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Episode 46

transformed: Transforming Software Customizations

In this episode, Joe Moreau – recently retired Vice Chancellor of Technology for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District – describes the types and origins of software customization, the negative effects that they cause, and best practices for transforming them. 

Joe Gottlieb: (00:01)

Welcome to Transformed a Higher Digital podcast focused on the new why’s, the new what’s, and the new how’s in higher ed. In each episode, you will experience hosts and guests pulling for the resurgence of higher ed, while identifying and discussing the best practices needed to accomplish that resurgence. Culture, strategy, and tactics, planning and execution, people, process, and technology. It’s all on the menu because that’s what’s required to truly transform. Hello, welcome and thanks for joining us for another episode of Transformed. My name is Joe Gottlieb, President and CTO of Higher Digital, and today I am joined by Joe Moreau, who recently retired from his post as Vice Chancellor of Technology for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, which happens to be right here in my backyard in Silicon Valley. Joe, welcome to Transformed


Joe Moreau: (00:59)

Hey, Joe. Thanks and happy to be here. Um, what should we talk about today? 


Joe Gottlieb: (01:04)

Well, I’m glad you asked Joe. I want to get into this very topical area of best practices for transforming software customizations, which I know will be, uh, a rich and hardy discussion. But first, tell me about, about your personal journey and, and how it shaped your perspective and the passion for the work that you do in higher ed. 


Joe Moreau: (01:24)

Sure. It, it’s, it’s kind of a, uh, an unconventional path, but, uh, I think an important one, uh, at least it has been for me. So, as an undergrad, I studied art and I began my career as a lance videographer and producer, which was pretty cool. Uh, but as a freelancer, it wasn’t always compatible with starting a family. So quite by accident, I ended up taking a job at Pasadena City College as head of the media center. So this was a job where I could use all the media and technology skills that I had learned as an undergrad, um, and also get a regular paycheck to boot, which was, which was great for starting a family. And, and I really quite quickly discovered that higher ed was the place where I wanted to invest my career. 


Joe Gottlieb: (02:11)

I love it. It’s, uh, it is unconventional, but, uh, that’s part of what I love about you. Um, but so how did your, your experience as an art student translate to your work in it? 


Joe Moreau: (02:22)

Um, in, in some really important ways. And, uh, the study of art really taught me how to be a systems thinker. So as, as you as, as an art student, as you’re making art, as you’re evaluating art, um, it requires you to, to start by seeing the big picture, you know, the, the piece of art as a whole, as well as the individual components of that piece. So how do those components work together or not? Um, you know, do, are they copacetic or do they create tension? Uh, you know, the pieces of art themselves are, are a system, if you will. Hmm. And that’s exactly the same type of analysis, uh, that I did almost every day of my career in higher education as a technology leader. I had to really look at the organization, the enterprise, not just the IT enterprise, but the college or the district or the university as a whole, and, and understand how all these pieces come together in the service of students, faculty, and staff. 


Joe Moreau: (03:27)

Wow, that’s cool. The other thing that, uh, sorry. The other thing that, that art taught me was some really important translation and interpretation skills. So if you think about creating art, the artist is trying to craft a message of some sort of, of a message of thought or emotion into whatever their chosen medium of expression is. So it could be film, photography, sculpture, painting, music, it doesn’t really matter, but they’re, they’re, they’re converting that message from thought to expression through art. And sometimes viewers of art need assistance in interpreting and fully understanding that message. So you, you read a poem or you read a novel, or you view a painting or you see a movie, and some of the pieces of that message may come through loud and clear. Other pieces may really require some interpretation. And so what I spent a lot of time doing with my friends and colleagues in higher ed was helping them with that interpretation of complex information systems. 


Joe Moreau: (04:35)

So we have this big huge thing. We have an e r p, we have a, a messaging system, we have a security system. I mean, you name it, for, for the average higher ed colleague wrapping their head around, that may be difficult. So the job that I had to do, and, and I think was really helpful to my colleagues was to help them understand what this does, how it does it, what the dependencies and the, and, and the connections are, and why it was important to the success of the institution, and particularly to the success of students. And I think that really helped them understand how and why decisions around technology got made, whether they be budgetary decisions or integration decisions or training decisions or implementation decisions. It really helped them interpret something that was huge and, and otherwise difficult for them to wrap their head around. 


Joe Gottlieb: (05:35)

Fascinating stuff. I love it. I, I, in fact, I got a little bit of art background and in my past, my mother was an artist. My sister’s an artist. And, and, uh, I see what you’re saying. It’s, it’s really, it’s really an interesting sort of pattern recognition and system level, um, thinking skill like you’ve, like you’ve portrayed. Um, and so what, what would you say, I mean, not everyone has that background. What what advice would you give to folks without that background about how they might leverage it in their trajectories and their, their careers? Sure. 


Joe Moreau: (06:06)

Well, I, I think it, I think it fits in, uh, I mean, many, many institutions and corporations, uh, uh, organizations of all sorts have set themselves up with some important, critically important goals around diversity, equity, and inclusion in, uh, building their workforce or rebuilding their workforce, or evolving their workforce. And I think that one of the ways we can think about topics of, of d e I is around diversity of thought. So as we’re looking to, uh, bring new talent into the organization, whether it’s the IT department or the organization as a whole, this is an opportunity for us to look for folks who have an unconventional background, but bring a kind of thinking and a kind of decision making and a, and a kind of interpretation of the world that’s different from ours. You know, and, and I always, I’ve always told my teams, look, it’s not my job to be the smartest person in the room, but it is my job to make sure that really smart people are in the room. And, and I think one of the things that constitutes having really smart people in the room is having people who constitute a diversity of thought, who are not single-minded, who are not all it people, or not all administrative people, or are not all instructional people, but people of, of diverse backgrounds that can, that can make decisions stronger, better, uh, more resilient, more sustainable by, by having, uh, multiple perspectives on the topic. 


Joe Gottlieb: (07:44)

Yeah, I think that is definitely the, the, the high performance opportunity we’re reaching for, right? There’s a, there’s a potential in harnessing that diversity. I think many fall short or get concerned that they won’t know how to orchestrate, uh, outcomes with diversity of thinking. Whereas keeping it in the track of very similar minded thought is, is quote unquote easier for like, kind, right? Like, so if you’re in that track and everyone else in that track, you, you aren’t, you aren’t threatened by the diverse opinions, nor are you, uh, challenged by the need to synthesize a richer, you know, complexity across the diversity opinions. However, if you can accomplish that, great things can happen on so many levels. 


Joe Moreau: (08:40)

Well, and and I, I, I recall a cartoon that I’ve seen many times that, that, that has two, two circles. One says my comfort zone, and the other one says, where the magic happens, , and they’re not connected, you know, so, so to your point, exactly, we, for the magic to happen in our organization, we have to get out of our comfort zone, 


Joe Gottlieb: (09:04)

Right? Or, or maybe we have to extend our comfort zone a little bit so it’s more comfortable being uncomfortable, uh, if I’m allow, go that, that gray scale. All right, let’s dive into this, this rich topic of customization transformations, but it’s always useful to start with a definition. So what are CU software customizations anyway? What are we talking about here? 


Joe Moreau: (09:23)

Well, you know, software customizations have a, have a lot of, uh, origin stories, so to set, so to speak. So, uh, a customization in general is, it’s a modification to an information system of any sort. Uh, but, but most commonly, I think we spend a lot of time, particularly in higher ed talking about customizing our ERPs. And colleges and universities have been modifying information systems for decades. I mean, I, I was in higher ed for more than 30 years, and I can’t ever remember a time where we weren’t talking about customization. Uh, and, you know, they do it for a variety of reasons. Uh, you know, the, the software that we purchase may work one way, and the institution works it another way, wants it to work another way. Uh, and, and the only way to accomplish that is, is to customize, uh, the software. 


Joe Moreau: (10:14)

And, and those customizations take a, a variety of forms from very basic to very complex. So, so for example, um, a, a simple customization might be adding a table to the database to store data that’s unique to the institution. So it’s, it’s really easy for a developer or a database administrator to create a custom, uh, table and custom scripts to manipulate the database, uh, in the way that, uh, the, the system they’re using can’t do that. And that could make it easy to facilitate reporting or customize transactions, things of that sort, you know? So that’s a real, that’s a real basic way to do it. But, but, um, you know, colleges and universities have customized software in, in, in huge ways as well. And, and in the forms of things like Bolton programs that are, are entire new sets of functionality that are, are bolted on or connected to the baseline functionality to do something that they really need to have done, or that something they need to have done in a very specific way. 


Joe Moreau: (11:23)

So, um, so sometimes you find, find those happening. Uh, I think that happened a lot in the early years of commercial software. I mean, so we’re talking, you know, the eighties and the nineties, uh, because, you know, commercial products just weren’t that sophisticated at that point in time. But, you know, that was, that was 25, 30 years ago now. So, but even as, uh, commercial products have become quite a bit more sophisticated and adaptable to, excuse me, specific use cases, institutions are still modifying them rather than re-engineering their own business processes. And essentially, they’ve decided that the cost of making a modification and the difficulty, the cost and difficulty of transforming a business process is more extensive than modifying the software. So it’s, it’s kind of a cost benefit analysis there. And they’ve chosen, um, they’ve chosen to modify the software as opposed to modify their practice. 


Joe Moreau: (12:26)

Uh, that may be short-sighted , because the, because the long-term cost of the total cost of ownership of a customization is not always, uh, taken into consideration in that equation. Um, sometimes, uh, institutions customize software because a department or even a single individual is so resistant to change of any sort that they insist that the new thing worked exactly the way the old thing worked. And so, talk about not getting out of your comfort zone, , right? You know, this, this, uh, I’ve seen that done so many times in so many institutions and it satisfies the need of that one department or that one individual at the cost of the agility and the innovation of the enterprise as a whole, I think. 


Joe Gottlieb: (13:26)

Yeah, no, I, I, we’ve seen all those examples, and you’re quite right. I think one of the critical sort of pivot points in this logic is the fact that the, what you just said earlier about the cost of actually ultimately maintaining the customization relative to what you thought the cost to change the business process was, I think one tends to be underestimated and one tends to be overestimated or, or, and vice versa. Vice precisely. I think we and human nature, i, i e our tendency to be of, have an aversion for change, getting out of our comfort zone, it tips the scales in the predictable way, right? And that’s what’s led to more of this, you know, frankly, I, if you zoom out on, on the entire history of it for a moment, and we consider this as an evolutionary, you know, continuum. Um, look, I think customizations date, back to the earliest days on mainframes, when had to build our own thing atop a Sure. A computer system that was delivered to us, and it had a basic operating system, but we started writing code, you know, with practitioners that we could hire developers that we could hire directly in our companies over several decades and several iterations of the industry, we slowly gave up lower level pieces of functionality and stayed focused on higher level things. 


Joe Moreau: (14:55)

We did, 


Joe Gottlieb: (14:56)

We, you know, we, we, we ultimately gave up the database. That was tough, tough. That was a tough go. But we did, and, you know, databases became a utility layer Yep. Construct in the stack. Um, and now we’re really down to that last mile, whereas you point out, we’re now giving up the way the process works. Yeah. And I think what we’re finding more and more in the modern era is that single version software delivered in the cloud via, in a, in a SaaS, uh, software, the service format is the, is the place where the most innovation is happening, and the most correct, reliable, sustainable manageability of functionality is born and, and is and, and exists. And so it’s time for us to choose vendors that do that well in our vertical areas like higher ed 


Joe Moreau: (15:45)



Joe Gottlieb: (15:46)

And unlock that to be as a, uh, a capability source while we ride that horse that we choose, and we adapt our version of, you know, recruiting into institutions and our version of making financial aid flow magically and easily. Right. And our version of portal and communications and all that good stuff, right. At our institution without those customizations. 


