Add-on or custom development… Which way should you go?

May 18, 2017

The question ‘should we use custom development or an add-on’ is one that is frequently heard during the implementation of SAP Business One.

by Yaremi Miranda Lopez

Having previously worked as a consultant I have to admit that there isn’t always an easy answer: every company has different requirements and sometimes, despite SAP Business One’s remarkable flexibility in configuration, there are still needs that must be met in order to fulfil expectations. I would always strongly recommend evaluating both options in detail, and including the following steps in the process:

  • Make a list of all the requirements that you have.
  • Create a spreadsheet and calculate all of the hours of development required to fulfil these requirements
  • Ask your partner or your SAP contact to help you identify one or two add-ons that could cover some of your requirements
  • Request more information regarding these add-ons from your partner or the manufacturer – most of them have an easy way to get in touch. You could also send your requirements list directly to the manufacturer to verify which requirements their add-on(s) could fulfil
  • Add the price of the add-ons to your spreadsheet and include the configuration time
  • Take some time to review the results

The outcome of this exercise is often very surprising. Occasionally it’s clear that custom development is necessary, but often it emerges that you can cover 100% of your requirements with add-ons.

Sometimes you can only fulfil 80% of your requirements with an add-on and still need to factor in 20% if custom development. If this is the case then I would still opt for the add-on route for the following reasons:

  • The add-on manufacturer is responsible for the upgrades required to ensure that your system works with future versions of SAP Business One. With custom development the advent of an upgrade heralds further analysis and, frequently, cost
  • The majority of add-on manufacturers offer online training and tips so you can continuously improve your SAP Business One configuration
    You are entitled to training sessions and materials and, as a result, the learning curve is less steep for new employees
  • If you pay your annual maintenance then you’ll benefit from the improvements that the manufacturer will continuously make to the add-on, providing further benefits for your company that you can implement on your system
  • It’s generally cheaper to invest in an add-on rather than custom development – up-front and ongoing. Custom development takes more time to test, implement and training your employees on
  • With custom development, every time you need a change you have to repeat the analysis, development, testing and implementation process, and this inevitably comes at a high price. With an add-on you can simply edit your configurations, so it’s far easier to make changes and test them because you’re not actually changing the product
  • Finally, good add-on manufacturers accept development suggestions, so if you have a great idea for a feature that would benefit your business and others, the manufacturer is likely to include it their roadmap and feature in a future release

Of course, working with add-ons is by no means mandatory – which was you go depends on your requirements.  If you consider your needs, get the right advice and work with a good consultant you can achieve great things with SAP Business One. Simply bear in mind that there’s no point re-inventing the wheel…

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