One major cause of SaaS platforms becoming unwieldy and difficult to maintain and scale is over-customization. There are an increasing amount of companies that are seeking to return their platforms to out-of-the-box functionality so they can start afresh. Once accomplished, they aim to configure, not customize.
Having said that, it’s clear at times it’s necessary to customize. SaaS platforms such as Salesforce and ServiceNow by default cater to generic business models. Like with most things in life, it’s best to avoid absolutes. A 100% customized model is probably going to cause severe headaches to maintain and keeping purely the base functionality might result in some awkward workarounds. With this in mind, how do you best find the middle ground?
Talk to End Users Before You Customize
Before implementing changes, engage with your end users. If you don’t talk to them then you won’t know what they want. Firstly this will increase adoption. But you’ll also get some great ideas on what they feel does and doesn’t work about the current setup.
Looking at usage stats for various parts of the platform, something often available through apps such as Quality Clouds’ own ServiceNow Field Analysis app, you can build up a picture of what is currently being used and what is not being used. If a custom feature is not being used then evaluate the extent to which it is necessary at all and why it is not being used.
Reduce Complexity, Don’t Customize
Now that you’re already talking to your end users, you’ve started to think about how they interact with the platform day to day. Imagine you’ve got a customized solution that you feel is far more comprehensive and effective than the current method. As a downside, it requires users filling in 10 more fields each time they use it. Or it doubles the number of clicks.
From a backend and data analysis point of view you might have a great idea. If it’s going to frustrate end users, making everyday tasks longer, or worse, confusing, then you need to review it again. Over-customizing to encompass very specific solutions to all niche use cases is generally not a good idea. Especially if it compromises the simplicity and efficiency of everyday usage.
Re-examine Internal Processes
How did you implement your SaaS processes? Taking a pre-existing process and implementing it directly onto your platform will not produce the optimal results. You want to instead think of SaaS specific design. Leverage your knowledge of the base capabilities of the platform to guide your creation of new systems.
As part of your change management process, map out current functions. Map how information needs to be shared and when decisions are made. Cross-reference this map against out-of-the-box functionality and decide what can and can’t be done. This exercise may allow you to see where you can make minor changes to current features that require less work than your initial idea, or it may identify a massive inefficiency in your process. Either way, there is clear value trying to customize immediately. Instead, reflect and review.
Before customizing, evaluate that there is a real need and that you are not simply adding unnecessary complexity for users. Also keep in mind that adding customizations means you will have more to maintain and additional considerations if you want to build upon your current processes in the future. Review process implementation, while sticking as close to core existing functionality as possible.