Configuration or Customization?

"Is this change configuration or customization?"

This is one of the most popular questions during a software implementation requirements gathering phase, and it is sometimes the topic of debate.  

Let's get into the details of this configuration or customization discussion and I'll discuss what I think about it.

Gap Analysis

During the requirements gathering phase of a project, I often do a gap analysis.  The gap analysis consists of marking a requirement, Gap, Fit, or Config.  

  • If the requirement is a Gap, it means it doesn't exist in the application and you would have to customize it to make it happen.  
  • It the requirement is a Config, it means the application has the requirement built into the application.  All you need to do is adjust a property or some config files to meet the requirement.
  • If the requirement is a Fit, it exists in the application and you don't have to do anything to achieve the requirement.

For the Gap and Config items, I mark a difficulty of 1 - 5, with 5 being the most difficult.  If customers see a lot of Gap items, they sometimes are concerned, because that sounds like a lot of work. 

However the difficulty column is the most important, Customization versus Configuration can be vague especially in flexible and customizable products like ServiceNow.  

ServiceNow Configuration

For ServiceNow, these are some examples I consider as configuration:

  • Adding Data Elements like Groups, Users, Departments, Users to Groups
  • Adjusting Properties Files
  • Creation of Fields, Field Layout, List Layouts, Views
  • Service Catalog Items
  • Templates
  • Home Page Changes
  • Surveys
  • Metrics and SLAs
  • UI and Data Policies
  • CSS

Questions to help mark as a configuration:

  • If the solution was created or supported by ServiceNow
  • Only basic maintenance needed

ServiceNow Customization

For ServiceNow, these are some examples I consider as customization:

  • Business Rules
  • Client Scripts
  • UI Actions
  • Script Includes
  • UI Macros
  • New Tables
  • New Applications
  • Access Control

Questions to help mark as a customization:

  • May affect future upgrades
  • Complex javascript needed
  • Maintenance requires experienced developer

ServiceNow Configuration/Customization Grey Areas

These items I consider grey areas, because it depends on the complexity of the configuration/customization.

  • Workflow
  • Transform Maps
  • Integrations
  • Email Notifications
  • Reports


The lines between configuration and customization will blur even more so in the future as applications become easier to customize.  What is important is how difficult it is to make that configuration or customization and how it will affect your company with maintenance and upgrades.