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How Kuali uses Configuration to Boost Flexibility

November 26, 2019

Higher education isn’t just unique as an industry. It’s unique from institution to institution. While often the mission is similar—teaching, learning, researching—the processes and structure at each institution and campus can be very different.

Because of these unique differences, it can be difficult to find vendors that understand the nuances of each institution.

But Kuali was built on the idea of creating software designed just for higher ed, in a manner that allows each institution to configure it to fit their unique needs.

So what does configuration mean, anyway?

Configuration versus Customization

Configurable software means that the vendor has built-in options for the customer to utilize. Whichever configurations the end-user implements, the vendor can continue to offer support because the software is still functioning as it was designed. The code didn’t change and help from the vendor isn’t at risk to change either.

“Different institutions will have different ideas in how they want to use the software because it’s very configurable,” said Jen Flach, product manager of Kuali Compliance.

Customization, however, means a modification to the software’s code, for use by only that customer, which changes the way the software is intended to function. When the vendor, or the customer, changes the code, problems can arise. Oftentimes vendors aren’t able to support customized code because it can become so different than the original code. (If you have one customer with custom code, no problem. But imagine having 50.) Then, due to those customizations, the customer can’t smoothly receive new updates, bug fixes, etc.

When is configuration utilized?

With Kuali, configuration is part of our implementation process.

You don’t have to experience a disruptive “‘big bang’ and have everything implemented at once,” said Flach. “Depending upon your school’s needs and processes you can implement one module first and implement the others later. It really provides for a lot of flexibility.”

Forms, workflows, and users can be set up to mirror processes and structures already in place at an individual institution. Kuali can be configured to work for you, without disrupting everything you’re already doing. And if something needs to change, you’re not locked into anything. Kuali can change with you.

Kuali’s configurability allows customers to decide how they want to use the products, and the Kuali Community allows our customers to collaborate with each other, share ideas and processes, and find new ways of managing and improving.

With configured software, not custom code, Kuali is always able to provide support and upgrades moving forward, with continuous delivery through the cloud.

Because Kuali is configurable, new features aren’t a requirement. Most features can be left inactive if an institution chooses to do so. While we believe they are valuable, each campus has its own set of challenges and focus, and a particular feature may not fit into their current scenario.

“We don’t say, ‘OK now there’s this new feature and you have to pay us for that new feature,’ said Terry Durkin, Kuali’s Director of Customer Success Engineering. And in that same vein, Kuali doesn’t believe in waiting for annual or even semi-annual upgrades. We are constantly working to improve and add value to our products, and ultimately to our customers. And once a feature is ready for release, we release it.

“Our modularity allows us to move quickly and to implement quickly and allows us to continue to add value to our customers,” said Durkin.

Configuration, not customization, allows Kuali to continue to support and update, and provides institutions the flexibility to mold Kuali software solutions to fit perfectly in their environment.

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