ITSM: Know The Differences Between Customisation And Configuration

There are times in life when you want to have things customized to your specific requirements. For example, a custom-made suit often has a better fit, is more comfortable and looks better than one bought off the rack. But, in the world of IT Service Management (ITSM) heavily customized solutions are not always in the best interest of the business or your bottom line.

While several years ago many enterprises believed it was more important to own a highly-customized solution as a competitive differentiator, today they are realizing there are many inherent issues with that strategy. For example:

  • Customized solutions only fit a business requirement for that moment in time, risking future strategic options
  • Customizations are costly in the form of delays – modification time spent and delayed implementation/usage
  • Customizations are often the route-cause of failed software operations
  • The component costs often outweigh the original licensing costs
  • When upgrading the customizations often need to be repeated/re-implemented and lack an overall migration path from one version to the next
  • The business becomes hesitant to upgrade because of the associated costs – causing technology lag and the need to enter a rip and replace cycle each time business requirements change.

Customizations need to deliver highly-tangible business value to justify the investment. That’s not to say there aren’t times when customization is warranted, but when looking at ITSM, the technology available today has become so advanced, the need for customization has fallen by the wayside. Instead, those looking to implement a cost-conducive, agile, efficient solution with minimal risk should look to configuration.

You may ask “what’s the difference between customization and configuration?” There is one key differentiator that can enable an organization to save thousands of dollars and a multitude of implementation headaches. Configuration requires NO changes to the source code. Further, it has been widely recognized that out-of-the-box software for ITSM has matured significantly in recent years, ensuring that organizations no longer have to compromise on service quality or functionality.

Therefore, purchasing a solution that can handle 80 percent of your requirements and can be configured to address your other needs is much more cost-conducive than a full-blown customization. This is because the technology can be more easily maintained, shelf life is elongated and when it is time for an upgrade, the migration process is fairly seamless. This, in turn, leaves more time and resources for IT to focus on other mission-critical activities.

If you’re still unsure, run a test of your own. When evaluating vendors ask for a proof of concept in which the vendor replicates ten of your most complex workflows. You will quickly find that those requiring customization will be unable to perform the task in a timely manner – if at all. While the vendors who configure their out-of-the-box solution will be up and running within hours, if not minutes.

The bottom line is that while it may sound great to have a solution customized to your every need, it’s not always ideal, or necessary in an IT environment. Many organizations often face the same challenges, regardless of industry, allowing vendors to take advantage of their own intellectual property, in the form of highly configurable out-of-the-box options to address your business need.

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Markos Symeonides is executive vice president of Axios Systems, a leader in IT Service Management (ITSM) software and services and a pioneer in automated ITIL. Symeonides is responsible for North American operations including partnering with customers to achieve optimum business benefit through best practice ITSM deployment.