CRM configuration vs. customization
Though they might seem to be synonyms, when we are talking about CRM systems, configuration and customization are vastly different.
Configuration is more easily done, changing aspects of the CRM so they better align with the processes and needs of the business using the CRM–typically this is done via point/click tool offered by the platform (like D365 or Salesforce.com). Examples can include custom fields, custom workflows, etc. These changes are typically done by a system admin and typically take minutes or hours to do. These changes are low risk, as they do not alter the platform much, and can easily be maintained. Of course, there are limitations to this option as businesses are confined to the configuration options provided by their CRM platform.
Customization on the other hand, requires developers and typically takes hours, days or even weeks to finish. Customization comes with code-based changes that will need to be maintained and continually tested to ensure that futures CRM updates or upgrades do not somehow break or disturb the customization. Customizations are a powerful way for businesses to adopt a CRM to fit the organization’s needs.
Why would you customize?
The time, money, and expertise needed to customize a CRM might make customization seem not worth your time, especially for a small- to medium-sized business. But hear us out.
Customization improves business performance, enhances usability, integrates systems, and ensures data integrity.
- Performance – Often customizations allow for performance efficiencies not available via native functionality. All businesses work differently, and customization allows you to make your CRM work for yours.
- Enhances Usability – Streamline process and application flow by consolidating required steps or providing an intuitive custom UI. When the functionality of your CRM fades into the background, your company and your employees increase productivity and accomplish better work more easily.
- Integrations – CRM platforms are intended to interact with other systems and software, let them. Without customization, CRM platforms cannot speak to those other systems. Integrations can also allow you to scale and increase the functionality of your business.
- Data integrity – Native duplicate detection is often ineffective. Customizing the process can lead to cleaner overall data. Together with integrations, customizing your CRM so it can seamlessly communicate with other systems allows for better data quality.
So, configuration or customization?
The honest answer is you will probably need a bit of both. No need to customize and reinvent the wheel if some simple configuration will do. But also, do not be afraid of customization if a bit of dev work or integration will vastly improve the way you and your employees work. Overall, customizations can give you a great return on investment in both money and employee time, happiness, and productivity. The key here is finding the right level of balance.
Before you start configuring and customizing your CRM?
There are several things to keep in mind when you are configuring and/or customizing your CRM.
- Understand the requirements. Consider how many people will be impacted by the changes, how often the changes will impact end-users, and what the end value will be. Do you clearly understand the want and need with the configuration and/or customization? Basically, do not try to solve a problem that does not exist.
- Understand the product and its limitations. Having a clear understanding of what the out-of-box functionality your platform has to offer allows you to identify the changes you and your company need. Be honest about the limitation of your end-users so you do not make the CRM too complicated to use.
- Think in terms of usability. If a custom option is presented, understand the usability benefits, and weigh them against the native option. Know that you CAN do too much, so weigh the pros and cons accordingly.
- Be mindful of unassumed costs. Implementation costs are straightforward but know that with customization your total cost of ownership will likely increase with future upgrades and technical debt reduction.
- Be mindful of upgradability. Ensure customizations are supported, and in theory, upgradeable to reduce future costs.
- Focus on supportability. Be aware of who owns the solution. Make sure documentation is up to date in the event of unexpected turnover to avoid the risk of this knowledge walking out your door.
- Understand the platform roadmap. Keep in mind the platform is constantly in motion. Understanding what is coming down the pipe will help you prepare for changes and necessary updates. This will also prevent you from investing in features that might be available natively within the platform in the short term.
Consider mobility. It is important to stay mobile-friendly. Be sure to plan time to troubleshoot any advanced customization with native mobile apps.