• With best-of-suite vendors offering adequate capabilities for the average collaboration and communications user, a best-of-breed strategy may be superfluous.
• Modern software suites still offer organizations the capability to choose best-of-breed components if the suite does not fit the specific needs of the business.
A favored and common IT strategy has been adopting a “best-of-breed” approach; in other words, purchasing and integrating several products from multiple vendors to achieve the ideal architecture. However, with the likes of Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365, and other cloud vendors offering software bundles with mature, compelling product features from top to bottom, a “best-of-suite” approach is becoming an attractive substitute. The software industry has witnessed such shifts before. WordPerfect, widely loved and adopted as a standard word-processing application in the 1980s, lost out to the aggressive bundling of Microsoft Office in the 1990s. As good and comprehensive as WordPerfect was, its interoperability with other software products was limited; companies couldn’t make it work with the other products they needed. Could history repeat itself with today’s collaboration and communications solutions? Fortunately, few vendors offer all-encompassing, yet proprietary and closed suites today. Software suites now offer numerous advantages for IT departments, such as per-month, per-user pricing; vastly reduced management, administrative and security overhead; plus the foundation for future development of new capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI)-powered features.
More specifically, interoperability through simple APIs means that developers can create customized solutions and access corporate data, allaying fears of being constrained by or dependent upon large, lengthy and expensive systems integration projects. Indeed, modern software suites offer organizations the capability to choose best-of-breed components if their chosen suite lacks features or has mediocre functionality that does not fit the specific needs of the business. However, with best-of-suite vendors offering adequate capabilities for the average collaboration and communications user, a best-of-breed strategy now seems much harder to defend to CIOs who are always looking for ways to optimize IT spending.
Consequently, organizations should take the time to audit their constituents to ascertain what features and functionality they require. Oftentimes assumptions are made by IT organizations that do not reflect their users’ everyday needs. Not only can this lead to frustration and consternation for employees, it can also mean that collaboration and communication solutions fail to achieve the desired return on investment. Other business considerations include:
• Can IT provide ongoing support for best-of-breed solutions or will the organization need to be supported by a systems integration partner?
• A best-of-breed approach means that the organization must look to factor in downtime for systems upgrades and maintenance, whereas in cloud-based best-of-suite solutions, this is typically handled automatically by the software vendor. Can IT factor in downtime for upgrades without affecting the business?
• Disparate vendors may have different security models. Can IT be sure that security, privacy, and compliance is maintained across the solution?
Perhaps businesses should not be asking, “Should we adopt a best-of-breed or best-of-suite strategy?” The more pertinent question is, “Are we choosing software that is open, interoperable and easy to use?”