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June 4, 2018updated 05 Jun 2018 12:06pm

Enterprise IT software: are we witnessing the death of best of breed?

By GlobalData Technology

For larger companies with legacy infrastructure, a best of breed approach (the integration of several products from multiple vendors), has been favoured as a common IT strategy. However, we are now witnessing a radical change in IT philosophy.

With the likes of Google G Suite, Microsoft Office 365 and other cloud vendors offering excellent applications, storage and familiar user interfaces, a best of suite approach is becoming an attractive alternative.

Not long ago, the conventional wisdom was that best of suite vendors provided basic capabilities, but if an organisation wanted specialised functionality and features, it had to integrate various market-leading applications through systems integrators that created custom code to tie together software into one bespoke solution.

However, suites now offer numerous advantages for IT departments such as per month, per user pricing; vastly reduced management, administrative and security overheads; plus, the foundation for future developments in new capabilities such as artificial intelligence (AI) powered features.

Best of breed vs best of suite

Thankfully, few vendors offer all-encompassing, yet proprietary and closed suites today. Interoperability through simple application programming interfaces, or APIs, means that developers can quickly create customised solutions and access corporate data, allaying fears of being constrained or dependent on large, lengthy and expensive systems integration projects.

Indeed, software suites still offer businesses the ability to choose best-of-breed components for specific IT infrastructure if the suite lacks feature sets or has mediocre functionality that is not fit for purpose.

However, with best of suite vendors offering “good enough” capabilities for many in areas such as content creation (spreadsheets, word processing, and presentation software), email, file storage, and modern collaboration tools, a best of breed strategy can be hard to defend.

Determining what enterprise IT software is right for your business

Organisations should look to audit their users to determine what features and functionality they need to be productive. For some, it may be software that they can use remotely; in the home or while travelling, for example.

Many users would want to see software supported on alternate devices such as tablets and smartphones.

Indeed, without understanding the needs of the business, IT departments face the problem of failing to achieve a return on their software investment if a lack of user adoption prevents the return from being truly realised.

Key enterprise software considerations

Other business considerations include:

  • Can the IT department provide ongoing support for best of breed solutions or will the organisation need to be supported by an external systems integration partner?
  • A best-of-breed approach means that the organisation must look to factor in downtime for systems upgrades and maintenance, whereas in cloud-based best-of-suite solutions, this is typically handled automatically by the software vendor. Can IT factor in significant downtime for upgrades without it affecting the business?
  • Disparate vendors generally have different security models – can IT be sure that security, privacy and compliance are maintained across the solution?

Perhaps businesses should no longer be asking, “Should we adopt a best of breed or best of suite strategy?” The more pertinent question is “Are we choosing software that is open, interoperable and easy-to-use?”