In the context of ERP, customization tends to be a swear word, however, in my experience there ARE situations where customization IS justified.
I define this customization as "Strategic Customization" it is limited scope, highly focussed precision customization of small components that exploit the Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies (SEPT) to create highly valuable functionality at a fraction of the cost of alternative courses of action and which generate very significant business gain relating to the essence of the business and how it thrives.
I want to refer specifically to the following image that I have used regularly on my courses and in Pulse Measurement presentations to Executive Committees in recent years.
The vertical scale represents strategic value, support for high level, high value decision making, return on investment, executive satisfaction and excitement – any measure which reflects a real satisfaction with the investment.
1. The left-hand scale -- common practice
The left hand scale of 0 to 10 represents the standards that I typically see applied to ERP implementations.
It is characterized by high levels of executive frustration, inability to get answers when they are needed or at all, high system operating costs – senior consultants who make a living hacking things to keep the system going, high levels of customization, high levels of things done outside the system, no standards, etc.
This scale of mediocrity results from the lack of a high level strategic view in the original implementation – support for the essence of the business and how it thrives, the lack of rigour in the implementation (lack of an "engineering approach"), all the things I talk about at my briefings and courses.
The most fundamental weakness of these implementations is the lack of what I term strategic engineered precision configuration built around strategic engineered precision taxonomies which is the essence of the middle scale.
2. The middle scale – taxonomy excellence
The middle, green, scale represents what is made possible with outstanding taxonomies – this includes things like “we have so much high quality management information it is fantastic”, “the audit fees have been slashed by 75%”, "we are operating with less staff" / "getting much more done with the same staff", "staff at all levels are strategically aligned", "the entire enterprise is running leaner and much more efficiently AND effectively", "this is one of the best investments we have ever made", "we should have done this years ago", etc.
This outcome results from strategic engineered precision configuration built on strategic engineered precision taxonomies.
Even a mediocre implementation on this scale is likely to produce a better business outcome than an excellent implementation on the left-hand scale.
3. The right-hand scale – strategic customization built on taxonomy excellence
The right hand, blue, scale represents what is possible if we add “strategic customization” to the mix building on opportunities created by the taxonomies and precision configuration.
It is vital to stress that "strategic customization" relates to customization that supports "the essence of the business and how it thrives" – customization that will not do this is NOT strategic and should be avoided.
Strategic customization relates to small pieces of very clever software or very clever system modification that ONLY works if there are precision taxonomies in place and well maintained.
Strategic customization allows the system to be effortlessly tailored to the operation of the business for limited expenditure in ways that most implementers think are impossible.
An example of strategic customization was a case where an investment of R250,000 in custom software allowed standard functionality in the ERP to be used to budget and project manage marketing across thousands of products and thirty cost bins for a distribution and brand management company that allowed that company to secure the business of one of the top brands in the world resulting in a nearly 15% increase in value of brands managed – in other words it supported strategic growth. It also delivered high levels of satisfaction to owners of existing brands that were being managed.
The sort of customization that characterises most ERP and Data Warehouse implementations is so far removed from this that it is vital that you do not let that bad experience colour thinking to resist strategic customization.
Strategic customization involves the investment of a small amount of time and money to fine tune an ERP system that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop to fit the target business far more closely and more effectively through primarily use of standard functionality.
The return on investment on really valid strategic customization is huge and it is only possible with precision taxonomies underpinning it.
This is where the opportunity lies for any ERP investment to produce massive return on investment measured in terms of strategic competitiveness in the market place, the ability to run a leaner and more effective and efficient business, undertake strategic acquisitions quickly and efficiently and deliver a return on investment for the ERP implementation that is visible and understood by all in your organization without any calculation.
If this is all done with an outstanding implementation that conforms to the standards set out elsewhere in this document then the value to your organization will be far beyond anything that current paradigms indicate is possible.
I have total certainty that strategic customization is the cherry on the top of any ERP implementation and will deliver the highest return and you should all do what you need to do to ensure that the project executive and then the business are on-board with the value of doing this.
In general, the investment in strategic customization is likely to be small relative to the total cost of any significant ERP related project cost.
Click here to send us an email subscribing to our free newsletter -- all articles posted by James Robertson will be emailed to you
Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.
Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.
He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.
If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.
Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.
All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.
There HAS to be a better way!
This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control
We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website
We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues
By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT
This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.
In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.
Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:
James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.
You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor
James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.
You can contact us on
LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/drjamesarobertsonerpdoctor
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.a.robertson.393
Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875
Landline: +44 (0) 207-059-0007
Fax: +44 (0) 844 774 4580
There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website
Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles
About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics
Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures
About the Engineering Approach
James Robertson's Value Add
Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution
Recognizing Business System Failure
The Critical Human Foundation
Old Software IS Viable
From South Africa
Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng
About Professor Malcolm McDonald
Table of Contents
About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing
Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics
Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson
List of Articles
Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes
Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?
The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody
Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration
Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
IT Project Management
CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement
No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes
Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™
The Pulse Measurement Workflow
The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement
Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations
What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?
Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years
Sample Pulse Measurement Reports
Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
Strategic Essence: Overview
Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined
Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation
Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different
Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure
Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence
Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?
Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment
Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual
A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting
Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works
Robust Business Systems Procurement
Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc
Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters
Guidance and Advisory Services
The Art of Project Leadership
Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital
The Business Simulation Laboratory
Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture
Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies
The JAR&A Cubic Business Model
Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal
The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration
Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask
Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration
092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013
088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa
026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf
018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf
011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng
Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems
Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering
Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations
Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment
The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual
Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples
Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software
Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References
Example General Ledger Manual
Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous
The RIGHT Approach
Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction
Standards for Custom Software Specification
What IS Software?
Critical Factors for I.T. Success
A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail
Case Studies examining Business Information System failures
The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle
The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict
Speaking and Training
Showcase of Conference Presentations
Most Viewed Presentations
Briefings and Seminars
Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results
The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success
Conferences and Public Presentations
Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present
Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009
Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005
Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996
Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994
On-Line Seminars (Webinars)
Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars
Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited