One topic that generated a disproportionate amount of heat with vendors — and even among team members — during our IGA Critical Capabilities research had to do with how certain product activities were characterized as configuration or customization. Some vendors insisted that their products did not require customization and they did not take kindly to suggestions that they may, in fact, require customization for some routine scenarios.

Early in my part of the analysis, I was pretty harsh with my judgment about what I considered to be customization as opposed to configuration. Would building a workflow from scratch in a visual workflow editor be considered configuration, or customization? Aside from my belief that visual workflow editors generally provide limited utility, my position was that calling such an activity configuration was stretching the definition beyond what it is normally understood to mean.

My definition of customization is a change that must be performed outside the framework of the product. For example, if I wish to write a rule that reads from information in a table and I must add that table to the product’s database using DBA tools, that to me is customization. If the product provides a way to create ad hoc tables for use with rules (and auto-generates the UI for manipulating data in those tables), then the activity would be considered configuration.

Based on this definition, characterizing the workflow example as customization was not really a fair judgment. There were numerous situations that fell in between configuration and customization and it became clear that the vocabulary we used needed to expand to better characterize the activities that organizations can expect to perform when working with various products. We started to use the word “assembly” to characterize the activities that were more involved than configuration but fell within the framework of the product.

I still happen to think that IGA products require too much customization to perform common tasks. IGA products also require more assembly than seems reasonable to me. Many requirements seem quite common to me and they should be supported out-of-the-box by products without requiring assembly or customization. I expected more out-of-the-box support for scenarios we asked the vendors to address in our IGA Critical Capabilities research. I intend to address these issues as I discuss the state of IGA products’ support for capabilities over the course of the next month.

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Gartner, Inc