Best of Breed vs. Integrated Systems

You have probably had to make this decision several times in your professional and personal lives…for example a vacation plan where you have to decide if you want to create your own itinerary and define the trails that would provide you with maximum comfort or adventure (whatever floats your boat) or be part of an overall tour targeted at a group of people who have varied interests…
The decision needs to be based on what each package offers you, cost benefit, return on investment, future value/costs etc.
For most of the processes used within the enterprise, a number of software solutions exist. If you are in the market for a software solution to address current problems / revamp existing application framework or implement a solution based on future requirements you will have to make this decision!
Integrated systems provide multiple applications with a common architecture and consistent user interface so that all modules/functionality have a familiar look and feel. The downside is that some applications may not have the maturity or capability to address all functional areas, causing users in these areas to become disgruntled or slow down adoption.
Best of breed systems, designed specifically to address processes and common problems in certain functional areas, generally provide the maximum functionality to a set of business process. They pose challenges, such as increased training and support, complex integrations with other systems, possible duplicate data entry / redundant data.
There a number of factors to be considered if you want to thoroughly assess the differences between “best of breed” and integrated systems. These factors are
(1) Implementation Cost
a. Software cost / licenses
b. Integration
c. Customization
d. Hardware
e. Resources
f. Consulting
(2) Implementation timeline
(3) Value to business
(4) Return on investment and Payback period
(5) Fit / Adaptability to company specific business processes
(6) Quality
(7) Maturity
(8) Vendor capability and lifecycle
(9) User
(10) Future Support costs
a. Need for additional hardware
b. Software maintenance fees
c. Need for additional headcount
“Best of breed” applications typically have a shorter implementation cycle with an accelerated payback period. I have seen numbers like 6-12 month implementation time as opposed to 18-24 month for integrated systems…12 month payback for best of breed as opposed to 2-4 years for integrated systems.
In summary, the decision needs to be based on business needs and constraints placed by budget and resource availability. Be mindful that each system has its own benefits and shortcomings and plan accordingly.

"Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions - expressed or implied - of my employer (present and past) "
"Please post your comments - Swati Ranganathan"


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