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All-in-One vs Best-in-Breed: Which is Right for Your Business?

Best-in-suite, or best-in-breed? That is the question. The best-in-breed strategy surpassed the best-in-suite solution in the late 1990s, then the internet bubble burst, and single-vendor suites prevailed. Fast forward to today. Businesses have completely altered the way they manage their IT requirements and products, while services have undergone substantial innovation and expansion. Previously, we covered the endless debate of best-in-suite vs best-in-breed, and today, we reignite this debate. So, which is your philosophy?

When businesses start down a path of selection for a new solution—either for themselves or a customer—and need to decide between a best-in-breed or best-in-suite, architecture principles should be the cornerstone of the decision.

On a side note, many companies tend to go out and buy a new solution based on a selected approach rather than looking at what they have as existing, and how they can better leverage their current system. This approach would not only help businesses realize a better value with the significant amount of money and time spent to date, but would also help be more efficient in sustaining the system.

It’s a true challenge for any business in this digital age to choose the right solution(s) for different organizational needs. Just like everything in life, there are pros and cons to each approach, and what is ultimately best for you and your business.

The Best-in-Breed Approach

Best-in-breed is the strategy of selecting the best product that will meet all of your business requirements. With this approach, your business will select the best system—typically in its referenced niche or category—and it will perform a specialized function better than an integrated system.

It is a very simple concept. However, this approach assumes that your business—or IT team—is proficient at integrating third-party products, is willing to incur costs associated with training or upgrades to ensure the products work together, and there are no options for integrated sets of tools on the market that meet your needs.

There are pros to the Best-in-Breed approach:

  • You will meet all of your defined requirements, and then some. Typically, you will discover more capabilities than what you were originally looking for, and/or had defined. These will tend to be the differentiators between products, and that will guide you to other products.

  • The function of the system is geared to one specific purpose, and therefore, is much easier to update. This enables businesses to quickly respond to changes in the market.

  • Any system updates, such as security, patches, upgrades, and additional building blocks can be rolled out without affecting other systems, as well as systems on different release cycles.

  • These systems are typically smaller, consequently, the implementation time is shorter. A shorter implementation time will help reduce project risks, and the ready solution will provide value to the business more swiftly.

  • As these systems are smaller, your business IT department or architect can more closely align the solutions as outlined in your business architect strategy and/or vision.

With that said, this approach also has its cons:

  • This solution will typically not integrate and work well with other products in its environment, or the integration with other systems will be an overly complex process.

  • The ability to share data across different systems can prove difficult.

  • A system with multiple solutions will more than likely require the management of multiple licensing agreements, which can eat into resources, including financial, human, and time.

  • The vendors of these products are often small organizations, and not necessarily viable for a long time, or they may not fully understand the requirements of medium, large, or enterprise organizations.

  • Often, users are looking for a common look and feel, but that is one requirement that can't be met with a best-in-breed approach.

The Best-in-Suite Approach

Best-in-suite is the strategy of selecting and using as many products you require, all from the same vendor—essentially an assortment of several purchased solutions that are different, technologically-wise. This approach is common among enterprise resourse planning (ERP) systems, and uses the same vendor that integrates easily across larger enterprise businesses.

There are pros to the best-in-suite approach:

  • The overall integration of the system will be easier because the solutions are from the same vendor, and based on the vendor's set-up workflow, it should integrate with ease.

  • There is a common user-interface that flows throughout the suite of products which makes it straightforward to navigate and administer. 

  • A more consistent architecture approach, which is easier on a business's IT department to leverage the current system.

  • An overall reduced risk to the business when working with one specific vendor. Larger vendors with larger product suites will be available for the long term, and your business will have a reduced risk of having to replace your system multiple times.

  • Best-in-suite approaches come with lower, or less multiple licensing costs based on the vendor's ability to provide volume purchasing.

With that said, this approach also has its cons:

  • The limitations of the suite to meet all your businesses solutions and requirements are increased. Businesses should expect there will be features missing, and you will need to adapt your processes, or live with these features not being available.

  • With volume purchasing for this approach, or what is more commonly known as enterprise licensing, your business will have access to products that it will likely never use or take advantage of.

  • Overall, this approach is much more complex, including the use, adoption, learning, and implementation of the solution.

  • When choosing one vendor, businesses may experience the “vendor lock-in" feeling.

  • Innovations in products and features are at the pace of the vendor selected, and may take time to catch up with the needs of your business.

  • An all-in-one suite may make itself more vulnerable to a security breach, as any existing flaws or issues are often common across the entire suite.

Ending Notes

In today's market, businesses are offered endless amounts of solutions for all of their needs. Still, the real question is how do you find the best suited solution and approach for your business? Do you choose the all-in-one business suite, a.k.a. best-in-suite? Or, do you choose the one with multiple vendors, a.k.a best-in-breed? Whichever option you decide upon, ensure you select the one that will meet your unique requirements, and is sustainable from a person-power, capital, and time resource perspective.

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer

Lynette Sawyer is a Web Project Manager for Falcon-Software, a digital web agency founded in 1994. For the last 13-years Lynette has been in various digital capacities and her expertise goes beyond Project Management. Lynette brings experience and knowledge in graphic design, marketing communications, project management, product management and engagement.