Yvonne Dittrich and Sebastien Vaucouleur have just published a report on their research into Customization and Upgrading of ERP systems. More specifically they have studied Dynamics AX and Dynamics NAV; and their report reveals some interesting insights into the how problematic it can be to "build a house on the back of an elephant". 

Abstract

An increasing number of software systems are developed by customizing a standard product that provides the major part of the functionality. The customizations of Enterprise  Resource Planning systems are examples of such a practice. Nonetheless, little empirical research on the specific characteristic of this kind of software development is available. Do the recommendations for “normal” software development also apply in this case? We present an empirical study on ERP customization practices based on video recordings, interviews and a survey. The observed and reported practices challenge some of the principles of software engineering acknowledged as good practices. Based on the analysis, we discuss essential challenges and identify directions to take when addressing specific difficulties. Besides bearing the potential to influence the development of future generations of enterprise systems, the presented research provides insights in software development practices changing and amending a software product “from within” rather than developing the central functionality from scratch or re-using components “from without”.

For more information please see: http://www1.itu.dk/sw82268.asp