Best-in-Breed or All-in-One: Which Technology-Solution Approach Is Right for Your Business’s Customer-Communications Processes?

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As organizations around the world continue to accelerate their digital-transformation initiatives, deciding on which solution approach to take in order to deliver the most value, especially when it comes to improving the customer experience, is a key challenge and poses a host of questions:

  • Is selecting a solution provider that advocates an “all-in-one” solution—a suite of software applications comprised of a core administration application and other ancillary applications offered by a closed ecosystem of partners—better than building an integrated solution that consists of “best-in-breed” applications from a variety of leading providers that specialize in their respective disciplines?
  • Should an organization transform everything at once, or should they migrate incrementally?
  • Is integrated data from multiple best-in-breed solutions better than one, centralized database from a general provider?
  • Which customer-communications technology solution approach will deliver the most value for an organization now and in the future?

The All-in-One Solution Approach

All-in-one systems provide a suite of software applications generally built around a single, core administration application and several modules or applications from a select group of ecosystem partners.

Most of the data produced in such an arrangement is aggregated into a comprehensive master data set that, in some instances, can be easily converted into business insights.

One potential drawback, however, is the level of sophistication of individual modules and applications offered within all-in-one solutions. There may well be several modules and applications that perform at near-optimum levels, but others may be insufficient in terms of their features, flexibility and data integration.

For example, customer-communications applications used in all-in-one solution suites generally lack common functionality and intuitive capabilities like drop-down and radio-button selections, as well as the ability for end-users to add freeform text to correspondence.

These limitations are usually the result of partnerships being forged based on financial terms, not complementary product capabilities or synergies. Ultimately, this means that organizations may face bitter disappointment when the implementation is rushed without appropriate research being conducted in advance to determine the critical needs of users and overall capabilities of the system.

When to Deploy All-in-One Technology Solutions

If you are in the very early stages of initiating digital transformation and modernizing quickly is your main priority, an all-in-one solution approach may present an opportunity to shortcut incremental steps.

Additionally, all-in-one solutions are also well-suited for highly centralized organizations that are looking to continually amass business data over longer, sustained periods without the likelihood of disruption caused from changing out applications and vendors.

The Best-in-Breed Approach

In contrast, a best-in-breed approach focuses on delivering the best possible experience for each unique stage of the customer experience. Organizations (and their respective IT departments) are in complete control of every element of the solution.

Applications within the suite are chosen based on product functionality and synergies that directly complement the core administration solution. A best-in-breed approach also delivers flexibility when it comes to integration and unique customizations while providing direct access to data spread across the organization’s varied functional areas.

By integrating data across a multitude of applications, best-in-breed suites create data sets that are extremely detailed and rich. For example, customer-communications applications within a best-in-breed approach can drive deeper personalization within correspondence by using data from numerous applications and databases throughout the organization’s functional areas to trigger the inclusion/exclusion of content, images, tables and forms.

There is, however, a challenge that may arise when integrating this information with other data stacks within the organization, as it may be structured in a variety of formats that make it difficult to aggregate and extract further insights.

When to Deploy Best-in-Breed Technology Solutions

Best-in-breed solutions make the most sense for organizations that are more advanced in terms of their digital-transformation strategies. These organizations have already laid the groundwork for digitizing each aspect of the customer-experience process, and they are building or have already deployed more sophisticated tools and deeper data sets to drive competitive advantage through the customer experience.

In addition, decentralized organizations located in multiple locations and time zones may find it easier to tailor their vendor choices to meet the needs of their markets, customers and partners.

Maintaining a single, all-in-one solution may, in fact, be of detriment in some cases, as your business processes are forced to adapt to the chosen suite instead of finding a solution that delivers the most value for each unique area and process.

Considerations for Choosing Technology Solutions

When choosing technology solutions, a general rule of thumb is to try to work with as few systems and vendors as possible without impeding successful outcomes and the effectiveness of your operations. You need to weigh the advantages delivered by a particular solution against the challenges you will face when integrating it with your existing infrastructure.

On the other hand, carefully assess the track record of all-in-one solution providers. In some cases, you may be presented with a suite of software made up of pieces built by independent developers and packaged with the same branding.

In this case, you effectively have a veiled attempt at a best-in-breed offering based on the all-in-one solution providers’ selections that are not always based on what’s best for your unique needs. Instead, you may then want to consider looking for a provider that has developed their own unified solution in partnership with their customers.

Finally, make sure to research the amount of support in terms of onboarding, data integration and training the solution provides. Without adequate support, the solution you choose, no matter if it is an all-in-one or best-in-breed, may end up becoming a problem you don’t need.

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