Salesforce Customization vs. Configuration: What’s the Difference?

By Alena Kuptsova

Salesforce is a versatile enterprise CRM platform that helps companies streamline sales and marketing operations, efficiently manage customer relationships, and improve customer service procedures.

One of the platform’s strengths is its flexibility, meaning an organization can configure and customize its Salesforce solution to align with its unique needs. However, decision-makers should clearly understand the difference between Salesforce configuration and customization to choose the most suitable modification method, get the most out of the platform’s capabilities, and maximize the ROI.

The Difference Between Customization and Configuration

Both configuration and customization deal with adapting Salesforce to specific business requirements, but they differ in whether the changes are made within or on top of the existing Salesforce solution.

Salesforce Customization

Customization means changing out-of-the-box Salesforce components or adding newly developed pieces to adapt the CRM system precisely to a company’s demands. This method requires code-level modifications to alter the default Salesforce environment, typically performed by developers with expertise in Salesforce development languages and tools. 

Salesforce customization involves three groups of components.

  1. User interface. By customizing the Salesforce UI, it’s possible to alter the system’s look to match a company’s corporate visual style or change data presentation and navigation elements to suit the unique way users work.
  2. Functionality. Companies with complex multistep procedures like damage reimbursement approval or marketing content review can extend default Salesforce features, modules, and apps or create their own Salesforce-compatible custom solutions to support these operations. 
  3. Integrations. Although the AppExchange store offers a variety of ready-made APIs and connectors for Salesforce, some Salesforce customers can opt for custom development of plugins, middleware, or connectors to facilitate data exchange with third-party solutions, such as ERPs, eCommerce platforms, accounting software, or IT service management.

Popular Salesforce customization examples include:

  • Creating custom objects, triggers, classes, and other components with Apex
  • Setting up custom code-based automation workflows 
  • Enabling batch operations to process large amounts of data
  • Creating trigger-based automation processes
  • Designing unique Visualforce user interfaces and pages for tailored user experience
  • Developing low-code applications
  • Sending report data to other applications inside or outside Salesforce using Reports and Dashboards REST API

Salesforce Configuration

Сonfiguration refers to adjusting Salesforce’s settings, features, and workflows using the platform’s built-in tools and interfaces so that the system better suits the needs of your business. Unlike customization, this process usually doesn’t require coding or programming and can be performed by Salesforce administrators.

Here are examples of the most common Salesforce configurations.

  • Page layouts. Configuration allows organizations to determine what users can see and edit in a record by adding or removing user interface elements like fields, buttons, related lists, or quick actions.
  • Processes and workflows. Salesforce provides powerful native tools for setting up workflows for a simple, standard procedure and automating business processes. For example, you can configure a record-triggered flow for sending an email notification as soon as a new lead is allocated to a sales rep.
  • User permissions. You can create new users, define what objects and data they can access, and modify what they can do within the CRM.
  • Reports and dashboards. Salesforce offers robust reporting tools to help users better understand their data. You can set up out-of-the-box reports and dashboards to match them to your needs by enabling or disabling various features in the Salesforce interface like floating report headers to let users see the names of the column headings while scrolling down the report.
  • Email templates. To give a unique touch to communication with leads and contacts, organizations can tweak email templates in line with their brand and messaging.
  • Security settings. You can control the access to various parts of a Salesforce solution and ensure better data protection. The security configurations include assigning user roles, creating sharing rules, and enabling data, file, and attachment encryption.

Choosing Customization or Configuration

When companies realize their Salesforce solution fails to deliver optimal value or support their long-term business objectives, they should consider reconfiguring or customizing the system. The choice between both options depends on the organization’s needs, budget, and timeframe.

When opting for customization:

  1. Salesforce customization can be an optimal choice when standard configuration options can’t fully accommodate the unique workflows of a business or provide the necessary level of automation.
  2. You need specific features like interactive reports and dashboards that can’t be achieved through configuration.
  3. You seek to improve the platform’s usability and user adoption by cutting out redundant steps from processes and simplifying the user interface.
  4. You can’t integrate your existing business applications using the pre-built integration tools.
  5. You have sufficient time, resources, and access to a dedicated team of Salesforce developers who can write custom code and perform its ongoing maintenance and updates.

When opting for configuration:

  1. You can go for Salesforce configuration when the platform’s out-of-the-box features, to a large extent, meet your requirements and require minor adjustments through the Setup tab to adapt the solution to your processes.
  2. Startups that are just establishing their procedures and seeking fast progress can also benefit from quick Salesforce configuration.
  3. If your current technical talent, financial, and time resources are limited for custom development, then Salesforce configuration is the best option.
  4. You prefer to follow Salesforce’s best practices and try first all configuration possibilities to tailor your solution.

Things to Keep in Mind About Salesforce Customization

Although Salesforce is a highly flexible and customizable platform, you can’t introduce endless changes beyond the definite number. For example, Salesforce Essentials Edition limits the maximum number of custom profiles to two, and regardless of the Salesforce edition, an organization can’t have more than 3,000 custom objects and 900 custom fields per object.

Companies should also be aware of the problems excessive customization can bring:

  • It can make it challenging to support, upgrade, and enhance your Salesforce solution down the line.
  • Implementing as many features as possible will likely result in a poorly managed system with useless components and low adoption.
  • Over-customization can lead to mounting development and maintenance costs, slower operations, and impaired staff productivity.


Salesforce customization and configuration are effective methods for aligning the platform to your specific needs and increasing its value for your business. However, each technique is appropriate in certain situations and requires proficiency in the Salesforce software and tech stack.

To stay on the safe side with your Salesforce enhancement, you can consult a Salesforce expert who can help you choose between customization, configuration or a combination of both, recommend the most cost-effective way to approach the changes and guide you through the process.

The Author

Alena Kuptsova

Alena Kuptsova is a Technology Research Analyst at Itransition, a software development company based in Denver, CO.

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