Joe Moreau: (16:14)

And, and Joe, that’s a really important point. So for whether we realize it or not, that trajectory towards SaaS is, is the future for all of us. Um, you know, and, and you know, we, we have two choices. We can drive the change, or we can be driven by the change. There’s no third choice . So pick one of those, 


Joe Gottlieb: (16:34)

Right? So, okay, if that’s things are going, let’s then zoom in on the way, the way that customizations start to ma um, manifest badness drawbacks. Yes. Things that we’d rather avoid. What, what forms of those tank? 


Joe Moreau: (16:52)

Well, well, there, there are, there are a number of characteristics that, that make them bad strategies. I think. Uh, and so first of all, we, we’ve, we’ve talked about, we’ve talked a bit about cost. Uh, you know, there’s a cost to develop a customization, but probably more importantly, there’s a cost to maintain it. So anytime a system gets upgraded or patched or whatever the case may be, oftentimes those customizations need to be reworked to be compatible with whatever that patch or upgrade is. And that takes, that takes somebody or some team to do that work again and again, and again and again, because the, the solution provider’s not gonna do it for us. They just, they won’t, they can’t. Uh, so it, so it has that ongoing cost. And again, that may be a place where we’re underestimating what that ongoing cost really looks like. 


Joe Moreau: (17:45)

Uh, I think one of the things that we don’t talk enough about is can customizations create security risks? Um, we, we have developers at all of our institutions, at, at many organizations, enterprises that are really smart, really talented developers. They’re great at what they do, but, but probably they don’t have a level of expertise around security that is necessary to keep these systems, uh, from being vo becoming, becoming vulnerable, because we’ve, we’ve customized the baseline code. So that’s something we have to, we have to watch out for. Um, troubleshooting, uh, a problem can be really difficult. So, um, if we made a customization and we have a, a, a, a malfunction in the system in some way, and we call our solution provider and say, Hey, it’s not working, and they look at it and say, well, you customized X, Y, Z, we can’t really help you. And then we have to figure it out for ourself, it could take hours, days, weeks, even longer to recover from that problem. And that, uh, is also very costly from a productivity standpoint, because it may prevent people from doing what they need to do, but it’s time, somebody’s time that they’re not doing something else because they gotta fix this, uh, problem in the customization that they, they weren’t aware existed previously. 


Joe Gottlieb: (19:07)

And of course, has impacts on S l A. Right? The, the poor users of that system might be down or they might be inhibited in what they can do. 


Joe Moreau: (19:14)

Exactly. E Exactly. Um, I, I think the other thing we don’t spend enough, uh, time talking about is, uh, can customizations jeopardize our data integrity? So a lot of customizations that I’ve seen over the years interact directly at the database layer. And so you’re bypassing all the application logic, all the checks and balances of the application that teams and teams of people have built over years to maintain the integrity of the, uh, underlying data. And you’re jeopardizing that because the customization may not have taken into consideration all of the logic to protect the integrity of the data. Um, and the other thing, uh, I think, you know, really and truly, we are not very honest with ourselves about how really necessary customizations are. Um, if, if, you know, if we can set aside the emotion of customization in an organization and just really talk about the business case for customizing or not, I have generally found that it’s almost always easier, faster, and cheaper to re-engineer a business process that utilizes, um, baseline or, or, or off the shelf functionality than it is, uh, to customize that primary system in order to maintain, uh, an existing business process. 


Joe Moreau: (20:40)

So I, I, they’re really not as necessary as some people believe they are. 


