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Customized Versus Tailored Applications

A "customized" application is one that utilizes a purchased software package that has been modified and/or supplemented with software developed in-house to better match unique characteristics and needs of the institution. There are many kinds of customization, and customization can be done in either a single-vendor partnership or best-of-breed approach to software package selection and deployment. Customization can be very expensive. Because UVa executive management has expressed a desire for the University to be more willing to change policies and practices to match functionality available in off-the-shelf application software, it is expected that there will be less customization of application packages in the future, regardless of whether the University chooses a single vendor or best-of-breed strategy for future software selections.

The types of customization typically done in the past include:

It is important to note that with any system implementation, some tailoring of the software is essential to make the package operational. For example, a step in implementing the purchased software used in CAPPS was establishing how long closed purchase orders would be retained on the active data files. Also, some packages provide tailoring tools to allow limited modification of presentation screens and the flow from one screen to another. This tailoring has in the past consisted primarily of filling in vendor-supplied tables and setting parameters according to specific guidelines provided by the vendor. The most difficult part in the process is making the required business decisions. Entering those decisions into the software is a relatively simple process.

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, software package tailoring is distinct from customizing in that it does not require programming to accomplish. Some of the newer generation software packages include sophisticated tools to allow more extensive tailoring than was previously possible. For example, some vendors claim to have tools that allow extensive modification of business rules by those without programming expertise. Should our product investigation confirm this, application tailoring has the potential to provide some of the changes to off-the-shelf software packages previously only possible through labor-intensive, programming-based software customization.


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Updated January 12, 1999