April showers bring May flowers and in the world of business software, that means evaluating solutions in April for May ROI! All kidding aside, one of the biggest considerations a software buyer has in the current market involves how much functionality they should use "out of the box" versus customized for their specific operations. There are many answers from many vendors but as with most things in life, it really depends on many factors. Your goal should be to successfully address the needs of your organization with a solution that proves value while not blowing your annual budget. Here is the simplest way to look at how much customization you should expect in a solution you are evaluating.
What specifically is required of a solution. In some cases, you may have an industry-specific regulated report that you need created at monthly intervals. In that case, an out of the box report solution that was written for that industry (banking, healthcare) may be the best value. Because this report requirement is documented at a federal level, a vendor can provide value for the volume of the solution and it has to be correct for the customer. However, if you need something specific to your business that gives you a competitive edge that is not shared with your industry, customization of a more open report solution may be the only way you get what you need.
If your need is simple but work intensive like sales tax across multiple jurisdictions, an out of the box sales tax solution that is built to integrate is your best option. Similar to our example above, though the need is complex (sales tax can be wild), since it is documented and the same every time, it is not a complex solution you need. Less customization is more valuable here. If you are in need of a complex solution, again specific to your business in most cases, you will want to work with a vendor that can customize your solution. If you have a complex series of workflows and approvals, out of the box may be more complicated as you try and bend your process to their restrictions. However, if you can customize this during implementation, your solution matches your needs and works with your org from the start.
We've all been here. You are tasked with finding a new solution for X problem. You evaluate, meet with vendors, set up demos, and get proposals. At the end of all of this, one key member of the process informs you that they absolutely will only work with a certain solution. Save yourself the process pain here and have that discussion early! Evaluation trauma aside, some industry veterans know that a certain vendor's out of the box functionality is exactly what they need and they won't even consider a custom alternative. It behooves you to evaluate an option, especially if that industry solution is legacy as their costs may have crept up with the market without them making necessary technology improvements.
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