The expectation is simple: When you invest in an enterprise software product, you want it to work. We are not talking about the website simply resolving when you open the page, or the program launching successfully on your computer, we mean you expect it to really work.
You expect your employee base to adopt the use of it easily and you expect that it will function well for everyone. You expect that the workflow is going to work within the bounds of the way you do business. And most of all, you expect to get your money’s worth by making some processes more efficient or by filling an essential need.
To meet this expectation, enterprise software companies must rise to the task of configuring the software product to your specifications. At SalesChain, this is something we do every day – and with a CRM and Proposal Pricing system like ours, this configuration can take a few weeks.
For the average business, importing a database, setting up pricing levels, and ticking on and off several options is enough to make the system work well within their expectations. But this is not all it takes for some organizations that have multiple locations, complicated processes, or additional software products they would like to integrate into the new system. This is where customization of our software comes in.
Whether it is the fact that these two words are similar in structure or that they have similar meanings, we find that our customers often mistake Customization for Configuration and vice versa, leading to some confusion.
Because of this confusion, we wanted to outline the differences here. In this article, we will compare the configuration of software in the modern implementation of a CRM system with customization of CRM software, which usually entails custom software development. We will use the preview of CRM software since it serves as a good example, but also because it is our area of expertise. This concept can apply to most any type of enterprise-grade software.
Configuration refers to entering information into an existing system in ways that allow the stock software to work best for you. Typically, a CRM software vendor is responsible for importing client-specific data for usernames, user permissions, and hierarchy, pricing levels, account records, notes, and tasks. However: configuration does not include anything that is not standard with the purchase of the product, only the configuration of tools that are native to the system.
When you configure a CRM system, you are setting up the “options.” This might sound easy, but for a tool that is as integral to your business’ daily processes as a CRM, there are a lot of factors to consider.
Customization refers to changing the code of the software to meet the business needs of your company. When you customize a CRM system, you are building functionality that does not currently exist in the software by creating additions to or making fundamental changes in the baseline system. If your partner does not work to develop customization with you, you will have a difficult time achieving the desired outcome.
Customization usually requires software development and coding skills. The software vendor is responsible for changing the source code to alter how the software product runs and creating functionality that is unique to your application.
Some examples of customization include:
- Custom dashboard widgets
- Custom menus
- Opportunity & product lines
- Custom form layouts
- Custom tables
- Modification of existing reports
Customization helps CRM & business automation software users add new features to meet business requirements, expand and enhance functionality, and tailor the user experience. If you are an advanced user of a system that you know many of your competitors also use to their advantage, customization can help you gain a competitive edge.
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Why The Confusion?
During the configuration process, it feels a whole lot like the system is being customized for your business exclusively. The software vendor implements changes to user fields that are specific to your company, such as email templates, company-branded documents, security settings, page layouts, and workflow notifications.
Although these fields look customized, they are all part of the proverbial “options” that get configured as part of the standard system setup.
For a CRM solution specifically, configuration could include things like building dashboards, setting team roles from a hierarchical employee roster, uploading client information from other database sources, and setting deal pricing and commission reconciliation parameters.
Should You Consider Customization?
As a company that provides custom development services, SalesChain will be the first to admit that customization is not right for everyone.
Software systems that are built to scale usually address the way most people do business. Your company, especially if you are not at an enterprise scale yet, might very well fall into this majority. Custom solutions or additions can be very costly, can take significant amounts of time, and can create complications with upgrades and integrations.
However, for the right situation, custom solutions can make manageable an otherwise insurmountable process. Management teams should carefully weigh the pros and cons to determine whether configuration or customization is right for their business. Customization is certainly optional but may be best practice for companies looking to expand beyond the out-of-the-box features offered.
SaaS companies are uniquely positioned to gear up and customize for individual clients because they have in-house coding/development expertise. Additionally, these software changes can be offered to other subscriber companies. This is a win-win scenario for both the vendor and the subscribers.