Failure to understand the hidden costs of customization.
"We can do that," is the predictable refrain heard by companies when
they ask a vendor if their product can do...well, just about anything. While
it's usually a truthful answer, it isn't always complete.
Take multiple currency translation as just one example. Some products have been
developed and designed to handle multiple currencies and produce a P&L
based on any currency just by a simple mouse click. It's programmed into to the
basic "plain vanilla" product. Other products may not come complete
with this same ability, but can be customized to provide the same
So what's the difference? Why should anyone care, if at the end of the day each
product can provide the same multi-currency functionality?
In the case of the product where the functionality is built in and requires no
customization, there is no additional up-front consulting cost to provide it.
In addition, if there is any type of problem or failure with this function,
assistance is provided for free via the help desk. If they can't solve the
problem, they'll send out a consultant to fix it - and charge nothing if it
turns out to be a product failure. And since this is part of the basic product,
if anyone else experienced a similar problem before you did, a fix would be in
existence. In fact the vendor might have included the fix in an update, so you
could actually avoid even encountering the problem to begin with.
If, however, you went with a vendor that did not have multiple currency
translation embedded in the basic product, you would need to pay one of their
consultants to build that capability for you. In addition, since it's not part
of the basic offering, it's not going to be supported by the help desk. If you
ever need additional modifications (and believe me, you will) you'll pay for
those as well.
In addition, customizations are rarely so fully and completely integrated with
the standard product to the point where they operate as seamlessly as they do
when developed from the start as part of the offering. That being the case,
customized solutions have a tendency to breed work-arounds and be somewhat
awkward to work with. This being the case, user acceptance can be diminished,
and confidence in the product erode.
can be done?
In The Buttonwood Seven Step Process™ for finding and selecting a
planning software vendor, Step 5: Scrutinize the Short List talks about the
need for site visits and scripted demonstrations. These are two tools to
uncover what important customization, if any, will be required. In addition,
Step 6: Bargain in Good Faith will require each vendor to come clean about what
functionality needs to be customized, since this will appear in the
If you have any questions about the process, or would like to find out how we
can support your efforts to find the right vendor for your circumstances,
please contact us.