My question here is relative to jobs for programmers.

Why does employer still contract programmers if today we have a lot of good commercial system avaliable on the market?

I want to be very clear at this point, this question is relative only to a system, more specially to ERP systems. Maybe this question looks a little bit useless, but right now I'm working and this doubt arose to me and my boss.

I have a few answers to my own question, but I really would like to speculate this subject a bit more.

Also I know, every good company needs a customized system, but ... the question is here. :-)

Any answer will make me feel better. Thanks.


Do you realize how expensive some of those higher-end commercial systems can cost to buy in the first place? If companies are spending hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, don't you think they would want someone to help them get the most out of this big purchase?

Paying for the customization is why the contractors come in and don't forget that the big guys like SAP and Oracle may well have other companies that work as "System Integrators" that help companies implement the system correctly at a rather high cost. Think of this as the difference between having a personal chef cook your meals and getting them in bulk from McDonald's. That personal chef can put in so many touches that while yes it is expensive, some people tend to believe you pay for what you get and want lots of little things that they do pay but they may be happy in the end.

  • Then. It means always customized systems will be ordered... – deepcell Dec 7 '10 at 19:21

good answers above; i would add that many of the ERP systems are ancient, not all that well-structured to start with, and have incredible technical debt; this makes them very very expensive and tricky to customize

  • Yes, you right! – deepcell Dec 9 '10 at 12:27

Off the Shelf Vs. Custom

Having been partially involved on a complex ERP project I would say its simple:

Off the shelf


  • Maybe Cheaper Initially.
  • Well tested, stable.
  • Excellent documentation.


  • Generic functionality.
  • Vendor Lock in.
  • Total Cost Of Ownership may be higher due to license.
  • Upgrades could break existing set up etc.

I think if you get 80% of the functionality you need off the shelf, you're doing well. So why not stop there?

A large corporation spending millions on staffing can save a lot of money if they can get the other 20%. I worked at a firm where the billing manager interrupted the IT staff during lunch because of a billing template error. I was a little put off at first, but learned the monthly bill was for over a million dollars (Typical for this client).

Many companies have too many people sitting around figuring out ways to spend other peoples money. "We must have a program that dynamically changes the company logo used for internal memorandum as a new holiday approaches." And somebody builds it because that's what they want. Too bad the time wasn't spent on the billing template.

Some department decides to buy the application/data silo that they see fit and then everyone wants all the data consolidated for reporting.


I work with the team that develops Microsoft Dynamics AX. Actually, I'm in the team that makes the development tools that allow programmers to extend Dynamics AX.

We provide this tools because is impossible to offer solutions that cover all our customers' needs. Depending on how much customization is needed the customer might want to hire a programmer (or a team).

In AX we have a programming language called X++ that requires real programming knowledge if quality code is expected or if a lot of customization is required. I assume that SAP and Oracle have similar features.

So, unless the out-of-the-box solution fits the customers needs - which doesn't happen for big companies -, a team of programmers is needed to customize it.

  • For sure, good answer. I have worked with oracle forms, oracle PL/SQL for quite sometime, and It is totally customizable, but you need a team, a good team to do good stuffs. Also the programmer is so dam expensive. Actually Im working with PHP/Mysql/Apache and I do good stuffs, but sometimes I get jammed with this kind of technologie. Depends in what framework you get working, it is also so difficult to get things done, of course doing alone.. In case of a conscious team, it is good to have a framework. Whatever technologie. SAP, Oracle even ZEND (PHP). Thanks for your answer. – deepcell Dec 7 '10 at 20:07

There is a middle ground between off-the-shelf and completely custom: large enterprise packages are usually customizable, and getting them to actually work in a given situation can take a lot of work.

This means there's a lot of demand for people who can customize SAP and Peoplesoft systems, for example.

  • Yeah! Have a lot of guys working with BI inside SAP and Oracle. And they earn a good money. Then I still thinking customized systems will exists forever and ever.. :-) thanks for your answer. – deepcell Dec 7 '10 at 19:23

There are 2 simple answers for this one:

1) None System, even SAP, have all the solutions for any company. Unless is a brand new company, who could adapt itself 100% to the ERP system it chooses, they will need developments to fill the gap.

2) Even a new company will suffer changes. Some of these changes in its process will lead to changes in the programs.

  • thanks for your input.. but, most of the company claim to fill the gap of the contractor but none does it effectively, like always is the marketing playing hard. but despite this, in factories(production) for example you have a lot of standards (ISO) to complain, if softwares are built on top of this standards then you have a few or none changes to do, unless there are changes in the standards. What about AI and machine learning in this scenario? – deepcell Mar 20 '15 at 7:06

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