In the selection of a range of Business Applications, one of the decision points that organisations are faced with is related to the selection of an “integrated suite” or “best of breed” solution.
Integrated Suite Solutions
An “integrated suite” of applications is delivered by a single technology provider that supports all of the primary functions in one integrated system. Proponents of the “integrated-suite” approach to technology applications have a powerful argument to advocate for this strategy: With one system managing all the processes, users have a single design and overall workflow to learn; data move naturally throughout all of the applications; and the organization has only one vendor relationship to manage going forward. 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-suite solution may be adequate for many scenarios.
Integration across modules is easy and is based on the vendor’s set-up workflow, with a common user-interface that is easy to navigate and manage.
Reduced risk to the business since we deal with only 1 vendor – the larger vendor of the core system.
Typically less licensing costs, volume purchasing may bring in price discounts.
Best Of Breed
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 ERP solutions. The best of breed ERP implemented vendors are committed to just one main process area and are focused on creating solutions that offer the best features and design. It will typically perform a specialized function 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. In other areas like small organizations, they have yet to find a reason to standardize on one platform; individual leaders have more influence and authority over the solution decisions. In such cases, the “tech” arguments for the integrated suite are sidelined, and the functional and capability arguments for best of breed ERP implementation are favored.
Once you adopt a best of breed solution, then the niche area is selected. Related training, testing are some of the relevant elements that need to be managed.
The system’s function is geared to one purpose, and so is easier to update, enabling you to respond quickly.
In the best of breed ERP implementation approach, the organization and its users often get new, innovative, and modern solutions for their specific operating areas. However, it is good to have a solution for each functional area separately rather than have a centralized system, as it might come with more tradeoffs and decreased capability. The top best of breed ERP solution probably provides a better user experience than what an integrated ERP solution offers.
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 conduct consolidated reporting.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
• In an integrated ERP system, all data resides on a single platform, so it becomes easy to generate consolidated reports which are more straightforward.
• As its a single suit platform, user experience, training, and overall maintenance are generally better and simpler.
• 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 the “vendor lock-in.”
• Innovations in products and features are typically slower and may not be as fast as what is required.
• It is more vulnerable to a secrity breach – existing flaws will impact across the entire suite.
• Consolidated reporting that touches multiple functional areas is simpler, as all the data reside in a single platform. And finally, user experience, training and overall maintenance are generally better and simpler in a single-suite environment.
• This system helps in updating security patches without affecting other systems and different release cycles.
• Implementing this system takes a shorter time, and this will provide better and faster results for your business.
• The IT department or the architect of your company will find it easier to align with your business strategy as this system is smaller and more flexible in managing system updates.
• 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.