Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Best of Breed Vs Suites

No discussion on 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 - but it is seldom as simple as one route or the other.

I do wonder if in the world of business applications and information systems whether it is almost a redundant question these days?

If we go back just 5 years ago then it was valid in that many vendors (Siebel, Documentum, Oracle etc) all were offering ever more broad solution offerings. Of course they still are, but there comes a natural breakpoint whereby this is no longer a sensible route to follow.

For example, Documentum (no matter how good they are) can never hope to be the leaders in Record Management, Digital Asset Management, Imagaing, Workflow, Web Content Management, Collaboration etc etc. They can be 'good' at all these things, and they can be 'exceptional' in a couple of areas - but that is the limit.

The same goes for larger vendors such as IBM, Oracle & SAP - you just can't excel at everything. However, one does not always require exceptional product sets and tools. Within reason tools and products that are functional, affordable and fit for purpose will do just fine.

So for many major enterprises at present the current market suggests a hybrid approach and will do for some time to come. The hybrid approach will state that for 70-80% of your needs go to a single vendor. Buy suite functionality that is pre-integrated and relatively simple to maintain and operate. But recognise particular critical needs within your organization (such as heavy duty web content management or salesforce management) and buy best of breed accordingly to meet those areas highly specific needs.

A huge collection of best of breed vendors in one enterprise simply doesn't make economic or technical sense anymore - hence the rush to consolidation. But there are limits to consolidation that need to be recognised. For example some legacy systems should be left well alone, 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.

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