The Real Impact of Customizing ERP Software Comes Later in Life

In view of all the time and resources that publishers pour into selecting and implementing ERP systems, those same companies need to ensure their investment is protected over its useful life. Publishers license ERP software rather than writing it themselves for many good reasons, not least of which is that the ERP software vendors invest millions of dollars in capturing the best practices of the industry in their software, not to mention the additional millions they spend in keeping the software updated as new industry requirements come along.  

Just think of what publishing was like a generation ago when there was no Amazon, no cloud computing, and little digital processing. Publishers need to keep their technology up to date to survive and prosper, and very few individual publishers can do that by writing and maintaining their own software. That is not their business. That is why they license ERP systems. 

The Value of Industry-Specific ERP Software

The advantage of using ERP software from an established software vendor that specializes in the publishing industry, is that because new industry requirements come along all the time, those software vendors must update their software continuously to remain competitive. The updates are essential to both parties. Publishers need new technology such as integration to Amazon, POD (Print on Demand), fulfillment outsourcing, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, new distribution channels and formats, and on, and on. If publishers cannot provide those workflows to their employees, customers, and partners, they cannot operate, let alone operate profitably. 

So, it is fundamental to survival that publishers keep that software maintained and do everything they can to make sure that those updates are economically viable to apply – ideally like updating the apps on a cell phone – just plug it in at night and let the update happen while we are sleeping. If only it were that simple! 

Software Maintenance is Critical to Survival

If securing that ability to easily take and apply the latest releases of ERP software is critical to the business, what must publishers do to make sure that happens? The answer is to keep that software free of any customization that will inhibit their ability to make those upgrades. Once users make changes to the code provided by their software partner, it can make the task of applying upgrades a lot more complex – and expensive. Sure, this means accepting the workflows as designed by the software vendor, but that is the deal we make when we license the software – it provides the workflows publishers need, in a form that they can use, in return for continuing to provide new upgraded workflows as business needs change. 

In the case of knkPublishing ERP software, and the Microsoft Navision Business Central system on which it is built, that situation still applies, but is not quite so dire. Microsoft designed Dynamics Business Central from the beginning, so that it is easy for business partners like knk to layer industry-specific functionality on top and still maintain that ease of upgrade. Similarly, knk has designed knkPublishing in such a way that their customers can add customization that does not inhibit their ability to apply upgrades in the future. How is that done? 

Extensions NOT Customizations

They can do that because knkPublishing is set up as an extension to MS Dynamics, and so-called extensions do not modify the core Dynamics code. And if the knkPublishing client applies the same disciplines to customization of knkPublishing, then individual solutions and extensions can then in turn be added in an encapsulated form without modifying the standard knkPublishing code. This structure prevents the domino effect when it comes to applying current updates from both Microsoft and knk, with all their new features, and makes the update process secure and extremely cost effective, and thus protects that original investment in the software.  

So, we may be getting closer to the cell phone app update, although we regret to say that it is still not possible to do it in your sleep! What publishing customers want is the ability to apply technology innovations quickly to achieve continuous competitive advantage. This return to the “standard” provides a distinct opportunity, especially when fragmented solutions have become increasingly prevalent that only take the client away from their original objective in installing a new ERP, and ultimately destroy the value of that investment. The ability to keep up with new technology is unquestionably a critical success factor, and with the power and scale of MS to invest in generic industry updates, it leaves knk free to invest solely in updates focused on the publishing industry, providing a double advantage.  

Examples abound. One is the ease with which e-commerce giant’s Shopify solution was integrated into MS Dynamics Business Central, and particularly apt since the ability to add Direct-To-Consumer systems is an important option for publishers to combat the dominance of Amazon’s on-line channel.  

The Value of Standard Software

With standard ERP software like this from MS and knk, users enjoy the benefits of scale, with over 130,000 active user companies using MS Navision globally. Using standard industry-specific ERP software like knkPublishing, clients can continue to integrate a variety of new automation and AI tools that we could not envisage needing just a few years ago. And if customization is ever necessary, users should always financially justify the cost over the life of the system. “Pay me now or pay me later” is the old adage that still applies.  

No one can predict the future in any meaningful way, but if publishers deploy an ERP solution that offers scale in the development budget of the supplier involved, and on a platform with widespread acceptance, then the likelihood of future requirements being covered by new releases from the software supplier is improved, and the ultimate goal of having ERP software updates as easy as on a cell phone may be within reach. If we worry less about future-proofing our ERP software and worry more about protecting our ability to upgrade that software over time, then our future is assured.


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