With each new install I perform, I find that I’m drawn back to the same basic question: Is your system customizable? While that’s a valid question, it probably isn’t the question that your client means to ask. Experience shows that what they really want to know is: is the system configurable? What’s the difference? Let’s abstract it away from the Service Management realm and bring it into something more recognizable on a daily basis.
Cars, since the beginning of time, are both configurable and customizable. There’s some small level of configuration available to a driver, right? You get to adjust the mirrors, slide the seat back, set the clock, maybe even get the radio presets taken care of. Configurable means that you’re using the tools made available to you by the vendor (auto manufacturer in this case) to make simple tweeks to the environment around you. And, if after 5 years, you decide to upgrade to the newest model of car, most of those settings can be carried over (or re-executed) without major hassle.
Customization of a car takes many very different routes. It can be as simple as buying a pair of fuzzy dice for the rear view mirror. It can be as complex as a full engine swap. Or there are in-betweens, where you can upgrade the radio or replace the muffler with one that gives you a huskier sound. Customization is usually not easy to perform and always requires more than is provided by the original manufacturer. It takes on a higher level of commitment, both in the installation and support angles. Plus, if you trade in your car, there are absolutely no promises that any of the parts you have bought on your own will work (or even fit) on a new vehicle. There are thousands of options when customizing, and the sky is the limit, because once you’re going down that road, it’s only time and money.
So, let’s bring this one back to your Service Management platform. Unlike an automobile, a mature IT Service Management system will have thousands of configuration adjustments, so that you rarely have to think about going the customization route. Think about what is considered configuration: setting up teams, mailboxes (both incoming and outgoing), adding new fields to forms, building workflows to handle repetitive processing tasks. All of this can be done by the local admin or, if you want, you can hire a capable consultant to do the work for you. It all involves using the tools you’ve purchased from your provider, and all that’s left is creativity and the know-how to make your dreams appear in the system.
In contrast, you hope that you need very little customization at all. Customization involves things that are unique to you and your software. Think about things like 3rd party integrations. You’ve got real programming that has to be done for this, and if any of the APIs change over time, you’re back in the same position you started in – no working integration and a burning need for a developer. There is only one very common customization, and that is custom reporting. There’s no way to get around this one – reports are all built to spec by a person trained in both the data schema and the reporting tool.
If you find that you’re spending too much time customizing and not enough on configuring, call us here at Dataseti. With a fresh set of eyes, maybe we can help shift the balance in your favor.
-Jeffrey Bromberger, Consultant & CISA, CRISC