Joe Gottlieb: (20:45)

Yeah. No, I think that’s a good rundown and list. There’s probably a, you know, others people might think of, but it, I think it’ll get people thinking about the gravity of this and, and the things to help characterize the negatives to motivate a different approach. So let’s, let’s talk some examples. Now. Let, why don’t you share, Joe, some examples from your background on, uh, customizations that you found yourself in the middle of. Sure, 


Joe Moreau: (21:09)

Sure. Well, you know, some of ’em are kind of innocuous, so, so we talked a little bit about doing something as simple as adding a table to a database. So at my previous institution, uh, where I retired from last year, you know, we, we would do that all the time at a, at a custom table because we’d be, uh, collecting, uh, uh, uh, new data from another system that we wanted to integrate with our E R P and be able to report off of that more quickly and easily. And, you know, those are easy to do. They’re not very costly. Um, you know, they, they solve a lot of problems quickly. You know, we’d do that all the time and then be able to run quick and dirty SQL scripts or, you know, customized little customized programs against those custom data elements to, to, to extract insight from the system, you know, worked pretty well, um, but not necessarily compatible with the future . 


Joe Moreau: (22:05)

Uh, we also did some things. We, we created a few, for example, one of the things we did at Foothill DeAnza was we created a faculty leave reporting application. So our e r p at the time that we implemented it like 14 years ago, did not really have the capacity for tracking faculty leave reporting and substitute pay and things of that sort. Uh, and, and there were no third party apps that did that very well, so we needed to have this. So we created a bolt on, and it worked really well, and people were really happy with it. But again, it was costly to maintain through patches and upgrades and particularly, uh, became problematic as we began to move to the cloud, and as we considered the move from just from hosted system to a SaaS system. So rethinking that was going to be a lot of work, but, you know, we kind of kicked the can down the road a bit because what we created was pretty good. 


Joe Moreau: (23:06)

Um, at previous institutions, we did some crazy things. And this is kind of a, uh, kind of a, going back to how one person can kind of hold the institution hostage for a customization. Uh, we had a registrar’s office, uh, another institution many years ago who, who had been, who had for many years in our legacy system, provided students who registered in person with an enrollment receipt, if you will, that say, you, you signed up for these classes and you paid these fees, and here you go. You could take that piece of paper with you. Well, the new system that we implemented didn’t have such a capability, and we spent enormous amounts of time at the assis insistence of one department that we developed, uh, a receipt protocol, a receipt application that looked just like the old one. And it took enormous amounts of time. 


Joe Moreau: (24:04)

It, nor is it cost to sustain it. And the thing that was really funny was, at the same time, we were also deploying web-based registration. So almost no students came and registered in person ever . So, so the, so, so the number of students, we actually gave this little receipt out to, which they probably mostly threw away after they walked out the door. You know, we spent all this money for no real benefit to students. And that kind of gets back to the, was it really even necessary to do that? So, uh, you know, and, and everything in between, as, as, uh, you and I have both probably seen examples of 


Joe Gottlieb: (24:42)

Yeah. Well, good examples. And I think that helps really, um, uh, ground this discussion in, in some realities that we can touch and, and feel. So what then is the best way to, to deal with customizations when either refreshing or replacing the system where they reside? Let’s, let’s start to get into some best practices. 


Joe Moreau: (25:02)

Sure. Well, I think first and foremost, you know, one of the things we say in higher ed all the time is words matter, you know, and I think one of the things that we have to get, get good at as it leaders and as other institutional leaders, is using terminology that’s less threatening to the status quo or to the comfort zone, or to whatever the case may be. So for example, when we say, well, we have to de customize that, or we have to deify that, the message that that instantly sends to somebody is, you’re taking something away from me, something that I depend on, something that I’m used to, something that I’m comfortable with, something that’s integral to my business process or my business function, you’re taking it away. So I think if we begin to use terms like customization, transformation, what that, what that, the message that that sends first and foremost to people is to say, whatever it is that I have is still gonna exist in some form or another, but it may be different from what I have today, but nobody’s taking something away from me. They’re just helping me evolve. And I think that allows the emotion to kind of settle down a little bit before the hardcore conversations about how do we do this begin? But if, if you start with people just kind of putting their blinders on and saying, I don’t want to hear this, la la la la, la, you know, because we’ve used a a term that makes them feel that they’re being depleted by this process, then we’ve started on the wrong foot. 


