Interested in the SaaS model for a new Applicant Tracking System? The difference between configuration and customization can add thousands of dollars to what you thought you would pay!

As a purchaser and user of applicant tracking software, I learned the hard way that many people use the terms configuration and customization interchangeably. To us users and usually non-technical people, the terms often mean the same thing. However, software developers– those creative people behind the scenes who are developing these helpful recruiting tools– think of them quite differently. So I’m writing today to try to clear up the difference and help you avoid a major mistake when choosing an applicant tracking system.

SaaS (Software as a service) is becoming very popular because “technically” speaking it is a software delivery model in which software and its associated data are hosted centrally (typically in the (Internet) cloud) and are accessed by users using a thin client, normally using a web browser over the Internet.

Okay, so to us non-technical users, this simply means that the SaaS model is a web-based solution that only requires an internet browser to use and requires little or no internal IT support. The system and data are securely stored on the SaaS vendor’s server.

If the SaaS vendor describes their system as “configurable” they typically mean that the software is complete and that we only need to fine tune it for our specific needs. We can change the behavior of a feature by pressing a few buttons. The benefits of the configurable system are:

  • The application is hosted centrally, so new releases can be put in place without requiring customers to physically install new software.
  • The application configurations can be tested and corrected faster.
  • The solution provider has access to user behavior within the application (usually via web analytics), making it easier to identify areas of improvement.

After all, that’s what we all want, right?

On the other hand, “customization” technically means that the product is only half way done or incomplete, which will require secondary development to meet our needs. Writing new code by a software developer typically equates to added expense and a lot more time. The cost of a professional developer and the time it takes to test the new code can often add up to spending considerably more money and taking a lot longer to implement. Additional changes to the customized system will continue to add to the cost of the system.

My advice is read the fine print, ask the right questions and get clarification on the whether the system you are interested in is configurable or customizable!