Which is better – Best of Breed or Integrated Suite of Applications ?

In selecting a range of Business Applications, one of the decision points that organizations face is often related to choosing “Best of breed” software modules from different vendors or an Integrated Suite of solutions from a single vendor.

Integrated Suite

An “integrated suite” of applications is delivered by a single technology provider that supports all the primary functions in one integrated system. Proponents of this approach & technology applications have a powerful argument to advocate for this strategy: with a centralized system that handles all operations, users have a single design for learning the workflow. Here data move naturally through all the applications. Using this system, the organization has only one vendor relationship to manage while going forward in their business. This approach is common among ERP systems.

In any specific solution, an average user uses only a certain percentage of its functionality. Hence an integrated solution may be adequate for many scenarios.

In this approach, integration across modules is easy and is based on the vendor’s set-up workflow, with a familiar user-interface, easy to navigate and manage. In a way, there may be reduced risk to the business if you deal with only one vendor – the larger vendor of the core system. This system will lead to less licensing costs and you may obtain price discounts due to volume purchasing.

What Are The Advantages Of An Integrated Suite Solutions:

  • All data resides on a single platform – so it becomes easy to generate consolidated reports which are more straightforward.
  • As it is a single suite platform, user experience, training, and overall maintenance are generally better and simpler.

What Are The Disadvantages Of An Integrated Suite Solution:

  • There may be features missing – you will need to adapt your process and live with the reduced feature set or figure out workarounds.
  • When dealing with only one vendor, you may experience “vendor lock-in.”
  • Innovations in products and features are typically slower and may not be as fast as what is required.

Best Of Breed Solution

This approach to building a platform or ecosystem of technology applications advises selecting the “best” or most capable individual applications for specific functions or process areas (like HRMS, CRM, WMS, etc.) and using it in the best way when compared to integrated suite of solutions. The best of breed vendors are committed to just one main process area and are focused on creating solutions that offer the best features and design in that area. It will typically perform a specialized function much better than an integrated ERP solution.

When IT or CIO of an organization wields the decision-making authority over enterprise-technology purchases, integrated-suite approaches may be more likely preferred, as CIOs often like to go for a standard solution and platform. Smaller organizations, which have grown over a period of time ends up with niche applications in many areas – they have to find a reason to standardize on one platform. Where individual divisional leaders have more influence and authority, best of breed solutions may prevail. In such cases, the “tech” arguments for the integrated suite are sidelined, and the functional and capability arguments for best of breed solutions are favored.

Each solution’s function is geared to one purpose, and so is easier to update, enabling you to respond quickly.

In the best of breed approach, the organization and its users often get new, innovative, and modern solutions for their specific operating areas. In a single suite system, there may be more tradeoffs and decreased capability.

Of course, this approach comes with its tradeoffs—chief among them, the challenge of effectively integrating a set of disparate systems to process business transactions and provide consolidated reporting.

What Are The Advantages Of Best Of Breed Approach:

  • You may upgrade / update patches, etc without affecting other solutions / modules
  • Implementing this system provides the best features in the individual areas and faster results for your business.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Best Of Breed Approach:

  • Integration issues and overly complex process
  • Multiple licensing agreements and costs; support contracts with numerous vendors – eats into resources including financial, human, and time.
  • The vendors of niche solutions are often small organizations and may not sustain for long or may not fully understand the requirements of medium, large, and enterprise organizations.

Conclusion Of Integrated Suite Solutions Vs Best Of Breed

Whichever option you decide upon, ensure you select based on your unique requirements and is sustainable for your business.