Often times you will hear that the evil word “customization” come out of every software implementation at great cost and little benefit to the overall organization. While this may sometimes be true there is a delicate balance that can and should be maintained.
Starting with your current system and business processes, take a strong look at which of those processes were inherited due to your current system. Those are the processes that CAN and should change. Don’t force your new system to do things your old system did just because. The adaptation of your new system should bring a certain element of change with it. While this change is often met with FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) this is how you will break those inefficient business practices you’ve longed to change and bring in new and more dynamic change.
In NetSuite we often look at what is required by the system and then customize around what is truly needed. For example, a client recently had the need for a UPC code generator. They had a highly complex spreadsheet which would generate their products UPC code to be printed on the labels and packaging. This was a perfect place for a customization!
We sat down and mapped out what the requirements were and had multiple design sessions specifically allocated to where this data would reside in the Item Master, how it would be showcased, what the normal behavior would be, and then more importantly how to handle any exceptions within the system. The client was extremely pleased with this particular customization and it solved two issues.
The first issue it solved was automating a very important but tedious task. The second issue was the continuous worry that the spreadsheet would get corrupted and critical data would be lost. Once inside NetSuite’s secure architecture the code was safe, the business process was automated and the client saw an increase in productivity.
An example where customizations did not work is just as critical to look at. A client was serious about working around the system to defer revenue in a manner that their old system did but that “broke” the way NetSuite core functionality works. No amount of talking could persuade otherwise. Once the design was approved and the code implemented the client saw the challenges that this provided and requested that we revert back to normal behavior. The best part of this is that once reverted everything appeared normal and a simple saved search was built to provide this information and create a single journal entry to defer the revenue on the last day of the month. This provided a clean audit trail and accomplished the exact same functionality with minimal intervention.
In thinking through which customizations you must have, look at all your options first. Can a saved search solve the problem? Would an alert meet the same needs? Or if it’s really needed just map out both the expected behaviors and what to do if the customization runs into a problem (duplicates detected, null values, etc.).
Then before you have your team or consultants begin to code these customizations determine if there is a bundle or add-on product that does that work for you and possibly more. Often times there are significant improvements to be gained by integrating another product to reduce your customizations and you will also gain their continuous investment in their product to your benefit. Sometimes this is not the best option due to cost and that is when you will determine that the customization is exactly what you need.
Once this is completed you’ll have a great list of items that you want to make your business run just the way you envisioned it. The system will need to take into account performance impacts of the customizations and which roles/users will see or use the customization. With all of these factors taken into account you will be well on your way to making those changes that truly provide value and positive change.
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By: Sheldon Watson – National NetSuite Solution Provider