Nov 13, 2008

Why vendor product customizations are bad and how to avoid them?

Often our sponsors ask us to bite the bullet and customize a vendor product to meet their specific requirement(s) rather than changing their business process around the vendor product.

Here's a template we've used for our discussions with sponsors if they insist on product customizations...

Does the business benefit of *** doing blah *** offset the cost and impact of customizing *** this vendor product ***?

E.g. Does the business benefit of pushing staffing data in Time System offset the cost and impact of customizing the vendor time management product?

Why vendor product customizations are bad?

  • upfront costs/effort/time
    • development (customization)
    • testing
    • deployment
  • maintenance costs/effort/time with product upgrade (typically every 12 - 18 months)
    • analysis (impact of upgrade on customizations)
    • development (redeploy customization)
    • testing
    • deployment


  • Cannot use new features or new product releases as upgrading to new product version becomes harder (i.e., more time consuming, more risky) with customizations


  • If vendor agrees to support customizations, the vendor would need to ensure:
    • redundancy in resources knowledgeable of the customizations
    • the customizations are thoroughly documented
    • knowledge transfer of customizations as vendor resources knowledgeable of the customizations can move out of your IT account at the vendor
  • The above items pose a support risk because our IT department cannot be certain that these things happen effectively, thus putting service levels at risk
  • If vendor does not agree to support customizations then our IT department needs to bear the cost and risk of documenting and supporting customizations on an ongoing basis


  • In cases where we own the customization, we may not be able to access the engineers who customized the product leading to resource constraints. This is often because we don't have enough work to keep that engineer busy/allocated full-time. This often results in a big lead time to source the proper expertise


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