Configuration Instead of Customizing

Eric von Tschammer has played a central role in the development and design of FNT’s products for more than 20 years – first as a product manager and product owner, and today as a requirements engineer. Among other things, he is currently focusing on the configurability of FNT Command. This makes him the ideal person to learn more about this topic. 

Branimir Madzarevic, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of FNT, announced configurability as a strategic development area in a recent blog. You can read the interview here.

Eric, can you explain why customization of software is such an important topic? 

Companies want to use software products that are tailored as much as possible to their business processes and use cases. One way to achieve this is to have software developed that is designed to meet their specific needs. This can either be complete software, parts of software, or individual functions of standard software. These are all degrees of customization and involve custom coding, which requires specialized resources. It is therefore more efficient, faster, and significantly less expensive to use a customizable standard solution. This approach is configuration.  

Eric von Tschammer

What exactly does configuration mean? 

Ideally, a software provider is continually developing its software’s basic functionalities. These updates are general improvements that are made in the source code and are therefore available to all customers in the form of new releases. In this scenario companies don’t need to make their own adaptations to the software. This is important because older versions of the software can be easily updated when new versions are made available. 

If, however, customizations have been made to the software via programming, they will be lost when the organization upgrades to the new release. The only way to retain those customizations is to program them – again. This means significant time and resources must be spent – again.  

If the software has been adapted via configuration, on the other hand, previous configurations can simply be carried over to the new release. That’s why configuration is the preferred method of adapting software. Configurable software makes native tools available in the system for making user-specific adaptions. These adaptions can be done entirely by the customer without any programming knowledge and without touching the source code. 

General function configuration in FNT Command 13.4.0 

It sounds like this is also an important point for FNT’s partners…. 

Absolutely! Our partners serve many different customers, each with individual requirements for the software products. With a highly configurable software solution, partners can easily adapt the software so that it is tailored to the exact needs of each group of users. 

Is configurability a new development for FNT? 

No, we recognized very early that the ability to adapt the software is indispensable and have made that an option for our customers. The Entity Manager in FNT Command allows extensive individualization. With this tool, customers can extend and change the data model at the object level purely by configuration. These configurations are then made visible in the GUI, automatically propagate through to the API and can be used immediately by interfaces or import functions. The fully configurable approach to role and rights management in FNT Command also reinforces this approach. The control of accesses and views down to each individual element of the infrastructure – whether IT asset or configuration item – can thus be carried out flexibly. 

Another example that comes to mind in this context is the adjustable output language capability of FNT Command. 

That is correct. In addition to language selection, FNT Command also offers the option of configuring checks during input, changing date and print formats, and adjusting searches and search results. The display mode of the entire application can be changed for each user.  

But of course, there are many other functions where configurability would be useful. We recognize this and are therefore placing a stronger focus on this important topic. 

Visual configuration option in Command 13.4.0 

That sounds exciting! What can customers expect in the future in terms of the configurability of the FNT Command Platform? 

Our goal is to make all products more configurable so our customers and partners can use them the in the best way for their specific needs. 

We are starting with a focus on templates in the FNT Command environment – working closely with the FNT Usergroup. These templates and their creation will be made dynamic so that customer-specific programmed adjustments will no longer be necessary. This involves, for example, configuring the display of attributes of an entity on the data template, the dependencies between individual attributes and how attributes are displayed in the template. That is, the general layout of a data template and with which information it is displayed.  

That certainly has a positive impact on the usability of FNT Command, doesn’t it? 

That’s right. We use it to direct the users’ attention to the essentials. The motto is “focus the view”. The goal is a tidy, clearly structured, visually easy-to-grasp display of information on objects in FNT Command.  

What other optimizations for configurability are on your agenda? 

We plan to look at the configuration options for navigation trees, search restrictions and result lists, the importability of configurations into other FNT Command instances, and a nomenclature generator that can be used to define and configure individual nomenclature rules. 

Thanks for all the insights into the configurability of FNT Command, Eric.