What’s been a back and forth argument in boardrooms across the world, the suite vs. best-in-class debate has been around since the 1970s, when the technology made suites a viable choice for organizations—bringing together applications into one single, centralized entity. Since then, each side has seen its peaks and declines, with a great deal of change coming during the past decade.
A Battle Raging Since the 1970s
In the 70s, the idea was revolutionary: Bring as many applications as possible into one management source.
The battle raged on through the years, trending toward best-of-breed in the 90s and back to suites in the early-mid 2000s.
While there have been many reasons, defined by Garner Analyst Jim Shepherd as “some mysterious combination of the economy, management philosophy, technology trends and vendor marketing campaigns,” all of the prior shifts to suites had one missing factor that exists today: Cloud Computing, namely its readiness for organizations of increasing sizes.
Why Suites Once Were Sweet—And How the Enterprise-Ready Cloud Changed That
The rise of suites in the 70s and 2000s came in a time where the cloud was either a pipedream, or in its infancy, yet to be trusted in the enterprise.
Today, the state of the cloud is much more stable, secure, and sophisticated, with the 2016 Verizon Enterprise Cloud Report finding that 84% of respondents increased use of cloud applications in 2015, and half of all enterprises reporting that by 2018, the cloud will be used for 75% or more of company workloads.
Suites had their day. The process integration—a huge selling point for suites—required certain departments to “compromise,” more aptly defined as “we’re doing this and you’re on board,” highlighted in a 2013 Wall Street Journal Article:
“It wasn’t long ago when IT departments were stuck with the reality of implementing modules from one vendor that worked together pretty well, yet didn’t satisfy the needs of every department. Choosing an ERP system with strong financials meant the likelihood of weakness in other areas such as HR and CRM. Manufacturing companies often choose SAP, yet their finance department probably pined for Oracle.”
For enterprises, this means multiple years of painstaking implementation, training, and risk; for smaller companies, this is more of a multi-month hassle that no matter the size or industry, results in one thing: A feeling of comfort at the cost of the satisfaction among people who actually use it.
No One’s Been Fired for Buying X… But How Many People Are Happy with It?
Think of the phrase, “No one’s ever been fired for buying IBM,” and simply replace it with whichever suite you’re considering.
No one will be fired per se for choosing a suite (even a cloud suite) such as NetSuite, Acumatica, Sage ERP, SAP, or any of the wide variety of capable but rigid platforms available to organizations of all sizes—but not everyone will be happy.
- Accounts Payable would be better suited using Concur Invoice to automate their reception, payment, and accounting for invoices—saving up to 70% in operational costs by reducing workload, paper costs, and labor costs.
- Marketing and Sales might be better suited using Salesforce CRM, SugarCRM, or Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
- Human Resources, as well as the benefits department, is concerned about your organization’s ACA readiness, and might be better suited with the improved hours tracking and payroll management provided by strictly focused Payroll/HR platform EmployeeMax paired with an hours tracking and reporting platform like Integrity Data.
- Even the CFO, among the key decision makers in the original discussion of the suite, wants better budgeting and forecasting visibility, and would be better suited with an intuitive platform like Host Analytics.
Meeting Departmental Needs and Management Cost Concerns
Every single department wants (and deserves) a commitment that management is doing what’s best for them. Management wants lower costs, better visibility into these costs, and more control over these costs.
Neither of these are easy when you use a suite.
The end users, those most often affected by the shortcomings of a suite, would either be pushed into using an option that isn’t best for them and in turn the organization as a whole, or would need to convince decision-makers that the organization as a whole would be better off with software [x] for the department.
But even in the case of the latter, in which department-focused software is installed, the idea of process integration (Remember, the main selling point of a suite) is compromised.
Can you develop (or more likely hire someone to develop) something that can connect ‘vital application A’ to your suite? The answer is ‘technically’.
The Costs of Suite Connection
Of course, you can find someone to customize software to work with your suite. At a cost.
But what happens when that suite upgrades, providing more functionality to its modules? Likely, the answer is that the customization to connect the data is compromised, meaning you have to pay that consultant to rewrite the script in order to maintain functionality.
“After implementing NetSuite, we quickly learned that it was poorly suited to our project-based environment. In addition to the annual subscription fees for NetSuite, we ended up having to spend an additional 6 figures on a customization package with the company’s own consulting group – and it still didn’t solve all our problems. We had no predictability into our costs and feared that what amounted to a 30% hidden tax for customization would only grow over time,” said Tiffany Detinne, controller at the California Institute of Behavioral Health Solutions.
Maybe you’re not a project-based nonprofit. Maybe you’re larger than CIBHS, maybe smaller. Whether for-profit, nonprofit, or not-for profit, public or private company, the idea of getting the functionality end users need with the cost effectiveness and transparency needed by an organization is a necessity.
This is where best of breed applications have found their way back to the winning side of the battle. Cloud computing has made it financially and operationally viable for a company to pick the world’s best application for every need, every user, and every business case. Companies no longer have to sacrifice functionality for the sake of integration. You can have your cake and eat it too.
The entire premise (and promise) of using a best of breed application is that said application is meant to ‘play well with others’. Implementation is accomplished more easily, you generally receive more frequent, customer-focused, and robust functionality upgrades, and in the process of those upgrades, the integrity of the connection between applications remains.
This is all part of what Byron Deeter, Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, calls the API Economy, in which SaaS vendors can now extend their application’s usefulness through releasing APIs to developers, who in turn then offer rich, complementary functionality back to joint customers.
The “Suite” You Want at the Costs You Need
Call it a build-your-own-suite, call it an ecosystem of complementary applications best suited to the needs of end users throughout your organization, call it the best part of the API Economy, but one thing remains certain, the biggest winner in the renewed push to best of breed is the organization who can take advantage of the opportunities available to it.
No matter the applications each department wants—CRM, Payroll, HR, Tax Management, Budgeting, Forecasting, Travel and Expense, Accounts Payable, and much more—each department can get the best at a more transparent, predictable, and often lower cost.
Brittenford Systems, a proud value-added reseller of best of breed applications highly regarded for functionality and integration, can help you to get the best of the best, implementing and training your organization to best use the software. Learn more about the products we offer: Intacct, Host Analytics, Concur, and more, and for more information, check out the resources below:
- A Business Case for Scalable Financial Management that “Plays Well with Others”
- A Brief Overview of Cloud Financial Management Software
- Four Benefits of the Cloud
- 6 Things to Consider before Making the Move to Cloud Accounting
- A Business Case for Successful Multivendor Technology Investment
- Four Features of a Modern Accounting Software
- Modern Accounting: How Companies Took Advantage of the 4 Key Features
- Intacct vs. NetSuite: New Facts and Focus
Be sure to contact Brittenford at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a product expert so you can start building your own ecosystem of cloud-ready apps best suited for your business. Learn