Remember the first time you picked up a cup of coffee and took a sip? It was probably unlike anything you ever tasted before. If you were committed to choking down the whole cup (perhaps to stay awake for a late-night study session) the first thing you probably did was dump a large amount of sugar or cream into that coffee to make it more palatable. Over time, as you became more accustomed to the taste of coffee, you no longer needed cream and sugar. This not only reduced the number of calories in that jolt of caffeine, but allowed you to appreciate the flavor of the beans, the quality of the roast and the subtle aroma. \n\n\nThat first cup of coffee can teach us a valuable lesson when it comes to managing the implementation of an enterprise application.At first glance, a new enterprise application will seem strange to end-users within your company, and those end users will likely come to you with a laundry list of modifications, often designed to make the application more similar to what they have seen and experienced before. However, while the cream and sugar used to doctor up that first cup of coffee were almost free, modifying enterprise applications can add millions of dollars to the total cost of ownership (TCO) of that application. \n\nModifications increase TCO in three ways: \n\n\n\nModifications increase the cost of implementation as custom programming becomes necessary to meet the specific demands.\n\nModifications increase the cost of service because a software company\u2019s personnel must get up to speed on and support the idiosyncrasies of the modification as well as the standard software.\n\nModifications increase the cost of upgrades, as the modification must in most cases be uplifted each time a new version of the software is implemented. So across the lifecycle of an enterprise software package, modifications increase TCO.While they can cost millions, many modifications are like the cream and sugar in that after a while they become unnecessary as users become more familiar with the application. We all know there is no caffeine in cream or sugar \u2013 and similarly the modifications made to enterprise applications generally do not improve the ability of the software to meet real business needs! \n\nIncreased Cost, No GainIf your company decides to implement an enterprise application, it is to achieve specific, rational goals. You may need to better coordinate projects and processes across departments, or streamline financial reporting and analysis. Or perhaps you want to allow closer collaboration with customers and suppliers, or to enable efficiencies that make your company more competitive. You choose the application and vendor that you feel will do the best job helping you reach your business goals.In some cases, a company may choose an enterprise application that requires extensive modification in order to meet their basic needs. This usually means that the wrong vendor or application was selected. As competitive pressures intensify in this age of globalization, specific vertical industries and business models require more specific functionality. Rather than modify the wrong application, it likely makes more sense to choose the right application\u2014one that is based on best practices proven to improve the efficiency of a business like your own.\n\nHands-On Versus Bird\u2019s EyeBut even when customers choose an application for sound business reasons, senior management often gives end users of the application, sometimes unconsciously, the opportunity to suggest modifications, and these modifications might lead them astray of their original objectives.Hands-on users of an enterprise application typically have knowledge or understanding only of their own role in the organization rather than a broad understanding of the business as a whole. They may not be privy to the business reasoning for changing the tools they work with every day. Many software modifications that employees insist are necessary for them to continue their current level of productivity are designed to preserve the status quo and would do little to help the company reach its high-level goals. Individual employees\u2019 optimization of their own work might represent a sub-optimization at the company level! \n\nAt my company, in situations where our customers give us long lists of \u201cmust-have\u201d modifications, we have found that if we can convince them to run the software as-is for 90 days, the modifications drop off the list one-by-one. This is because employees\u2019 paradigms shift from the old to the new system. They find that the new software system can in fact do what the old one could do\u2014and more. The new software environment is no longer a threat and becomes a familiar, normal part of life\u2014like that morning cup of coffee.Senior managers are always involved in the selection of an enterprise application\u2014but this dynamic is one reason that they really need to stay involved in the implementation. Their bird\u2019s-eye view of the company\u2019s operations gives them the perspective necessary to determine the true needs of the business.\n\nMods to Watch Out ForEach implementation of an enterprise application and each business situation brings with it unique challenges, but here is a short list of spurious modifications to watch out for. \n\n\n\nDuplicating the Legacy System. \u201cIn the old system \u2026\u201d are four words to watch out for when employees request modifications. It is only natural that users of a system become attached to that system, and would request modifications to make a new software package look and feel like the old one. \n\nData Entry Aids. This is a \u201cconvenience modification\u201d that formats or manipulates data as it is entered in the system so users can truncate information, leave out special characters or in other ways shave time off of data entry. \n\nThe \u201cDo My Job\u201d Button. Another \u201cconvenience mod\u201d involves stringing various elements of functionality together. Creation of an \u201cadd parts\u201d button, an \u201cadd purchase orders\u201d or an \u201cadd customers\u201d button are examples. But after using a new enterprise software package for a period of time, these expensive \u201cWizards\u201d quickly become obsolete as employees master their new environment.Philippe Beaurain is vice president of services with IFS North America. IFS develops and supplies component-based business applications for medium and large enterprises and organizations in manufacturing, supply chain management, customer relationship management, service provision, financials, product development, maintenance and human resource administration.