On the face of it, software configuration and software customisation may sound like the same thing.
However, while they do overlap with one another in certain ways, there are crucial differences between them that you need to be aware of. If you don’t take these differences seriously when selecting a new vendor solution, you could end up making a costly mistake.
What is software customisation?
It goes without saying that the bigger a business is, the more complexities there will be to manage. If you have operations across the world, with different requirements on a global and local level, teams operating in silos, and a mishmash of different ERPs and legacy system integrations, there are always going to be challenges to overcome.
Of course, most software vendors will claim that they can fix the problems presented by your existing systems, and easily too. But once you have signed the contract, it’s easy for them to expand the timeline and take advantage of other tricks commonly used.
However, despite the claims that these ‘off the shelf’ or ‘out of the box’ solutions may make, there simply isn’t one single software vendor that can meet all of a multinational organisation’s requirements.
In many cases, what ends up happening is that the out of the box system gets customised in order to try and adapt it to a situation it wasn’t originally designed to address. As such, perhaps the words ‘square peg’ and ’round hole’ come to mind.
Customisation may sound like a good thing, as it gives the impression that what you are getting is a bespoke system that is designed to fit your exact needs. However, in order to customise software, there need to be changes to the software itself, to alter it and adapt its off the shelf functionality.
Often, this means that invasive changes need to be made to the core application, and to make these changes, developers will need to write new code. Not only does this mean there is extra cost involved – it also means there is added risk as well.
That, in a nutshell, sums up customisation. However, having said that, there are still occasions when customisation is a necessity and can’t be avoided.
How does software configuration differ from customisation?
One of the easiest ways to differentiate between customisation and configuration is to think of them like this – software customisation is when you are required to work ‘outside’ of the application in order to make changes.
Software configuration, on the other hand, is where you can make changes to the software and adapt it to meet your exact requirements, but you are working ‘inside’ the application. In other words, the tools you require already exist within the application.
You don’t need to throw custom code into the mix, or the risks that it brings such as bugs, the need for expensive upgrades, or issues that impact the core system.
The truth is, we’re already familiar with the notion of configuration as part of our daily lives, in the B2C world. The phones we use – the phone you might be using to read this – are built with configurability in mind.
Once you have the operating system (e.g. the platform, such as a low-code platform), all you need to do is download the apps you need. They can be easily installed and easily deleted. All you are doing is configuring the system to meet your requirements.
Empowering the business user with procuretech
We’ve looked at the differences between software customisation and software configuration, but what are the tangible benefits of using a configurable system? To provide some at a glance, consider the following advantages of software configuration:
Giving power to the business user and freeing them from IT – if a system provides a seamless and friendly user-experience, then not only will business users be happier to use it, but it will also make them less reliant on IT
The ability to make quick and easy changes as the business need changes – platforms that require no hard coding and which work on a modular basis can, in principle, be easily adapted and updated to fit your organisation’s needs as they change
No need for expensive changes – if you’re tied into using a system that requires constant customisation, either from IT or, even worse, the vendor itself, then the costs of such changes are going to stack up quickly. With configurable software however, the costs of minor changes or tweaks should be much lower
Updates can be made more quickly – as just mentioned, thanks to the fact that little to no hard coding is required, updates can also be made much more quickly
However, while this may sound like a dream come true, the reality is we are not quite there yet. There will always be the possibility of additional complexities that make genuine, 100% user-friendly configuration difficult to achieve. But for organisations that are at least willing to try to move towards such a procuretech landscape, the potential ROI and benefits are huge.
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