Switching to the Cloud: Configuration vs. Customization

I'm excited to share that Intacct has a new research paper from respected ERP industry analyst Cindy Jutras. In the paper, Cloud Financials: Having It Your Way, Cindy addresses an important topic that most organizations considering cloud financials must deal with: customization. Cindy’s research uncovers that resistance to cloud financials is still driven by the perceived need for customization. However, Cindy concludes that cloud finance systems have so many configuration options to meet your preferences, you probably don’t need much, if any, customization.

There’s a big difference between customization and configuration. Customization involves taking a standard application and modifying it to meet your specific needs, or “mucking around in source code,” as Cindy writes. However, Cindy notes, “the initial price of the software could easily be dwarfed compared to the up front cost of customization and the continued cost to maintain.” Customization is generally complex and expensive. Configuration, however, can deliver results that feel like customization, but without custom programming and technical skills. Think of how you can configure some of your favorite Google sites or Facebook to your own subscription, notification, and sharing settings without any programming, yet the sites feel like they have been customized to your needs.

Because cloud financials give you so many configuration options, you can get a tailored experience that matches your business needs and personal preferences without the hassle of customizing an on-premises solution. Popular financial system customizations that you can now configure with a cloud solution are:
  • Reporting and queries
  • Look and feel (labels and custom fields)
  • Business process work flows (ease of use features) that minimize time to complete tasks and provide intuitive navigation
  • Dashboards and decisions (different types of users have different drill down needs)
Not only does moving to the cloud save you money on hardware, maintenance, and IT effort (see my previous posts in this series on Outsourcing ITTCO, and cloud economics), but you can also save time and money on what used to be custom features that can now be configured without any programming. 

Cindy also addresses another important issue: If you think you need customization – why? Are you really adding value? Or is it just the old way of doing things? You need to truly understand why you need customization before spending time and money to make it happen. It's a worthwhile analysis. In most cases, cloud will let you have it your way and provide most of the “customizations” you need via configuration settings.

However, if you still need customization, find a vendor with a flexible platform that allows for customizing the applications in a way that won’t break when there are product updates. Our CTO, Aaron Harris, wrote a blog entry on cloud customization that explains these concepts in clear detail. Take a look at Intacct to see a solution that meets all your needs for configuration, while also allowing for customization on a cloud-based platform.

Some of the reasons why the Intacct cloud solution is better for configuration and customization include:
  • Intacct is not just an application, but a platform that anticipates and embraces customization.
  • To facilitate customization, Intacct allows customers and partners to add their own files and code to ours.
  • Business people, not technology experts, can rapidly create a tailored solution without any programming.
  • Adding items like custom fields in Intacct does not require any code or database changes, and the custom field is available in reports, lists, data imports, workflow, etc.
  • More than 80% of our customers have customized their implementation of Intacct.
Next time we’ll continue the theme of “have it your way” with an in-depth discussion of Burger King marketing campaigns from the 1970s and 80s. OK, not really...but you can always post a comment if you want to give that topic a try. I will, however, start a discussion of how financial systems adapt to change. Because once you've got your system all set up with the right configurations, something inevitably needs to change. 

Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@markgervase) and Intacct on all our social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. To network with other people interested in cloud financial applications, be sure to join the Intacct Cloud Accounting group and the CFOInsights group on LinkedIn.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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