As organizations look for more, and better ways to achieve profitability and operational goals, the search for the right technology is always a very important piece of the equation. Often the options to consider are using an “all-in-one” ERP or workforce management solution, or focusing on “best of breed” solutions to help run the business efficiently.

First of all, let’s take a step back and define what each of these mean:

An “all-in-one” solution refers to software that combines several different functions – such as accounting, billing/invoicing, workforce management, benefits, etc. – all into one platform.

When I refer to “best of breed”, I’m talking about an individual software solution focused on performing a few functions very well – such as time tracking software, expense management, or document management. Often, best of breed solutions are built to integrate with other software in order to enhance that software’s functionality, or fill in specific functionality gaps.

In theory, the all-in-one solution seems like the logical choice. The perceived benefits are:

  • One vendor to work with
  • The solution is fully integrated
  • Additional modules are “free”
  • One point of contact for rollout, training and support

While at a high level, some of these benefits are true, there are some points to consider when comparing this all-in-one approach to a best of breed solution:

  • While there typically is one vendor to work with, the truth is that most ERP solutions are really made up of different software solutions that were either developed separately or wrapped in by acquisition.
  • The “fully integrated” solution is actually a combination of different integration technologies, ranging from flat-file import/exports to an assortment of web services options.
  • The lack of attention on each piece of the solution usually means that the User Experience for each module is far below the experience created by a best of breed solution, resulting in inaccurate data throughout or inefficient processes.

While it is easy to think that the overall cost of ownership of the all-in-one solution is lower compared to the best of breed approach, it is important to remember that the best of breed solution provides these important qualities:

  • Best of breed solutions focus on the specific, core business needs of the organization.
  • The superior user experience provided by best of breed solutions helps ensure the data is accurate and on time.
  • There is actually more integration flexibility, as best of breed vendors have more expertise with data transfer to/from their solution.

One thing to consider is the ROI on both types of solutions – are you saving or losing time on certain processes? Are there data inaccuracies that are costing you money? Can those costs be recouped by moving to a best of breed add-on?

In summary, when organizations are looking for technology solutions to help them better manage their business, the all-in-one solution seems to make sense. Unfortunately, it can sometimes also be too good to be true!