Extensibility: DIY to Insert Unique Functionality into Your Distribution ERP Software
In the world of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software,
extensibility is a virtual toolkit that allows you to take your unique
business processes and insert them within your existing ERP system.
distributor has specific needs, or their own way of doing things that
differentiates them from competitors. With extensibility tools, you can
build user-defined fields, portals, personal workspaces or business
rules, or integrate into external systems, to round out your processes,
cut your costs, and improve efficiency. And when you want to change a
process in response to a vendor request, a new business opportunity,
changes in the industry, etc., extensibility provides a way to adapt to
these business drivers with maximum speed and minimum cost.
key to extensibility is that the user can develop pieces of code that
best fit their company’s business process and create the necessary
functionality for themselves without altering the underlying system
code. Here are some examples.
At virtually any distributorship,
you are likely to see standard process documents, laminated checklists
posted on walls and desks, sticky notes on computer terminals about
dealing with specific customers, and so on. Extensibility allows
distributors to create business rules and decision making tools
capturing all of those details that employees need to remember to do
their jobs, and engineer them into the ERP system.
international markets has required changes to many distributors’
business processes. Customers outside the U.S. may need to be set up
differently within your system; e.g., with different currency codes.
That’s just one more thing for your employees to remember. Why not help
them adapt with a rule that automatically changes the currency to euros
if a European country code is entered in the system?
can help bridge the information gap between new and experienced
employees — reducing the learning curve when you’re onboarding new
hires, and getting them up to speed in understanding the different
scenarios that your experienced people are used to handling. This also
gives you more flexibility in reassigning people to deal with vacations,
sickness, resignation and retirement, etc. With business rules, you can
ensure that policies are followed, and reduce the potential for
mistakes in your business processes, by placing restrictions and
approvals in the system that help to enforce correct procedures.
workspaces can be created for each individual employee in the company,
for certain tasks they do on a regular basis (e.g., tracking shipments
or expediting orders). A personalized dashboard can reach into various
areas of the system and bring together all of the relevant information
that that person needs to do their job — a single point of reference.
real-time, on-demand data access, you can turn spreadsheets or reports
into portals using extensibility tools. The portal can display
information from the report on a screen, but make it interactive.
Likewise, if employees are receiving too many automated alerts that clog
up their in-boxes and don’t get acted upon, you can build a portal that
turns the alerts into actionable “To Do” lists assigned to specific
You can also empower employees by providing rules in
the ERP system that give them guidance for handling common business
situations. For example, if an employee attempts to negotiate freight
with a customer, a business rule would be a great way to invoke the
“voice of ownership” by providing parameters that encourage a
negotiation that satisfies your customer but maintains profitability.
distributors don’t want to spend lots of time designing their systems;
they need to focus on building their businesses. But if you want to
preserve processes that differentiate your business from competitors,
rise to challenges and new opportunities, and respond quickly to market
drivers without having to build everything from the ground up,
extensibility puts the power in your hands.
Posted by Dave Getty, Vice President of Product Development, and Steve Heister, Product Manager at Epicor Software