The “framework” conundrum in ERP/CRM
What is the optimum limit to which we should customize an “off the shelf” product to meet the client’s need?
Microsoft Dynamics products have been positioned as more of a framework with “optimal” business processes built into the products rather than “hard-coding” all the business best practices that had been the selling pointy for most of the established ERP in the market. When Microsoft Dynamics brand was launched in market, the idea was to enable companies bring their processes into the system rather than following what is already provided by the product.
There are always people commenting on this positively or negatively, and both are right!
The ones in favor believe that any organization is like an individual with its own DNA and they need to work the way they have imbibed business principles and built their USP. It’s not that they would not have a P2P, O2C or Hire to Retire processes, but just that they would have their own way of achieving this in the organization. What Microsoft Dynamics gives is a framework with all components laid out on a drawing board, needing someone to connect the dots and color the same to form a big picture in line with what the organization would like to be. It works on the principal of accepting organizations (whether big or small) as mature entities who know their business, pain-points, solution needs and budgets they would like to spend on achieving that. With this school of thought, the clients are more “collaborative” in nature and would look forward to working with the partner and reach an “optimal” solution at the cost which justifies the same. They would not be attracted by the buzz words in the markets and the latest fads as pushed forward by the “gurus” in the trade. To them the business realities are of utmost importance and so is user acceptance to the new solution.
The other school of thought advocates, “best of breed” solutions – saying that the product companies have worked with Global league players and with domain consultants and all these learnings have been incorporated in the packages. The packages can enable business transformation and help clients realize value by adapting the processes that the application provides and these are “best of breed” processes. These are in line with what the industry players are doing and what the latest trends in businesses and operations are. With these packages the clients can actually reap value because there are lots of learnings which have been incorporated into the products. There is lesser risk in these implementations as the processes already built into the application would be applied as a template in the organization.Well, both are right!
But then I have full right to have my opinion.
I go with the first school of thought as I think to any corporate, it’s the people, who are working with them, are the real assets. While the prime directive of any business is to make profit, it’s the “people oriented” companies that have had success in the long run. And when we turn that thinking on the “technology led transformations”, I would actually extend the phrase and call it “technology led transformation for the benefit of people”. Ultimately whatever package we use, we need to ensure that people are going to use it on day to day basis and the under experience has to be such that they themselves find value in using the product. With attrition and movement of people, retraining people on complex packages with complex transaction scenarios is a big task needing lot of investment in terms of time and money; needless to say the loss of business in the intervening period.
The companies who are in business are very much doing their operations in a streamlined process, which may not be executed properly due to lack of tools that can enable this. Sometimes it actually makes sense to streamline the processes first and then go for an application that can tie these processes together into a single ERP/CRM system and this ERP/CRM system needs to have that flexibility to adopt the “best for business” processes for the organization. The customizations that are done to achieve this does affect the upgrade path, but then there are other questions around when to upgrade, why to upgrade and at what cost which need to be evaluated. Can we go with the option of making people change the way they do business to suit the application as we are concerned only about the future upgrade cost? Isn’t it more realistic to look at current needs as well – isn’t the business benefit required now? Long live - “technology led transformation for the benefit of people”.