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What happens when the SaaS application is upgraded and you have customizations?

This question was asked by an attendee at a recent Proformative Cloud Computing and SaaS event: What happens when the SaaS application is upgraded and you have customizations? Do customization need to be upgraded every time the SaaS application is upgraded?


Rob Israch
Title: Director Demand Generation
Company: NetSuite
(Director Demand Generation, NetSuite) |

The more advanced SaaS applications will maintain your customizations through system upgrades so that they do not break in the upgrade process. In fact, this is one of the key benefits of SaaS versus on-premise systems and is one of the main distinctions between a true SaaS system and a hosted application. As you evaluate SaaS applications, you should definitely probe in to this area to ensure the vendor's SaaS applications allow for customizations to travel along with product upgrades.


Topic Expert
Bob Scarborough
Title: CEO
Company: Tensoft, Inc.
(CEO, Tensoft, Inc.) |

The answer is one of those times when ‘it depends’ applies. It depends on the SaaS application as well as the nature of the customization.

ERP customization can occur in multiple ways: (a) data drive – or end user configurable by data entered into configuration screens; (b) report or analytic customization – modifying existing ERP reports or analytics based upon your specific needs; (c) modified user interface customizations – often through use of an ERP provided tool that lets you change field names and data entry order; (d) embedded scripting customization – or customizations where you add code logic to screens or processes; or (e) product extension or integration customizations – integrating data from multiple SaaS providers or building custom modules that extend the application.

Customizations can add significant value to your company – and need to given the additional expense (internal or external) required to build them. ERP applications that have tools to customize built into their administration or setup capabilities (options a-d above) design their applications so that the customizations remain through upgrades. However, most people find it useful to review their customizations at time (especially b-d) to make sure they still operate as expected post upgrade. Solid IT practices include UAT (user acceptance testing) as a standard part of an upgrade – Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) requires it.

Customizations that relate to product extensions or extended integrations are worth additional comment. There are two ways SaaS companies support this. One option is an application integration platform – or a place for you to build your own applications that integrate with their stack. The second option is to use commercially available integration tools (Pervasive, Boome, Cast Iron, etc) that have pre-built connectors to multiple ERP application options. These connectors may go through the SaaS application platform to integrate – but have the advantage of SaaS provider independence and pre-configured integrations. These types of customizations can be very powerful – letting you customize and manage your integrated systems independent of the individual SaaS providers.

So … it depends. It depends on the nature of the customization and the capability of the SaaS provider. Whether you need to review the customizations depends on the requirements for good IT compliance practice in your organization.

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