Every business has unique needs, and it can be tempting to customize existing software solutions to meet those needs precisely.
However, customization requires specialized coding skills and, in some cases, custom implementation, which can cause a cascade of challenges. Further revisions will require more code; future releases could be impacted, necessitating even more code. If the customization impacts the software’s functionality, the vendor is typically not responsible for fixing it.
You may be able to configure your software—that is, adjust existing functionality—to do what you need. All software is configurable to some extent, but whether that is an option for your specific issue depends on how flexible your software is and what you want it to do. The more configurable the software, the more expensive it is, but the investment may be worth it if it gives you exactly what you need. Also, some vendors will customize some platforms for you. This too, will raise the price, but it may be worth knowing that the vendor will be responsible for the changes.
There are times, however, when the precise functionality you want simply is not available on the market. In those cases, customization may be the best option. Done well, it can add tremendous value and help set you apart from competitors.
Before you start tinkering with any code, think through the following questions carefully:
- Is there an out-of-the-box software solution that solves our specific needs?
- Can existing software be configured to address our specific needs?
- Would it make more sense to adjust our business process to fit existing software rather than customize the software to fit the business process?
- How much will customization cost? How does the price compare with any pre-existing solutions?
- Do we have the in-house expertise to accomplish this customization, or will we have to hire externally?
- What kind of support and budget will be necessary to maintain our customization in the future?
- Does customization support our overall goals and strategies?
When well-designed and executed, customization can provide tremendous benefits to your business. But it would be best to weigh those benefits against risks, including delays, extra work, increased costs, and overall functionality.
The good news is that the software you need may already exist. However, trying to find it can feel overwhelming. Our Technology Advisory Group’s Strategic Software Selection service can help you identify and implement the perfect software solution for your business’s needs.