The intersection between HR strategy and HR technology


Custom vs Config vs Vanilla

systematicHR Avatar

I hear these terms all the time and I often hear them being misused. I’m going to provide a few simple guidelines today in an attempt to provide what I think are the industry standard definitions.

Customization: A change to the core application. This can be a change to the source code, or simply changes to the database design. This is often adding tables and fields to the database.

Configuration: A change to the application that does not impact the design of the underlying application architecture. Basically configuration is any activity you do that can be performed through the application user interface. Examples are inputting values to a core table.

Vanilla: This is pretty much a non-customized application. Generally an organization will say that they want to implement an HR system “vanilla” so that they don’t need to maintain customization as they perform future upgrades and such.

In past systems, customization often included the modification of workflow processes or adding approval levels to these workflows. As technology gets better, the definition of these processes is getting incorporated into system tables. Therefore, the definition of a process is no longer a modification to the database, but is now simply an entry of data into a table. Rules engines have been going through the same changes. Where you used to write a “script” that was applied to the database, now rules are being housed in tables and fields. Customization may never totally disappear, but it’s gradually diminishing. You have point solutions that are so flexible that they rarely need to be customized. Almost everything you want to do can be set up in a table. ERP’s are heading that direction as well.

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systematicHR Avatar

2 responses to “Custom vs Config vs Vanilla”

  1. […] Possibly not the end, but configurability is reaching new levels of innovation and market demand.  The growing demand to keep HRMS applications “vanilla” to limit upgrade expense, and the continued growth in HR functionality have really allowed employers to realize a configurable HR technology world. If you’ve been using a system such as PeopleSoft, this is nothing new.  PeopleSoft forms, routings, etc have been configurable since version 8.  This was a masive departure from when every workflow was a fairly significant customization.   Similarly if you look at a system like Taleo (talent acquisition), you’ll notice that customization is all but impossible.  The configuration flexibility allows you to do pretty much anything you want.  Now, this technology has migrated to mid-market point solutions as SoftScape released their configuration engine last month.  […]

  2. Anna alton Avatar
    Anna alton

    very clear and written in English non-IT jargon style!