Best-of-Breed vs Single Suite: Sorting Myths from Reality
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“No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” so the saying goes, meaning it’s generally safer to go with a household name when you’re in the market for new technology.
But does that still hold true? Given the speed of technological development, does buying a procurement suite represent the ‘safe’ option today?
Nic Walden, a Senior Advisor in The Hackett Group’s procurement advisory program, says that while a single suite may offer more across the board, “if you need to be the best in supply chain risk management then a best-of-breed solution in that area might actually be better for you.”
While there are arguments for and against both options, there are also many misconceptions that are misleading or unhelpful when trying to make a decision. In this article, we dispel some of the most common myths about both single-vendor suites and best-of-breed software solutions.
Three myths/questions about single-vendor suites
Myth #1: Are single-vendor suites big and bloated?
In fact they are modular. A specific implementation may have become large and unwieldy over time, which fuels this basic perception, but it is unfair.
As Drew Hofler, Vice President of Portfolio Marketing at SAP Ariba, points out, there is a view that single suites are a big, bloated package that you have to implement (and pay for) all at once – even though your employees might only need some of the features it offers.
“You don’t have to buy it all at once; you can just buy the tool you need at that moment,” he explains.
Myth #2: Are single-vendor suites difficult to implement?
This depends on how and what they are being implemented for. An off-the-shelf implementation is no more or less difficult than any other solution.
Therefore, for mid-market organizations with lower maturity Procurement functions or in businesses with less complex initial requirements, a single-vendor suite can work well for those looking to gain initial control and fulfil their use cases, such as core purchasing functions.
In fact, in this scenario, adopting a suite will allow the organization to build out their best practice processes.
Myth #3: Do single-vendor suites provide a poor user experience?
As Mr. Hofler says, the idea that a single suite will only ever provide a monolithic, homogenized, lowest common denominator user experience is wrong.
Again, the ease-of-use of a specific solution is dependent on the use case for which it is being deployed. A user interface that an accountant finds intuitive may seem impossible or unusable to another user. This can lead to misinformed judgements about what constitutes ‘good’ from a user experience perspective.
The key takeaway is that each solution can only address the specific use cases that they have been optimized for. The advice is to choose the solution most suited to the user and that use case, at any given time.
As Costas Xyloyiannis, CEO of HICX, explains, “There is a place for the suite. That’s why they’re there. Suites themselves are ‘best-of-breed’ in their specific fields.”
Three myths/questions about best-of-breed software solutions
Myth #1: Are best-of-breed solutions riskier than a single-vendor suite?
Many Procurement and IT professionals believe having a single vendor solution is the straightforward and reliable choice, but single suites are actually harder to remove once they’ve been put in place. The sunk costs and extensive resource requirements for a complete replacement often leads to organizations being locked into a single-vendor solution.
It’s also riskier to invest significant time and resources into implementing a single suite, which might not turn out to be an effective solution for the specific needs of an organization.
Additionally, any issue with a single suite typically has an impact on various other business processes. By comparison, best-of-breed software solutions are more compartmentalized, and as such can be removed or adapted with comparatively little fuss or expense. Although it might not be as easy as downloading a new app on a phone, it is always going to be easier than the company-wide change that comes with a single-vendor solution.
Myth #2: Do single-vendor suites offer the same functionality as best-of-breed software solutions?
Best-of-breed software solutions often retain an edge over single suites in a particular category for which they were built. Best-of-breed providers tend to build their entire business on delivering excellence on a specific part or section of a procurement lifecycle, which drives constant innovation.
“One of the myths that has been pushed by some of the single suite providers is that they can do everything,” says Iain Kirwan, a Director in Deloitte’s UK Supply Chain Consulting Practice. “And I think that we’re now seeing that actually there may be gaps that need to be addressed within a single suite solution.”
Myth #3: Is Best-of-breed software hard to integrate with other solutions?
Vivek Bharti, General Manager of Product Management at Icertis, a specialist provider of contract management systems, claims procurement professionals tend to believe that single suites integrate various elements of the procurement process more efficiently than best-of-breed solutions.
“They think it’s going to be like it was ten years ago, when you had two different systems that could never talk to each other,” he explains.
However, best-of-breed software, by necessity, has always had to integrate with other software tools and they are built specifically with that consideration in mind.
The availability of APIs further dispels the myth that best-of-breed solutions are a source of major integration headaches. Assuming that the underlying data is accurate, piping data around various pieces of software is no longer a challenge. If that is not the case, no type of software solution can deliver desired results.
How Best-of-Breed enables the strategic transformation of procurement
In this session, Pierre Laprée of Per Angusta and Costas Xyloyiannis of HICX, come together to face the most frequently asked questions fielded by Procurement practitioners on how to unlock the full potential of Best-Of-Breed technologies as part of a hybrid technology environment.
The best of all worlds, best of breed & best of suite
With these myths debunked, many organizations are embarking on a strategy that focuses on taking a business use case approach and selecting the best solution for each case. This is leading to the rejection of a 100% suite strategy, as shown in a recent quick poll conducted by HICX, in which only 9% of organizations say that they wish to stick to a single suite only architecture.
By embracing best-of-breed software and integrating it with single-vendor suites, in other words by adopting a hybrid approach, organizations can have the best of all worlds. However, for the most successful outcomes, it needs to be planned for – and that’s the key advice to remember!
Article updated May 2022