As you shop around for abstract management software for your organization’s conference, you’re quite likely to hear two similar words: “configurable” and “customizable.” You might hear these two words in answer to your question, “Can your software do _______ ?” The software you select for your conference will be suited to your organization’s particular needs if it is both configurable and customizable. It’s important to understand the difference between these terms.
Configurable means the software can “out of the box” do what you’re asking it to do, with a few simple keystrokes. The software is designed to be easily modified by the user. For example, if participants in your conference are called “submitters,” and the default name the software gives them is “authors,” the software is configurable if you can change the word from “author” to “submitter” without any programming involved. Often, software will feature Configuration Options where you simply input all such terms and titles, from a series of drop-down menus. In other words, features of the software are configurable if, says Richard Stimac, Mira’s Director of Business Development, “It’s part of the off-the-shelf product.”
Customization is a more sophisticated feature. Unlike configurability, customization requires additional software programming, typically performed by the software company’s technical experts. Customizing software often incurs additional expense to the client. Stimac describes customization in the following example: Many conferences require participants to complete a detailed, multiple-step disclosure. A simple disclosure form is insufficient because different organizations require different levels of disclosure. Customizable software could provide the appropriate disclosures specifically designed for the conference. The software company would gather the information from the conference client about its unique disclosure needs; programmers would assess the work involved and inform the client of any associated costs.
“We have done many disclosure steps for other clients,” Stimac says, so to create one for another client “would be easy, but it would also require the I.T. department to create a detailed cost sheet.”
Understanding the difference between configurability and customization also brings awareness of the total cost of your conference software package. Configurability is rolled into the software, and has no additional fees. Customization requires bespoke programming, usually for an additional charge. Stimac always tells clients up front which features are configurable and which are customizable. It’s just one way Mira maintains openness and transparency in their relationships.
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