Configure? Customize? What’s the Diff?


lego blocks

When you are considering a new project management system, you should question and investigate how much you can make it your own. You may hear words like “configure” and “customize” thrown around and wonder what, exactly, they mean. To be honest, many software vendors (Spitfire Management included) use these words a little too interchangeably, even though they mean different things. Ask for clarification when necessary.

Customization of software involves modifications to the software code itself. Customization is therefore done by programmers and requires lifelong maintenance as new versions of the system are released. Software that requires customization in order to work as you want it to, ends up being very expensive in the long run. We at Spitfire have never customized a client’s system.

Configuration, on the other hand, can be done by a system administrator, an IT person, or even just an informed user because it takes advantage of tools already within the system. Configurations survive new releases of the system and don’t incur extra expense.

Think of it this way: You’ve just been given a LEGO Creative Suitcase full of building bricks and pieces. Configuration is creating whatever you want with those pieces (and because of the flexibility, extending your creations however you desire). Customization is asking LEGO for a special-made 2×7 brick.

You want a system that already includes the building bricks you require to meet your project management needs.

From the start, the Spitfire Project Management System has been designed to be highly configurable and extensible so that no new code is needed.  What can be configured includes a thousand little changes, and ranges from labels to system codes to what can be seen by whom to what documents are automatically created at the start of the project to other automatic workflows and processes. Because of these choices, no two of our clients have the same looking or identically-acting systems.

The next time you are in a demo for new software, ask if the software can do what you need it to do. If you are told “yes”, ask how and find out whether it will involve configuration on your part or some customization on the part of the vendor. Ask enough questions or request a demo on how configurations can be set up, so that you can be satisfied with the answer. Don’t assume that the vendor is using the words “configure” and “customize” correctly.

In the end, you don’t want a system that will be unexpectedly costly to maintain in the years to come.

This entry was posted in Demos, Project Management and tagged , , , by Soni York. Bookmark the permalink.

About Soni York

Soni is the lead technical writer and communication specialist at Spitfire Management, responsible for user documentation, newsletters, webinars, social media and the website among other things. (She changes hats frequently.) She is also a trainer (see, another hat) who enjoys teaching new users the basics of the Spitfire Project Management System. Her postings on this site are all her own and don't necessarily represent Spitfire's positions, strategies or opinions.

2 thoughts on “Configure? Customize? What’s the Diff?

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