Joe Gottlieb: (26:39)

I like that. I think it’s good framing. I think the one thing that we’ll wanna, um, in our experience using the word transformation can sometimes be, uh, you know, a little bit challenging in that people feel it’s a little hyped. So I think supplying then, okay, it’s a, it’s a generally positive thing. Here’s what that involves. And if we can, so let’s now link that to some specifics. Let’s talk about actual hardcore best practices for transforming customizations. I think that falls in suit here. 


Joe Moreau: (27:09)

Yeah, so, so I think there’s a, there’s, there’s five or six steps I think in, in the kind of transformation process, particularly around customizations that I think are, are gonna be useful for people to kind of figure out and adapt to their own process, products, environment, colleagues, et cetera. So first and foremost, um, transforming customizations is often like, as they say, eating an elephant. You know, where do you start? So, you know, you’ve gotta start out with a, a strategy and an approach and a realistic timeline to say, okay, how are we gonna deal with this? And really also understand that probably what it’s gonna require is running some things in parallel. We’re gonna have to continue to maintain the old thing, well as we transform it into the new thing, you know, to make sure that everybody’s trained and comfortable and it’s working properly and, and it meets all the requirements, uh, that we need to meet. 


Joe Moreau: (28:04)

So that’s, so having that strategy, I think is important. I, I think the other thing that institutions or organizations need to do is really characterize their customizations. So there are a lot, as we’ve talked about this afternoon, there are a lot of different kinds of customizations. Big, small, complex, easy, et cetera, et cetera. So what do those look like? How, how do we characterize them and who do they impact? Do they impact students, faculty, staff, everybody, lots of people, a couple people, you know, all of those characteristics are important to being able to prioritize how to attack those. We also need to look at what other kinds of system dependencies or integrations are connected to those customizations. So is it isolated to a single platform or system, or does it touch multiple platforms or system, or is it something that kind of ties all those things together? 


Joe Moreau: (28:56)

Those could be really a real bear to try to transform. And then I think we need to look at alternatives for transformation. And because it’s not always just, well write it in a new language , or develop it on a new platform. It may be, well, we gotta do business process re-engineering, or the product that we have has become so sophisticated over time that there’s, there’s off the shelf functionality that we could use to replace the thing that we originally customize, and that would be great. Or is there a new third party app that’s easily integrated with our system that could replace, um, the customization that we’ve created that would be more secure, probably more cost effective, better supported, all of those kinds of things. Um, and I think once we’ve kind of characterized the customizations really to focus on which ones have the most impact, which are the ones that are gonna provide the greatest value to the institution, with all of that data around customizations, how do we then prioritize them in a, in conjunction with our stakeholders? 


Joe Moreau: (30:06)

Because it’s not just an IT function, it’s a business function as much as anything. I mean, we’ve done customizations to meet business needs more often than not. So doing that in conjunction with stakeholders is important. And, you know, there’s also opportunities to time the transformation of customizations in a really logical way. So should we connect it to a refresher replacement of a system, an upgrade of a system, a move of a system from, uh, cloud, from on-prem to cloud or cloud to SaaS or on-prem to SaaS? Is there a natural threshold that we should set ourselves, set our sites on to say, this is gonna be our transformation goal for customizations? And then I think we have to get really good at repeating that cycle over and over and over again, and having that become part of the fabric of how we operate these large scale information systems. Because it’s not just gonna be over once , you know, it it, because we’re always uncovering things like, oh yeah, I forgot we customized that. We, I guess we gotta deal with that too. So it’s, it’s a, it’s a muscle that we need to flex, uh, in our, in our organization, both, both in IT as well as the organization more broadly. 


