businesses once hesitated to adopt ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions. The inflexibility of on-premise systems, or even "fake cloud" ERP that mimicked old architectures, created a daunting customisation landscape. True cloud ERP has transformed this, offering built-in flexibility, ease of integration, and powerful configuration tools, all within a multitenant architecture that redefines how businesses achieve the perfect fit with their software.

Comparing Cloud ERP to Legacy ERP

Traditional on-premise ERP systems were notorious for their rigid structures. Customising them often meant complex code modifications that were difficult to maintain, especially during upgrades. "Fake cloud" ERP systems might have offered a cloud-hosted environment, but under the hood, they often replicated the limitations of their on-premise predecessors.

Modern cloud ERP, with its true multitenant architecture (where all clients share a single codebase), shifts the approach to customisation. Built-in flexibility, streamlined configuration options and open APIs minimise the need for the heavy-handed coding practices of the past.  

The misconception that cloud ERP means sacrificing control is fading – businesses are discovering the benefits of customisation without compromising on maintainability, scalability, or the ability to seamlessly receive ongoing innovation from the vendor.

Key Drivers of Simple Customisation in Cloud ERP

The Rise of Low-Code/No-Code Platforms

Cloud ERP solutions are increasingly democratising customisation through the integration of low-code/no-code platforms. These platforms empower citizen developers – business users with limited technical expertise –  to visually design and implement tailored workflows, screens, and automation. This shift alleviates the burden on IT departments, reduces the risk of coding errors and promotes a culture of self-service innovation. Within a cloud ERP environment, low-code/no-code customisations accelerate a business's ability to respond to market shifts, optimise processes, and deliver a streamlined user experience.

Focus on Configuration

Modern cloud ERP platforms place a strong emphasis on configuration rather than resorting to complex custom coding. This means businesses have extensive options to adjust the look, feel, and behaviour of their ERP system within a vendor-defined framework. Configurable elements often include process workflows, user interface layouts, reporting dashboards, field-level rules, and even some aspects of business logic. This approach strikes a balance between out-of-the-box functionality and personalisation, minimising disruptive code changes and fostering easier upgrades.  It's the cloud ERP equivalent of tailoring an existing suit – you achieve a personalised fit without fundamentally altering the design.

Simplified API Integrations

Robust APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are the backbone of modern cloud ERP customisation.  These standardised interfaces allow the core ERP system to communicate seamlessly with specialised external applications, microservices, or legacy systems.  Cloud ERP vendors understand that no single platform can be everything to every business. Instead, they prioritise building well-documented, open API frameworks that let businesses extend their ERP's reach. Whether it's integrating a niche industry tool, tapping into advanced AI services, or streamlining the flow of data from legacy systems, APIs unlock a future-proof customisation strategy.

Driving Efficiency and Insights with Data Analytics 

Cloud ERP systems often come with advanced data analytics and automation tools. These empower businesses to customise processes and workflows based on actionable insights extracted from within the system. By analysing data patterns, businesses can pinpoint bottlenecks, prioritise areas for improvement, and implement low-code or no-code automations to streamline operations. This data-driven approach to customisation enhances overall productivity and uncovers opportunities for strategic optimisation.

Boosting Adoption and Productivity with UX Personalistion

Modern cloud ERP solutions prioritise user-centric design. This extends to offering a degree of personalisation that caters to different roles and preferences. Dashboards, interfaces, and navigation menus can be configured to prioritise the most relevant metrics and tasks for specific users. This tailored approach enhances user satisfaction, facilitates faster onboarding, and reduces training overhead.

A Solid Foundation to Build Industry-Specific Features

Cloud ERP vendors understand that no two businesses are exactly alike, especially across different industries.  Vendors frequently offer industry-specific solutions or modules that provide pre-built functionality aligned with common practices and workflows within a particular sector. This pre-configured foundation significantly reduces the need for starting customisations from scratch, allowing businesses to focus on fine-tuning their ERP for a competitive edge.

The Risks of Customisation in Legacy ERP

Cost Overruns

Modifying the core code of legacy ERP systems was inherently complex and time-consuming. Due to the monolithic nature of these systems, a "simple" change in one area could ripple through the entire code base with unexpected effects. This required extensive developer time for testing, troubleshooting, and debugging – driving up project costs well beyond initial estimates.

Compatibility Issues

Legacy ERP customisations were akin to building extensions onto a house without adhering to the original architectural plans. Each custom element added fragility, increasing the risk that vendor updates or patches would break vital functionality. This led to difficult choices: spend heavily to rework customisations after every update or stay on an outdated ERP version and miss out on security enhancements and new features.

Technical Debt

With each custom code change, legacy ERP systems became an intricate puzzle of standard and non-standard elements. This ever-increasing complexity added a "tax" to future development. Even minor changes required extensive mapping of how the system had been altered, leading to longer development times and higher maintenance costs over the long term.

