Understanding customization better

When undertaking a project to implement an IT solution, most companies trust that the chosen solution will cover the vast majority of their needs. However, despite detailed analyses, they often fail to learn how much customization they have to do until later on in the process, such as when workshops with users take place.

What is customization? 

First, there’s the kind that affects the visual interface, such as changing the look of a form or rewriting labels. Second, custom reports or form letters may be created to fit a specific business context. Third, major transformations may occur, such as the implementation of business logic that changes table and field structures, integration with other applications (such as an accounting system) or process automation requiring major code modifications.

What are the consequences?

Regardless of what kind they are or the reasons behind them, if no customization requests were planned at the outset, they might be considered out of scope for the project and become change requests, thus exposing the project to negative impacts on costs and times. Besides those elements, the technical consequences could be significant. Here are a few examples:

  • Updating an application might require special intervention or may even be impossible, depending on the case.
  • Support might be more expensive given the company’s unique logic.
  • The testing and debugging cycle might take longer since the functions are new.

So how does it work?

It’s crucial to analyze the organization’s needs and avoid listing the functions developed for the existing system. A checklist of needs can be used to validate which business processes could be adapted to the best practices in a business sector, for example. For specific, complex industries, a vertical solution, which should cover at least 75% of an industry’s processes (best practices), is preferable. As an example, Gestisoft offers the Pivotal CRM – Professional Associations or even Pivotal CRM – Government solution. The benefits of choosing such a solution are lower development costs and faster support should technical problems arise, not to mention doing business with a vendor already familiar with your business sector

Yes, but…

Despite everything, customizing an IT application may have definite advantages for a company. A successful implementation requires focusing on the changes that will build value for the company, such as monetary gains or performance improvements. Some changes are also unavoidable from a political standpoint because they encourage users to take ownership of the solution, thus minimizing the chances of them abandoning it in favor of multiple Excel spreadsheets and hard copy files.

Writing a business case could prove beneficial when major modifications are involved. That would force the company to question if the investments would deliver ROI, besides being able to justify a potential negative response to a user. Should customization become necessary, it has to be documented thoroughly. What sets it apart from the “vanilla” solution? Why was it requested? What needs does it address? If the verdict is that customization generates little or no value, you have to think about putting it off until another phase, or even man

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