Joe Gottlieb: (31:23)

So I love this recipe. I like the way it starts high level, it gets, sets context. Um, it thinks about dependencies and timing and, and the way the whole university or institution might, might grapple with it. I love the agile nature where you’re, you’re prioritizing things and you’re moving forward, but then you’re, you’re revisiting and always sort of, you’re iterating through this portfolio of customizations in priority order, which makes a lot of sense. So given this recipe though, what, what are some implications, uh, that it might have on an organization adopting it? 


Joe Moreau: (31:58)

Well, you know, I think, admittedly this is still an emerging strategy. I think you know this, you know, we, we have so many organizations that are in the process of moving from legacy on-prem systems to hosted or SaaS systems that, you know, we’re, we, this is not scientific at this point. So, uh, but I think there are strong indicators, uh, that, uh, these are practices that, uh, will produce, uh, wh when they’re systematically observed and, and re and repeated, uh, and practiced that they will produce a result that is, uh, that has good, uh, return on investment and lowers the total cost of ownership. But I think, uh, the other thing, uh, that we really need to do is bring together those communities of practitioners to help this mature, because we’ll all learn something every time we do it. And being able to share that learning with each other, uh, like we’re doing this afternoon, is, I think an important part of, of, of the evolution of the strategy. 


Joe Moreau: (33:07)

Um, I think, uh, what we also have to be aware of is that there may be potential, uh, for longer mu but more valuable periods of parallel system operation. There’s a cost to that run always. It costs more to run two things, to do one thing, two systems to do one thing. Um, but, uh, being able to reassure all of our stakeholders that we’re moving in the right direction and that is producing the results that we want, I think is, is worth that investment. Um, and we might find that our friends and colleagues in the solution provider world are, are gonna be a little bit more flexible in terms of offering us licensing and support terms that would support those kind of longer parallel processes because it’s in their best interest as well, because they all want us to move in that direction because they can be more innovative and support us more effectively. Uh, if we’re all in a, in, in this following this trajectory towards SaaS, 


Joe Gottlieb: (34:09)

I think there is a win-win lying somewhere in there. And I, I think we can speak to some of our, uh, some of the vendors we tend to work with the most on that front. Um, alright, so let’s bring this to a close in summary, what three takeaways we offer our listeners on this, this great topic of customization transformation. 


Joe Moreau: (34:27)

Well, we’ve, we’ve covered a lot today, but I, I think the three big things that I hope people would take away from this is, is that customizations are expensive both to maintain, well to create, maintain and secure. Um, and on top of that, modern information systems may no longer even allow for customization in the way that we’ve customized them before. So the proposition of customizing a system is only getting more expensive. Uh, so we have to be careful of that. Uh, as we just talked about a few minutes ago, developing an agile approach around transformation, following a priority order based on stakeholder input, while also keeping dependencies in mind, I think is again, a muscle that we have to exercise for ourselves, uh, that will serve us well even beyond talking about customizations. And I think one of the things that we need to be doing both as, as IT leaders and as business leaders, is always be hunting for that off those off-the-shelf system features that really can meet a business need and more than likely replace a problematic customization. We’ve paid a lot of money for these systems. We really owe it to our institutions to get greater return on investment for the, for those dollars. 


Joe Gottlieb: (35:52)

That’s a great summary and I, I would encourage any of our listeners that are wrestling with this problem to reach out to us. We are literally right now helping customers through this, with this recipe, utilizing our, our change management as a service offering al as well as our prioritization workflow platform to allow organizations to prioritize, uh, those customizations that they want to transform in the context of other obligations and, uh, priorities that they have. Joe, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for joining me today. 


Joe Moreau: (36:23)

This was awesome and I look forward to talking more about this with anybody who’s interested in helping evolve the practice. 


Joe Gottlieb: (36:29)

And thanks to our guests for joining us as well. Have a great day and we’ll look forward to hosting you again on the next episode of Transformed 


Joe Moreau: (36:41)

Right on the mark.

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About The Host


As president of Higher Digital, Joe supports customers with strategy development, change management, and strategic operations. He is energized by the complex challenges and profound opportunities facing higher education and is motivated to have and share discussions around these topics.

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