Have you heard the expression "the jack of all trades, master of none"? It refers to people who have a variety of skills, but don't excel at any of them. It's no secret that the greatest professionals focus on one thing at a time.
As it turns out, bots and humans are not so different in this respect. Software that specializes in a particular niche often performs better than all-round software that has many functions and solves many problems at the same time.
This leads us to the "best-of-breed vs best-of-suite" dilemma regarding the future of automation. In this article, we'll look at the difference between the two and what role automation plays in deciding the winner. Read on if you want to learn more.
Explanations: Best-of-Breed vs Best-of-Suite
To understand the difference between best-of-breed and best-of-suite related to the future of automation, it's best to start with a real-world example:
Many companies need to perform marketing, analytics, and a number of other operations to attract new customers and keep old ones happy, right? That's why they use Salesforce, the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) tool on the market.
In the early 2000s, Salesforce didn't have as many features as it does today. Instead, additional features were added over time as the company grew stronger, making it an all-in-one CRM software.
Therefore, Salesforce is a great example of best-of-suite software. In other words, the one-stop store covers everything a company needs to manage its customer relationships.
But here the question arises: is this the best way? If a single service covers everything you need, why would you buy solutions that only focus on some of your operations, usually just one?
Many companies prefer the best-of-breed approach, i.e., combining several different tools that are used separately to cover the entire spectrum of their company's IT infrastructure. In other words, companies choose one solution for analytics, one for marketing, one for commerce, and so on.
Best-of-breed solutions often go one step further than the service that is part of the best-of-suite software. They often offer more options focused on their focus niche than all-in-one solutions.
For example, software that focuses only on email marketing, like MailChimp, offers more options for this niche. The overall user experience is much more comfortable than Salesforce Pardot (Salesforce's email marketing app).
Does that mean you should always prefer MailChimp over Pardot? Of course not - in this case, you need to weigh which solution fits your business better. For example, if you have a small B2C company, MailChimp may be more suitable than for a medium or large B2B company, for which Pardot is more useful.
A brief history of Best-of-Suite solutions
As one of the most popular best-of-suite solutions, SAP is a great example of how this type of software works.
SAP was founded in 1972 when a group of five software engineers were laid off from IBM. They decided to create SAP System Analysis and Program Development, and the first customer was the Imperial Chemical Industries branch in Germany.
SAP engineers first developed programs for payroll and made a breakthrough with real-time operation, as opposed to the punch cards used previously. These were stand-alone programs, but SAP members realized there was room to offer other services and programs to support businesses.
Just one year after SAP acquired its first customer, the company launched its first financial accounting system called RF, the first example of a unified system that included multiple modules - an early version of best-of-suite software. It formed the cornerstone for future development, which eventually resulted in SAP R/1.
In the following years, SAP improved its system by introducing SAP R/2, which included tools for production planning, materials management and more.
However, the IT industry in the 1970s was not as developed as it is today, and the number of IT employees was significantly lower. In the last 20 years, many new companies emerged that offered individual solutions that were more or less related to SAP's product range.
The problem was that these small companies and startups couldn't compete financially with SAP. So instead of developing new capabilities, companies like SAP and Salesforce simply started acquiring these small companies and adding their services to their all-in-one suite. Many of these acquisitions were also established companies that focused on a single niche. For example, SAP acquired some great brands, including Ariba, Callidus Software, Coresystems, Datahug, Dieldglass, Gigya and others.
Even though many solutions are being adopted by best-of-suite giants, there are still plenty of best-of-breed options. The reason the entire IT landscape hasn't shifted toward best-of-suite is that many enterprises prefer the best-of-breed approach. In fact, it looks like best-of-breed is here to stay, thanks to automation. We'll get to that in a moment.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Before we explain how automation affects the best-of-breed vs best-of-suite problem, let's give a brief overview of the two types of solutions and highlight their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Best-of-Breed Advantages and Disadvantages
- Greater flexibility in the IT landscape - You can quickly change best-of-breed software if you don't like it, and even implement it one at a time, as opposed to best-of-suite, where you have to implement the entire system and use a fixed set of tools.
- Vendor lock-in is rare - Best-of-suite vendors often apply customer lock-in, which means that switching to different software is technically difficult and involves significant costs. With the best-of-breed approach, this is not as common. You can easily swap out any application without any consequences.
