Buy an ERP Platform Off the Shelf or Build It Yourself?


Should you look at a custom-built Enterprise Resource Planning platform that automates most of your company’s back-office functions or opt instead for an off-the-shelf system?

It’s a question triggering debate among developers.

A custom-built ERP platformOpens a new window , if you have the budget, is always going to better suit the requirements of your business. At least, so says conventional wisdom.

But some consultants are now advising that a corporation might find an off-the-shelf system preferable unless the firm has highly specific requirements.

Pre-built systems’ edge

Leading, out-of-the-box packages have the advantage that they’re getting plenty of road time at other firms. Literally thousands of companies use them every day, and hundreds of developers are working on their software.

Hence, bugs and teething problems are rare.

Building a system from scratch, on the other hand, creates the risk of unforeseen problems creeping into the structure. Even a large and dedicated team of developers couldn’t compete with the level of attention an off-the-shelf system receives on a daily basis.

Custom-built ERPs often bring long-term expenses to your company, many of them unforeseen. No company stands still, and its requirements for an ERP platform will change as well. That translates into your company needing to send more money down the line to adapt the platform to the new requirements.

Larger and more sophisticated off-the-shelf solutions, many of which have been deployed across multiple sectors, are now modular in their design and functionalityOpens a new window . This allows your IT team to activate new elements as the need arises, without going through the time-consuming process of updating the platform’s entire software and hardware packages.

Cutting expenses

There is the speed-to-deployment issue. If a module or functionality level already exists in place and is ready to go in an off-the-shelf system, you can avoid the considerable drag caused by development needs.

This holds, too, for on-site consulting needs. Your time to deployment with an off-the-shelf system should be relatively quick. You won’t need to pay for expensive consultants who could otherwise be working on-site with your employees for weeks or months. There are considerable cost savings involved.

ERPs are becoming much more flexible and easy to use. Internal IT teams can be trained to make many of the day-to-day operational adaptations required without the need to draw on developer hours.

There are always going to be situations where an off-the-shelf ERP will not be suitable.

Sometimes there are unique requirements that demand a customized approachOpens a new window .

For example, the presence of a highly-tailored ERP that has been integrated into your business will increase its overall value for a potential buyer. This is a decision that you will need to make once you get to the build-or-buy choice.

Key takeaways:

  • One of the big decisions when replacing or installing an ERP system will be whether to choose an off-the-shelf or highly-customized solution. There are pros and cons for both options.
  • Today’s off-the-shelf solution is much more flexible and includes modules that make it easier to expand and meet the changing needs of your business.
  • Widely-available commercial ERPs are in constant use, and developers and consultants will be familiar with their specifications. They are less likely to have intrinsic issues such as bugs.