implementation and customization

Most successful SAP or Oracle installations changed their businesses to fit the software. How do you address this? When to use it out of the box and what can / should be customized?

Business process re-engineering is always part of a successful implementation. If the process is not changed, then the best you can hope for is what you had before and chances of getting that good with different software is highly unlikely. So we tell people that they have to change their process – not so much to fit the software but to leverage industry best practices and key features in the software.

With older software, it was good not to customize the solution. It was expensive and then companies ended up with software where they could not take new releases because it was too expensive to re-apply the customizations. So they paid for maintenance but could never take advantage of it. Hence process had to change to fit the software.

With the salesforce platform, that is not an issue. It really is quite remarkable. There are rules around what you can and cannot do but we can customize an installation and then install a newer version of the package and the customizations persist and even better, they continue to work.

So with all the preamble – we start with our package and analyze the requirements. And when customer is adamant about the way they do something, we can make changes and not worry about what happens next time there is a new release. It becomes a case of economics – are they willing to pay the cost of the customization. We do push back and explain why we want it done our way but at the end of the day it is their implementation and their dollars.

Have you had customizations go through a couple of salesforce releases unscathed? That’s pretty cool if it works.

It does work – it is amazing. What is even more amazing is that we can start with our stuff at 1.0 and then apply customizations and we have now upgraded to 1.2.1 and the customizations just work. We are so impressed with what the Salesforce team has done. With respect to the salesforce stuff, we are coming up on a new release from them – they give us warning and we can set up areas and test to make sure and get prepared. They even used our app in one of their releases to help with the QA effort. It doesn’t happen by accident – but still WOW. When we think of the issues in the past….

How do customers use your application? What customizations to the basic application have you developed?

Customer : furniture company
Customization : no partial shipments

EDI is not a standard part of the application although at this point it is a standard extension we support. But as we have worked with the furniture folks, we made a significant number of customizations. In the main product enhancements continue and those have been added and it all just works.

For example, we discovered that partial shipments were just not an option for them and our software making partial shipments was problematic. So in the main product, a feature was added to disallow partial shipments. While that was in development, we continued with what we had. When the new release was ready, it was dropped in and things just kept humming along.

Customer : school district
Customization : direct shipping, no inventory

We are adding ability to pull from a web front end and send requisitions around for approval and then ultimately buying and sending supplies to teachers. The customization for them is that we don’t put things into inventory.

Customer : real estate construction
Customization : material acquisition

The company buys houses, remodels and sells at a profit. They are quite large. The customization there is tying in with construction system – not really an integration but construction system produces requirements for acquisition (at this point, appliances).

They are all different and yet the same. Other applications include, but are not limited to

  • water filtration company that sells over the web and through EDI.
  • music/theatre school/camp

So we help them change their process and bend to fit where necessary. It is so cool to be able to help people this way.

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