- More opportunities to negotiate a better price - Large best-of-suite systems often offer packages for their services, making it difficult to negotiate the price. On the other hand, best-of-breed apps offer more opportunities to negotiate your starting price. In addition, best-of-suite solutions often offer a range of fees and commissions that you may not see right away.
- Regular updates and improvements - Because they focus on only one niche and not the entire system, best-of-breed apps often tend to keep their service up to date. Best-of-suite software vendors often fail to constantly update all of their services.
- You need to constantly look for new vendors - After you find single best-of-breed apps that meet the needs of your IT infrastructure, you need to constantly look for other possible options and replace the apps when you find a better deal (or app).
- You need to build an integration landscape and make sure the individual tools work together - Sometimes the apps just don't work together. It will be difficult to import and export data between them. Simply put, the level of complexity of your app landscape will vary. However, there is a solution to this, which we will discuss below.
Advantages and disadvantages of Best-of-Suite
- Easy integration - Instead of finding a separate app for each aspect of your business and integrating each of them, best-of-suite software typically offers a very simple integration that installs all the necessary components in just a few steps.
- Get help from a dedicated professional - Large best-of-suite companies often have sales consultants who take care of each buyer. So if you're unsure which package is best for you or how to integrate the solution into your business, get help from an experienced person.
- You are dependent on the vendor's feature roadmap - If you need a solution for a particular part of your business, but your all-in-one vendor doesn't have it, you'll have to wait until that solution is developed and released as part of the vendor's system.
- It's unlikely that you'll get top quality for all features - Even though the best providers try to keep the quality of all their products and services as good as possible, they will still neglect some of them and prefer others.
- They're more likely to be unnecessarily rigid and inflexible - best-of-suite solutions don't always adapt easily to your business model and IT infrastructure, especially as they rapidly change and evolve. You'll find that the cost and time required to change even the smallest things is quite high compared to best-of-breed applications.
- Potential complexity and functional overload - Sometimes you don't even need all the features offered by best-of-suite solutions, meaning some features might just add complexity and confuse you without contributing to your business in any way.
- The implementation process is often slow and costly - Implementing a best-of-suite solution can sometimes take several years to meet all functional standards. This is a risky and expensive undertaking.
- It only makes sense if it's a functional fit - If you choose a best-of-suite solution, it should be able to meet all of your business and industry needs. If you need to add more programs to support your business, it's probably not a good solution.
How does automation fit into the picture?
The main reason many companies opted for best-of-suite rather than best-of-breed solutions was the lack of adequate communication between programs.
For example, using one app for email marketing and another for an online store on your website could be quite a challenge if they are set up differently. If they're not part of the same system, how can you tell the email marketing software to automatically add a new customer to the newsletter? How can you make the software communicate with your online store?
As it turns out, automating such processes is possible. Before the age of automation, putting together apps for different manufacturers was quite a challenge. Today, automation solutions like Integromat make it easy and convenient to automate the operation of thousands of individual apps and integrate them seamlessly into your workflow. It's important that different apps work together to maximize the outcome of your business goals.
Integromat is an IPaaS solution, which stands for Integration Platform as a Service. Simply put, it communicates with thousands of individual applications and helps users integrate and automate collaboration between them. Today, any company that chooses a best-of-breed approach can use solutions like Integromat to automate workflows, even though each application is standalone. We've already covered IPaaS in detail in our blog post.
Platforms like Integromat don't rely on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to let apps communicate with each other. They connect the tools directly through their backend. Traditional RPA uses a user interface for automation and mimics a human's keystrokes and mouse movements. Therefore, RPA is a very flexible but not very stable method of automating processes. It is only used when two applications do not have APIs (or are poorly developed). Even if two applications have APIs, sometimes they cannot work together, which is another case where RPA could help.
Best-of-Breed vs Best-of-Suite: What to choose?
Before the age of Hyperautomation, best-of-suite solutions were useful. However, platforms like Integromat have clearly paved the way for the best-of-breed approach, meaning you can now automate separate applications to work together and help you achieve your goals.
So as long as you set up a good automation strategy, you should be able to take advantage of best-of-breed software. If you're interested in how automation works and how you can use it in your business (but also in your everyday life), feel free to check out our Automation Academy.