July 17, 2014

Configuration vs Customization - What's The Difference?

Configuration vs Customization - What's The Difference?

When shopping for an AMS, you’ll often hear the words “configuration” and “customization”. These words sound similar but in actuality they’re extremely different. And very often we’ll hear clients themselves using the two words incorrectly. What’s the difference between these two functions, and what’s the big deal anyway?

You Say Potato, I Say…

There’s a big difference between configuration and customization. Configuration, often abbreviated “config”, refers to entering information into the system in ways that allow the stock software to work best for you. Configuration refers to making the changes the vendor has anticipated you’ll want to make in the software, and uses fields, values and functionality within the software to accomplish this. This is the flexibility that comes “out of the box” with the system.

Customization, on the other hand, refers to changing the code of the software to meet the business needs of your particular association. This is, in essence, changing the source code of how the software operates. This is not out of the box - it’s custom to the specific needs of your association.

A Journey Into Configuration

Configuration happens during the implementation process, and it’s something that’s going to happen whether you choose to customize the software down the line or not. Examples of things that might be configured include:

  • Email templates
  • Portal forms
  • Membership types
  • Security roles
  • Revenue recognition schedules
  • Page layouts
  • Custom fields & objects

and more. The idea is to configure what you’ll need to run the software out of the box to manage each aspect of your association.

One of the reasons MemberSuite has grown so rapidly and been so successful in the market is due to the control we give our clients over their configuration. Anything we can configure, our clients can too. This means that you have ultimate flexibility and control over your own system. And because we built our software specifically for associations and trade associations, we built in a ton of configuration into our product right out of the box.

The Scoop On Customization

Sometimes clients need more changes than can be done out of the box. For that they need to customize parts of the product to gain specific functionality for their association.

Customization usually begins with an informational interview. The vendor will work with you to help uncover the underlying structure of a given set of business processes. Then those processes are modeled on the AMS using varying levels of customization. The general idea is that when the vendor discovers something you need that’s outside the baseline solution, you pay to perform a customization to the baseline system, which fundamentally changes it for you.

At MemberSuite, we build customizations from the ground up, so it’s always specific to the client we built it for. Additionally, if it’s a core change and we decide to build it, it rolls out to all clients because we are a Software as a Service (SaaS) product. A core change like this might happen if our product team believes all our clients would benefit from the change. The beauty of SaaS is that when features are added to the core product, all subscribers share in the wealth!

The beauty of SaaS is that when features are added to the core product, all subscribers share in the wealth!”

Which Do You Need?

Different clients will need different levels of customization (or no customization at all) based on their particular business needs. Any reputable vendor can help you uncover this. In the end, remember that configuration comes along in the product with your purchase, and if you don’t see it in the baseline system, you can then get it customized to suit your individual needs.