Simple and Standard…or Custom and Complex

Over the years, IT has had the ability to customize the heck out of applications. Even the industry enabled this addiction to feature creep. Vendors asked what new button, bell, and whistle customers wanted and then delivered what they could. Customization became a hallmark of IT trying to ultimately please the customer and meet their ever-changing requirements.

Custom configurations lead to the ability to do more and increase the value of the application/ service to the user. As the number of customizations increased, so did the level of complexity. Eventually, that very flexibility and customization starts to work against the value of the customizations themselves.

There is another nasty side effect with customization. It creates a sort of lock-in. Essentially, the further a solution is customized, the more unique it is and the harder it is to leverage alternative solutions. The customizations create such a unique solution that alternative solutions struggle to compete against. That is, unless they offer the exact same features and functionality…and customization options.

In the end, significant customization is ultimately only possible when using applications that are run internally. When moving to a shared or cloud environment, the level of potential customization drops precipitously. For many, this presents a significant hurdle to moving into a new solution like cloud (ie: SaaS).

The question really comes down to: What is the true value of the customizations? Are they providing more value than their cost? And is this really what customers want? Here at HP Discover in Barcelona, the very issue became a hot button of discussion. Ultimately, the outcome was: Customers want simple and standard over custom and complex. There is a difference between want, need and should.

Bottom Line: In IT, we’ve had the opportunity to customize the heck out of applications. Why? Because we could and truly believed it was valuable. That may have been the case in the past, but today, it is about business value. And there are larger considerations (like alternatives, agility and choice) that play a more significant role in our decisions.

Tim Crawford is ranked as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Chief Information Technology Officers (#4), Top 100 Most Social CIOs (#7), Top 20 People Most Retweeted by IT Leaders (#5) and Top 100 Cloud Experts and Influencers. Tim is a strategic CIO & advisor that works with large global enterprise organizations across a number of industries including financial services, healthcare, major airlines and high-tech. Tim’s work differentiates and catapults organizations in transformative ways through the use of technology as a strategic lever. Tim takes a provocative, but pragmatic approach to the intersection of business and technology. Tim is an internationally renowned CIO thought leader including Digital Transformation, Cloud Computing, Data Analytics and Internet of Things (IoT). Tim has served as CIO and other senior IT roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/ All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor. Tim is also the host of the CIO In The Know (CIOitk) podcast. CIOitk is a weekly podcast that interviews CIOs on the top issues facing CIOs today. Tim holds an MBA in International Business with Honors from Golden Gate University Ageno School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Golden Gate University.

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