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    October 3, 2023

    Configuration vs. Customization: The Right Approach for Your Software

    In today's digital age, software plays a pivotal role in almost every aspect of our lives. Whether it's for business, entertainment, or day-to-day tasks, we are increasingly reliant upon software. With this increased reliance comes the need for specialization. Now, it is critical to address the increasingly distinct needs of targeted user groups. This brings us to a crucial crossroads: should one opt for customization or configuration when implementing software solutions?

    We at Broadcom are fortunate to engage with a diverse range of organizations, assisting them in overcoming their challenges. A prevalent issue among these organizations is over-customization.

    Here are a few reasons why organizations confront this issue:

    • Teams are utilizing tools that don't align with their intended purpose.
    • Decision makers fail to ask the vendor during the purchase process, the level of customizations necessary to fulfill the intended usage of the solution.
    • Stakeholders and delivery teams face challenges in comprehending a fragmented tool strategy.
    • Eager developers or contractors sometimes prioritize quick solutions, while overlooking potential downstream costs.

    Numerous organizations I assist are presently investing in significant efforts to declutter their tool methodologies, which is a direct consequence of their over-reliance on customization.

    The difference between configuration and customization

    Configuration and customization are both approaches to tailoring software applications to meet the specific needs of users or businesses. However, they involve different levels of complexity, flexibility, and potential risks. Here's a breakdown of the differences:

    • Configuration. This refers to adjusting the settings and preferences of an existing software application to meet the specific needs of a user or an organization, without changing its core code. Generally, configuration is simpler and less costly since it relies on using the software's inherent features and settings.
    • Customization. This involves making changes to the software's core code to add new features, change its behavior, or integrate it with other applications. Customization typically requires specialized development skills and an understanding of the software's architecture. Customization is more complex due to the need for software development efforts. Also, customizations might cause functionality to break when the software is updated or upgraded, leading to potential downtime, maintenance challenges, costs and inability to take advantage of newly released features.

    In today's business landscape, we recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach is inadequate. That's why we have placed a significant emphasis on flexibility in our product offerings. Our solutions are designed to be highly configurable, ensuring they can be tailored to meet the distinctive requirements and nuances of each organization we serve.

    Advantages of configuration

    1. Flexibility without the complexity

    Configuration provides a way to adjust software settings to align with specific needs, without altering the core codebase. Users can quickly adapt functionalities based on presets and options provided by the software. This means getting your desired outcome without the intricate process of rewriting or adding new code.

    2. Cost and time efficiency

    Customization usually requires more in-depth development work, involving additional hours of coding, testing, and validation. Configuration, on the other hand, often utilizes built-in tools and options that are pre-tested and vetted, leading to significant savings in both time and money.

    3. Ease of upgrades

    Software solutions are continuously evolving, with regular updates and patches released to improve performance or address vulnerabilities. Customized solutions might complicate the update process. In some cases, updates may make the customized software prone to glitches. In other cases, the code may be entirely incompatible with the new release. Configuration ensures that organizations  can keep software up-to-date, without disrupting its core functionality.

    4. Reduced maintenance

    Custom solutions often come with the added burden of maintenance. Any changes, updates, or fixes need to cater to both the original software and the custom-added features. With configuration, since the primary codebase remains untouched, maintenance becomes a more streamlined and less cumbersome process.

    5. Scalability

    As organizations grow or change, their software needs might shift. Configurable software provides the agility to scale or modify functionality as needed, without the constraints of a rigid, customized framework.

    6. Vendor support

    Software providers typically offer support for their products, ensuring any issues or challenges faced by users are addressed promptly. Customized solutions might fall outside the purview of standard support, leading to delays or extra costs in troubleshooting.

    Conclusion

    While customization offers the possibility of building a tailored solution from the ground up, the benefits of configuration in software are hard to beat. By focusing on configuration, users can leverage flexible, cost-effective, and scalable solutions that evolve with their needs, while enjoying consistent vendor support. The next time you're faced with a software decision, consider the merits of configuration over customization for a smoother digital journey.

    At Broadcom, we advocate for the merits of configuration over customization in software solutions. Our team of value stream management experts is dedicated to assisting companies in leveraging flexible and scalable tools. We believe in the “art of the possible,” and our tools are uniquely equipped to help transform how you work, align your teams, and boost your business agility. Although the journey may seem challenging, with our expertise and tools, we're confident we can help you adapt and thrive.

    Reach out to us to start a conversation about maximizing your business potential with ValueOps and let’s discuss how we can configure our solutions to best fit your needs.

    Tag(s): ValueOps , Rally , Clarity

    Fridgeir Eyjolfsson

    Fridgeir (Frikkx) Eyjolfsson works as a Client Services Consultant at Broadcom. He is a SAFe SPC with a rich Agile, SAFe & IT background. He founded two startups. His expertise as a Software Developer, SAFE consultant, RTE, Product Owner, and Head of APMO provides valuable insights into digital and agile...

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