When the Model T Fords came out, Henry Ford used to say, “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.” Ford, who was among the first to mass produce cars on an assembly line, was apparently not one for customization, but many popular SaaS vendors make it fairly easy to add non-standard features.

There will be times when your client might need more functionality than the base features that the software vendor originally provides. That’s where customization comes in. It would actually behoove you to be aware which software services have this capability, and figure out when it makes sense to add a little something to your client’s installation to make it more useful for them.

Perhaps the earliest manifestation of this was when Salesforce released Force.com in 2007 as a place for developers and Salesforce administrators to build, sell, and share customization features. Parker Harris, co-founder and CTO at Salesforce said the reason they did this was because so many industries had specific needs and he simply didn’t have the engineering resources to handle every situation. Instead, the company decided to let customers build their own customizations.

Making it work

It’s become a fairly standard practice among SaaS vendors to offer some level of customization today, whether through low-code tools or developer APIs. For instance, just this week, Segment, a company that helps customers move data from disparate sources to any number of tools where it can be used for targeted marketing, announced custom connectors. As Segment’s CTO tells it, there are thousands of marketing technology products out there today, and more coming on line all the time.

Like Salesforce in 2007, Segment doesn’t have the people to build them all. The company created a tool called Functions that enables customers to build their own Segment connectors in those instances when there isn’t one that matches out of the box.

Another SaaS company, BetterCloud, which provides an operations layer for SaaS products, a tool that could be useful for MSPs, originally only worked with G Suite. Last year, the company added support for other tools and opened up an API to build custom connectors to other SaaS applications. This week, it announced a new way to build integrations to apps that are not yet supported and share them in an exchange.

These are just some examples of SaaS companies providing the means to customize, connect, and take advantage of their tools in those instances when the company’s core offering doesn’t work for you. Turns out that Henry Ford was wrong. You can actually have any color you like, so long as your toolmaker provides the means to customize.

Ready Set Managed

Photo: Harish Marnad / Shutterstock

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Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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