“No one ever got fired for buying IBM,” so the saying goes, meaning it’s generally safer to go with a household name when you’re in the market for new technology.
But does that still hold true in 2020? And given the speed of technological development, is buying a procurement suite really the ‘safe’ option today?
Nic Walden, a senior advisor in The Hackett Group’s procurement advisory program, says that while an all-in-one package may offer more across the board, “if you need to be the best in supply chain risk management then a best-of-breed solution in that area might actually be better for you.”
Three myths about best-of-breed solutions
They’re riskier than a well-known suite
Many CPOs and IT teams believe a procurement suite is the straightforward and reliable choice, but all in-one platforms are harder to remove once they’re in place.
The sunk costs and daunting management effort of a total replacement mean you are locked in to one vendor. It’s also arguably a risk to invest significant time and resources in implementing a large suite that might not turn out to be an effective solution for the organisation’s needs.
What’s more, if there’s a problem with a suite, it will typically affect numerous business processes. Best-of-breed solutions, by comparison, are more compartmentalised and can be removed with relatively little fuss or expense. It isn’t always as easy as downloading a new app on a phone, but it’s much easier than the company-wide change that comes with suites.
The big suites offer the same functions
Many best-of-breed solutions retain an edge over the suites in their particular vertical.
“One of the myths that has been pushed by some of the single suite providers is that they can do everything,” says Iain Kirwan, a director in Deloitte’s UK supply chain consulting practice. “And I think that we’re now seeing that actually there may be gaps that need to be addressed within a single suite solution.”
Specialist vendors have built their entire business on delivering excellence on their part of the procurement lifecycle, which should drive constant innovation.
They’re hard to integrate with other solutions
Vivek Bharti, general manager of product management at Icertis, a specialist provider of contract management systems, says executives often believe that suites integrate the different elements of the procurement process more efficiently than best-of-breed solutions.
“They think it’s going to be like it was ten years ago, when you had two different systems that could never talk to each other,” he explains.
But times have changed. Best-of-breed solutions are much more user-friendly than they once were, and the vendors behind them are a lot more proactive when it comes to developing and maintaining integrations with other software tools.
In addition, the increasing range of APIs has further helped to dispel the myth that best-of-breed tools are a source of major integration headaches. If the underlying data is accurate – and if it isn’t, no type of solution is going to deliver results – piping data around the different pieces of software is no longer a challenge.
By embracing the strengths of all the different players, businesses can have the best of all worlds at their fingertips.
Three myths about all-in-one suites
They’re big and bloated
Drew Hofler, vice president of portfolio marketing at SAP Ariba, says there is a common misconception that all-in-one suites are a big, bloated package that you have to implement (and pay for) all at once – even though your employees might only need some of the features it offers. “You don’t have to buy it all at once; you can just buy the tool you need at that moment.”
They offer the lowest common denominator user experience
There’s a widely-held belief that a procurement suite won’t deliver the kind of precise functionality required, driving users to develop workarounds or simply avoid using it. However, Mr Hofler says the idea that a suite will only ever provide a monolithic, homogenized, lowest common denominator user experience is simply wrong.
They’re more expensive than best-of-breed solutions
For small to medium-sized businesses, a suite may seem too expensive for their needs. Even with a modular approach to implementation, there may be features that seem like overkill. But once you start investing in multiple solutions from multiple best-of-breed vendors, you might find that the suite option suddenly looks more affordable.
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