Think You Need Customization? Think Again

Ann All

A statement made by Peter Beyda, SVP and CIO of Chartis Global Claims, in his presentation at last week's PegaWorld conference really stuck with me. He said Chartis worked to make its processes "as common as possible, as different as necessary." Well, Grasshopper, many organizations find it difficult to follow this Zen-like path.


Do organizations consider their processes a little more special than they are in reality? I have to wonder. When I interviewed Craig Zampa, VP of Technology Solutions for TNG Worldwide, about his company's successful ERP implementation, I was impressed by his thoughts on customization. He told me:


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... We wanted to look at a best practice workflow and figure out how closely we could mirror it, determining whether some of our processes were actually creating competitive advantage or just built as conveniences over the years.

Zampa said TNG chose an SAP system because it addressed more than three-quarters of TNG's processes and workflows. He also credited the relative lack of customization as a key factor in being able to implement the system in just eight months.


Last week I saw a Network World story about a hospice that purchased CRM software from Salesforce.com rather than a much pricier system geared toward the specific needs of hospices. It simply required a rethink of the hospice's processes, which turned out to be similar to those contained in a standard CRM workflow. The story quotes David Lafferty, CIO of Florida's Tidewell Hospice:

We build relationships with physician practices. We educate and develop those relationships into leads. We get referrals. We admit those referrals as patients, and then administer care to them. When a patient dies, we facilitate grief and bereavement counseling and, should the family wish, take advantage of philanthropic or donation opportunity. That sounds an awful lot like opportunity, contact, quote, order, fulfill, ship.

Limits on customization have long been a knock against SaaS applications. But, as Tidewell's experience proves, maybe companies don't need as much customization as they might think. Tidewell needed only one significant piece of customization for its implementation, a tweak that allowed the input of more detailed information on patient and physician activities.


It brought in a consultant to help and, in another bit of best practice, chose a Salesforce partner that had previously worked with a hospice. A year into the project, Tidewell tends to most of its own Salesforce needs, using the consulting company as an adviser only.


In addition to its original project, Tidewell has expanded its use of Salesforce for IT project portfolio management and facilities management and maintenance. It also expects to use it for projects for philanthropy and funds development and human resources.


Lafferty hopes the CRM system will become "one source of truth for all of Tidewell's account, contacts and contracts."

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