Industry Insights

Best of Breed or a Suite Solution?

Written by Alan-Pelz Sharpe

No discussion on CX (Customer Experience) product selection is complete before the topic of "suites" versus "best of breed" comes up. Almost everyone wants to know which route they should take. Unfortunately, it is seldom as simple as choosing one route over the other. It's one of those questions that unfortunately requires the far less satisfying response: "It depends ..."
For example, no one company (no matter how big or good the company is) can ever really hope to be the best (despite what Gartner, Inc. might have you believe) in every aspect of CX, etc. It can be "good" at some things, and may even be "exceptional" in a couple of areas, but that is the logical limit.
Then again, not every buyer requires exceptional product sets and tools. Within reason, tools and products that are functional, affordable, and fit for the purpose will often do the job just fine. That, in essence, is what a "suite" offering is...a collection of functions, within a single product purchase, that does a reasonably good job. And this is the appeal of a suite, one vendor, one product, one installation, one throat to strangle, yet a multitude of functionality to use. The alternative is a range of outstanding best-of-breed products, coming from multiple suppliers, running multiple installations, and, in theory at least, adding a great deal of complexity to the equation.

Suite Solution

It is a good idea to try to define what a suite is, exactly: Is it really a single homogenous product organically developed over the years? It seldom is, in fact, most suites are the result of multiple product acquisitions. Far from being homogenous in nature, the only thing holding them together is a shared brand. OK, that's a little harsh. Vendors do work hard to integrate elements into a single product stack, but even so most suites are the result of multiple product acquisitions. These are products developed in different environments, using different techniques by different people.
resized-Capture-from-the-new-episode-DEC.pngBut just to be clear, I am not saying that CX suites are a bad idea. Rather, I am saying that you need to invest in suites with your eyes open to the product's heritage. Frankly, taking the alternative approach and buying a huge collection of best-of-breed vendors in one organization often doesn't make economic or technical sense anymore. (Hence the rush to consolidation via suites.) However, there are limits to this consolidation that need to be recognized. For example, some particular business needs may have critical and difficult-to-cope-with needs that are best-suited to a best-of-breed vendor with the underlying knowledge that "most" things can be managed and consolidated within a suite, with attendant cost savings and efficiency gains.

Hybrid Approach

In fact, a hybrid approach to the problem may work best for most organizations. A hybrid approach will state that, for 70%-80% of your needs, you should go to a single vendor. Buy suite functionality that is pre-integrated and relatively simple to maintain and operate. Yet at the same time recognize particular critical needs within your organization (such as heavy-duty email Marketing or Social Media Management) and buy best of breed accordingly to meet those areas' highly specific needs.
Again to be clear, I believe in the 80% rule: I think it makes sense in today's technology market to tie your ship to one of the leading platforms and for your remaining 20% buy best of breed. In doing so, you lower your integration costs considerably, reduce the number of skill sets you need to support, lessen your concern for future incompatibility due to upgrades, and enhance your ability to outsource tasks and processes. Just be sure to do your homework first and figure out what you are really buying when you purchase a CX suite.
For more information check out our December Show: Is the Suite Approach to CMS Dying?
On December 23rd our hosts Butch Stearns and Scott Liewehr discussed whether products should be moving towards a Best of Breed approach, and whether the industry is even ready. 
  • Should Enterprise CMS Vendors be taking a Suite approach or should they be looking at connecting into existing products? 
  • Where does Governance fit in to these two approaches?  
  • And more on how to adopt the appropriate business support systems (BSS) software strategy.
In the vendor spotlight segment, Amy Martyn from Falcon-Software, reviewed an all-in-one CMS, E-commerce, and Online Marketing platform Kentico & their new release - Kentico 9. 

Written by Alan-Pelz Sharpe
As VP & MD of VOCalis at Digital Clarity Group, Alan has extensive experience working with senior executives around the world in business and IT. He has managed international teams of consultants and analysts focused on a wide range of business application software projects. His work encompasses channel and partner management, project and change management, digital transformation and content management.Alan has given keynotes, speeches and runs workshops around the globe. 
Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.

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