The use of add-ons or plug-ins is very common in the ERP world. Typically, these add-ons are meant to serve a specific purpose alongside the core ERP product you’ve chosen. A few good examples are credit card processing, electronic data interfacing (EDI), or e-commerce. So why do you need these add-ons? Why aren’t these functions built into the core ERP product you’re purchasing? How do I make sure that I’ve picked the right add-ons?
The most common reason why these functions are not built into your core ERP system is because of the complexity of the required solution. The focal point of a strong ERP solution should be the accurate posting of your financials in unison with your business processes. If your ERP provider spreads their focus to other areas, they run the risk of spreading themselves too thin and getting away from their core competencies.
Let’s take credit cards as an example. It makes sense for credit card processing to be outsourced because of the compliance, and security requirements that come with processing credit cards. Not only are these requirements technically complex and sensitive, but the laws around them change frequently. It is logical for your ERP solution provider to outsource this work to someone who can specialize in the task of processing credit cards.
However, the stability and future of this solution will now rest in the hands of another party to help you implement your add-on. Do your research. You should have done a thorough background check on your vendor, but make sure that you do the same for their vendors. If you know that you will need an add-on, be sure to ask your vendor for references that have already implemented that add-on.
I also consider the size of the customer base in an add-on before making a selection. When I look for a professional or personal product, I first look for the product with the most existing customers. This decreases the chances that I will uncover a problem that has not already been discovered (and hopefully resolved). When it comes to ERP solutions, stability is king. If you pick a product with a smaller customer base, your chances of becoming the guinea pig in an endeavor to improve your selected add-on increase substantially.
If you’re feeling uneasy about the add-on options you have in front of you, don’t forget that you always have other options. Chances are that the gap that you’re looking to cover with an add-on has already been bridged by clients of your ERP solution or others. Just because a product is not pre-built to work with your ERP system does not mean that it’s not an option. Remember, you want to rely on your add-on solution to specialize in their area, not in integration with your ERP solution. Your ERP consultant should be able to help you integrate any solution that you choose. Anything can be done with enough time and money, just make sure that you put yours where it will be most fruitful.