Understanding the Ins vs. Outs of Customizing Software

Written By: Kyler Cheatham
Date: September 6, 2022

In the business world, "customization" is a loaded term. It's often used as a synonym for "personalization," which can create expectations that a software application will be able to do anything and everything that a company might want or need it to do. In reality, however, there are important distinctions between customization and personalization, and it's important to understand the implications of each before making any decisions about modifying software for your business.

At its core, customization is all about making changes to the way a software application looks, feels, and works. This can be as simple as changing the color scheme or adding a company logo to the login screen. More complex customizations might involve changing the software's user interface (UI) or adding new features and functionality.

Personalization, on the other hand, is about making changes to the way the software interacts with individual users. This can include things like remembering a user's preferences or tailoring the content that is presented to them based on their past behavior.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when considering customization vs personalization:

1. Customization is typically less expensive than personalization.

2. Customization can be done by anyone with the necessary skills and knowledge, whereas personalization often requires access to the software's code or specific tools and expertise.

3. Customization is usually reversible, while personalization often isn't.

4. Customization can be done piecemeal, while personalization often requires a comprehensive approach.

5. Customizations are typically transparent to other users, while personalizations are usually specific to each user.

6. Customizations can be made to the software itself, while personalizations are usually made through changes to user accounts or settings.

7. Customization changes are often visible to all users, while personalization changes are usually only visible to the individual user.

8. Customizations can be made at any time, while personalizations often require planning and coordination.

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When to Customize vs. When to Personalize

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when to customize and when to personalize software. The best approach will vary depending on the specific needs and goals of your business, as well as the capabilities of the software itself.

In general, however, there are a few guidelines that can help you make the best decision for your business:

1. If you need to make a change that will affect all users of the software, customization is usually the best option. This is because customizations are typically less expensive and more reversible than personalizations.

2. If you need to make a change that will only affect certain users of the software, personalization is usually the best option. This is because personalizations are usually more targeted and less likely to cause disruptions for other users.

3. If you're not sure which approach to take, it's often best to start with the customization and then move on to personalization if necessary. This is because customization is typically less expensive and more reversible than personalization.

4. If you need to make a change that is both cosmetic and functional, customization is usually the best option. This is because customizations can be made piecemeal, while personalizations often require a comprehensive approach.

5. If you need to make a change that is both significant and irreversible, personalization is usually the best option. This is because personalizations are typically more targeted and less likely to cause disruptions for other users.

Customization vs. Off-the-Shelf Solutions

There are a few key differences between customizations and off-the-shelf solutions:

1. Customizations are typically more expensive than off-the-shelf solutions. This is because customizations require additional development time and resources, while off-the-shelf solutions are typically ready to use.

2. Customizations are typically more time-consuming than off-the-shelf solutions. This is because customizations need to be specifically developed for the customer, while off-the-shelf solutions are typically ready to use.

3. Customizations are typically more complex than off-the-shelf solutions. This is because customizations often add complexity, while off-the-shelf solutions are typically ready to use.

4. Customizations are typically more specific than off-the-shelf solutions. This is because customizations are often tailored to the needs of the customer, while off-the-shelf solutions are typically general-purpose.

5. Customizations can make the software more difficult to use. This is because customizations often add complexity, which can make the software more difficult to understand and use.

6. Customizations can make the software less reliable. This is because customizations often change the way the software works, which can make it more likely to break down or have errors.

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Why Vendors want you to Customize

There are a few reasons why software vendors might want you to customize their products:

1. Customizations can be used to lock in customers. This is because customizations typically require specific knowledge and expertise, which can make it difficult for customers to switch to another product.

2. Customizations can increase the perceived value of the software. This is because customizations often make the software more specific to the needs of the customer, which can make it seem more valuable.

3. Customizations can increase customer satisfaction. This is because customizations can make the software more user-friendly and tailored to the specific needs of the customer.

4. Customizations can reduce support costs. This is because customizations can make the software easier to use, which can reduce the need for customer support.

5. Customizations can increase revenue. This is because customizations often make the software more valuable to customers, which can lead to increased sales.

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Considerations to Customizing

Customizations are often built around a competitive advantage that the company has, so they are an important piece of the software selection process. It's important to remember that these special functions are not negative or bad, but should be fully considered before committing.

1. Customizations can make the software more difficult to use. This is because customizations often add complexity, which can make the software more difficult to understand and use.

2. Customizations can make the software less reliable. This is because customizations often change the way the software works, which can make it more likely to break down or have errors.

3. Customizations can make the software more expensive. This is because customizations typically require additional development time and resources, which can increase the overall cost of the software.

4. Customizations can make the software less flexible. This is because customizations often limit how the software can be used, which can make it less adaptable to changing needs.

5. Customizations can make the software more difficult to upgrade. This is because customizations often need to be specifically compatible with new versions of the software, which can make it more difficult.

In Conclusion

There are a few key pros and cons to consider when deciding whether or not to customize the software. Some of the main pros include that customizations can increase the perceived value of the software, can increase customer satisfaction, and can reduce support costs. However, some of the main cons include that customizations can make the software more difficult to use, can make the software less reliable, and can increase the overall cost of the software. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to customize the software depends on the specific needs and goals of the customer.

Deciding whether or not to customize your solution can be very unique to the specific business and extremely complex. Leaders don't know what they don't know, so please feel free to reach out to me directly, kyler.cheatham@thirdstage-consulting.com, with any questions regarding customization or software selection in general.

Also, download our newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional insight and digital transformation best practices.

Author:
Kyler Cheatham
Kyler Cheatham is a digital artist and innovator who is always thinking of new ways to improve the world around her. As the Global Marketing Director at Third Stage Consulting, she uses her creativity and tech-savvyness to help businesses reach their target audiences. Kyler is also a thought leader in the digital marketing space, and she loves sharing her knowledge with others. She is also a mother of two young children, which has given her a unique perspective on balancing work and family life.
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