Limited Scalability

Legacy ERP systems weren't designed with the rapid change of today's business world in mind. Customisations often target specific, fixed processes. As the business grew or evolved, these customisations acted as bottlenecks rather than enablers. Scalability became a function of how much additional complexity could be layered onto a system already struggling to adapt.

Legacy ERP customisation often followed a "short-term gain, long-term pain" model. While solving an immediate problem, it sacrificed maintainability, agility, and cost control over time.

How Cloud ERP Solves the Problems of Legacy ERP Customisation

Businesses that outgrew the capabilities of their on-premise ERP systems also frequently outgrew the custom code that had been patched onto the system over the years.  Cloud ERP represents a fresh approach – one that prioritises a controlled, sustainable way to add tailored functionality without sacrificing the core benefits of a standardised software platform. 

Cost-Effectiveness: Taming Customisation Costs

Multi Tenancy as a Foundation

A true multitenant architecture, where all clients share a single codebase, eliminates the need for complex modifications that inflate project costs in legacy systems.

Multitenancy is a fundamental architectural principle upon which modern cloud ERPs are built. It allows multiple clients to share a single codebase, eliminating the need for separate installations and customisations for each client or tenant. This approach offers several key benefits:

Reduced Complexity

By sharing a common codebase, multitenancy significantly reduces the complexity associated with managing and maintaining multiple ERP instances.

Lower Cost

Multitenancy eliminates the need for separate hardware, software, and IT resources for each client, resulting in lower costs for both providers and clients.

Faster Implementations

With a single codebase, updates and new features can be rolled out quickly and efficiently across all clients, ensuring a consistent user experience.

Empowering Internal IT Teams

The inbuilt customisation tools in many modern cloud ERPs put a degree of customisation power in the hands of business users. Workflow adjustments, custom reports, and screen layouts are built visually, often without the need for expensive development resources.

Modern cloud ERPs are designed with the needs of non-technical users in mind. They feature built-in customisation tools that allow business users to make changes to the system without the need for specialised technical knowledge. These tools include:

Workflow Adjustments

Business users can easily create and modify workflows to automate business processes and improve efficiency.

Custom Reports

Users can design and generate custom reports to extract and analyse data in a format that meets their specific requirements.

Screen Layouts

The ability to customise screen layouts allows users to personalise the user interface and optimise the system for their specific tasks.

Simplified and Strategic Integrations

Modern cloud ERPs come equipped with robust APIs that facilitate seamless integration with specialised external systems. This approach offers several advantages:

Best-of-Breed Solutions

Businesses can leverage the best-in-class applications for specific functions, such as CRM, e-commerce, and supply chain management, and integrate them with their ERP system to create a unified business platform.

Reduced Complexity

By integrating with specialised systems, businesses can avoid the need to build and maintain custom functionality within their ERP, reducing complexity and minimising the risk of errors.

Enhanced Agility

Strategic integrations enable businesses to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer demands by leveraging the capabilities of external systems.

Compatibility and Scalability: Eliminating the Upgrade Fear

A Unified Codebase

The multi-tenant model of Cloud ERP ensures that all clients share the same core software version, eliminating the compatibility risks common in customised legacy systems. This approach streamlines software updates and reduces the risk of disrupting vital functionality. Additionally, the centralised management of the codebase facilitates faster and more efficient bug fixes and security patches, ensuring a consistently high level of reliability and performance.

Capitalising on Continuous Innovation

Cloud ERP delivers a steady stream of updates that introduce new features, security enhancements, and performance optimisations. These updates are automatically rolled out to all clients, ensuring that they benefit from the latest advancements without the need for complex and time-consuming manual upgrades. The modular architecture of Cloud ERP also enables seamless integration of third-party applications and extensions, allowing businesses to tailor the system to their unique requirements.

Growth Ready

Cloud ERP is built on a scalable infrastructure that can easily accommodate business growth. The configuration tools and emphasis on modularity allow companies to customise the system to meet their evolving needs without sacrificing performance or reliability. This flexibility enables businesses to scale rapidly without facing the constraints of legacy systems that can hinder growth. By leveraging cloud-based technology, Cloud ERP provides a scalable and adaptable platform that supports ambitious growth strategies.

Is Your ERP’s Customisation Layer the Reason You Haven't Made the Switch to Cloud?

Legacy ERP systems often become a tangle of custom code. The fear of costly rework or losing valuable functionality can make switching to cloud ERP feel daunting, but modern cloud ERP has changed the game.

Cloud ERP transforms customisation from a potential minefield into a strategic asset. By leveraging a blend of vendor-provided tools, targeted integrations, and an ongoing focus on process optimisation, businesses can escape the legacy customisation trap. This translates to a more agile, adaptable, and cost-effective software solution that enables growth instead of holding it back.

Ready to Escape the Customisation Trap of Legacy ERP?

PKF Digital can help your business unlock the power of modern cloud ERP and say goodbye to the costly, risky customisations of legacy systems.

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