To Customize or Not to Customize?

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To Customize or Not to Customize?

Audience: Architects; Platform Owners; Managers; Developers; Administrators
Reading time: 7 minutes
Author: Alex Walmsley

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.

Having said that, it’s clear that customization is necessary at times, with SaaS setups for the likes of Salesforce and ServiceNow being tailored 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 and Look at Stats

Before implementing changes, it’s very important to be engaged with your end users. If you don’t talk to them then you won’t know what they want. Not only will this 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

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, but 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, but if it’s going to frustrate end users with making everyday tasks longer, or worse, confusing, then you’ve not properly thought out your process. 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, leveraging your knowledge of the base capabilities of the platform to guide your creation of new systems.

As part of your change management process, you should map out the fundamentals of 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 in not rushing into implementing customized features and taking the time to reflect.

Conclusion

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. Therefore make sure to review how your process can be implemented while sticking as close to core existing functionality as possible.

If you’re interested in seeing how your SaaS has deviated from out-of-the-box functionality get in touch at info@qualityclouds.com!

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