Unsure which software approach is best for your business?
You have two options — all-in-one or best-of-breed. Both options have their own benefits and drawbacks, so you need to choose the option that will work best for you.
What is All-in-One and What is Best of Breed?
An “all-in-one” solution offers integrated software that can handle most of your business requirements, without necessarily specialising or offering the most optimal solution for a particular challenge.
Whereas a "best-of-breed" approach marries together many different systems into a tech stack (a combination of independent technologies that help businesses optimise their operational processes). These systems are considered the best product of their type.
Both approaches have their pros and cons, and the most suitable really depends on the unique needs of your business.
Benefits of an All-in-One tech solution
Consistent user experience: When users are familiar with one interface, it makes it easier for them to use the different applications included in the suite.
Lower support costs: With one vendor, you only need to train your employees on how to use that specific software. This saves time and money in one area, but it could be more expensive as a whole. We’ll come to that later.
Easier integration: All-in-one applications are designed to work together, so you can be confident that the applications will integrate with each other seamlessly.
Disadvantages of an All-in-One tech solution
Suitability: Businesses have individual needs and all-in-one vendors do not cover the nuances required — one size often does not fit all. The lack of flexibility and customisation is a real disadvantage that can lead to outsourcing and paying for other applications to meet those needs, or continued use of manual processes.
Time wasting: A lot of all-in-one systems take a long time to be implemented in a large company. For some, this can take years, depending on the size of the company.
This can lead to wasted time that could be better spent productively working within your business. It can also lead to a backlog of inaccurate data as it can become harder to keep things up to date when dealing with long complex software updates.
Slow to innovate: All-in-one vendors move at their own pace aka slowly. As all-in-one vendors cover a lot of different uses and are inherently large companies, they can fall behind on trends. Implementing changes to their software can take a long time and this lack of agility can be frustrating for businesses that are trying to keep up with the latest trends or need to meet compliance requirements.
Expensive: When buying from all-in-one, you are investing in one single vendor. By default, they will have significant control and influence over your business or company. Migrating to another vendor will slow your company down and data will be difficult to migrate to another system. This can cause a lot of headaches for your IT team, and you may feel trapped in an agreement and potentially at the mercy of large price increases.
Why a Best-of-Breed approach is better
The arguments in favour of a best-of-breed approach are strong:
More specific focus: a focused solution provides better fit and functionality for your business’ needs.
More agility, less risk: Best-of-breed solutions have lower implementation and start-up costs so less risk of vendor lock-in. If necessary, it’s also easier to switch vendors, making you more agile in responding to business needs. Some systems reduce risk further by offering ‘proof of concept’ or trial periods so you can try the solution before committing to a long-term contract.
Faster ROI: Due to faster and cheaper implementation and lighter training, best-of-breed solutions are a good fit for teams that need results today and can’t wait for lengthy implementation. They often have a more intuitive design so are easier for staff to use than all-in-one software, which means a faster return on investment.
Frequent updates and innovation: Best-of-breed software prides itself on retaining the title “best.” To do this, it needs to constantly stay up to date on consumer feedback and market trends, and react accordingly by rolling out new features and improvements.
Scalability: Having systems that are adaptable to change is critical. As your business grows, you'll need to scale your technology solutions accordingly. Best-of-breed software is designed to work for small businesses through to large enterprises. It's often easier and less expensive to add on new components or to increase the capacity of existing ones. Whereas all-in-one platforms can be limited in their ability to scale.
Despite the many benefits of best-of-breed software vendors, there are some disadvantages to note.
Complexity: A large business may choose and manage a lot of different vendors to fit all their needs. This can make things quite complex, especially when onboarding new staff, communicating with team members and troubleshooting.
Fragmentation: Due to there being more vendors, fragmentation is likely. If not properly managed, this can lead to fragmented teams, fragmented apps and fragmented communication.
Overlapping: Best-of-breed vendors can often share the same type of use cases. For example, two separate best-of-breed vendors may have great video messaging platforms or staff communication tools.
Decision Making Factors
Now that we’ve defined both software approaches, their benefits and drawbacks, let’s take a look at what factors you need to consider when choosing the best option for your business.
Fit: Make a list of the particular pain points you’re dealing with and need to solve. If it’s recruiting, onboarding staff, scheduling, payroll errors, leave management, high labour costs - list them all out. Then you can figure out whether there’s an efficient all-in-one vendor that suits these specific needs or whether you might need to choose a best-of-breed vendor.
Onboarding and implementation: The second factor to consider is how long you’re able to spend on the onboarding and implementation phase. All-in-one vendors tend to take longer to onboard as they have to integrate into a company-wide system rather than fit a specific need.
System maintenance: Consider how often you’d like the software to be up to date. Best-of-breed software tends to stay updated and innovates faster than all-in-one software simply because it’s a specialist solution, whereas all-in-one is more integrated so takes longer to implement software development changes.
Control: Consider how much data control you want. Do you mind one vendor having significant influence over your data and information, or would you rather spread that over numerous vendors? In best-of-breed, when a spoke breaks or is removed, the wheel still functions. In an all-in-one approach, when a spoke breaks the whole wheel collapses.
Cost: Consider your budget. Best-of-breed solutions offer subscription plans which can make costs more manageable. Plans are generally per user so you only pay for what you need. All-in-one solutions tend to be more expensive as you pay for the entire system rather than just specific applications that are relevant for your needs.
In summary, all-in-one solutions are convenient and offer one interface for users, but often lack the customisation and flexibility of best-of-breed solutions which address specific business issues.
Best-of-breed solutions give you more control over your technology stack, and allow you to pick and choose applications that best fit your specific needs without being as costly. The possibility of a solution containing all the needs of a business is low, and most businesses will still need to pursue a best-of-breed approach. A carefully cultivated best-of-breed tech stack made up of deeply integrated systems can act like one single platform, with each part providing best-in-class functionality.
Ultimately, it depends on what you need and what will work best for your business and team.
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