ERP or Best-of-Breed (BoB)? Here’s How to Quickly Settle That Whole Thing

Haidin Goggin/Flickr

Even though Spend Matters declared the "ERP vs. Best-of-Breed" debate dead way back in 2014, the issue has a funny way of rearing its head — so often, in fact, that it's perhaps the single most frequently asked question that we still get from practitioner clients.

But if you watch our distillation of that seminal question (above), you'll realize how we're looking at it now, in 2017 — and the way you and your organization should be, too.

Sure, IT organizations are still somewhat biased towards ERP suites and business units/functions still prefer BoB solutions that will help them accomplish their goals, but asking "ERP or BoB?" is fundamentally a losing proposition.


Unpacking the Problem

Here's how Pierre Mitchell, Spend Matters' chief research officer, sees the conundrum:

"The reason is that there are numerous assumptions and tradeoffs with the stated problem that must get unpacked, challenged, re-combined, and then optimized. It’s a highly multivariate problem and a simplistic framing of it as a contentious win-lose problem will leave the root cause issues unaddressed and festering. Ironically, many providers also seem to pick the side most convenient for them. If a source-to-pay (S2P) suite provider competes against a BoB point solution, then it’s all about the benefits of the suite, but if it’s competing against an ERP “mega suite” provider, it’s all about BoB!

I’ll write more on this overall topic in the future, but let me give a few insights on this now.

First of all, you can’t solve a problem of which people don’t even have a shared understanding. Consider the following questions.

  • When I say “best-of-breed,” what does “best” actually mean? Is it a slightly better mouse trap (in terms of application functionality) or is it a set of capabilities that are fundamentally different?
  • What “breed” are we talking about? How broad is the category? For example, a CLM suite with three modules? Source-to-pay with six modules? ERP with 10 modules? It’s a spectrum – not a binary choice.
  • Does the breed have to be apps only? If apps are becoming a cloud service (i.e., SaaS) that help deliver business outcomes, why don’t the “solutions” include knowledge-based services rather than just “empty apps”?

Finally, what is an app suite anyway? Is it a single app provider (single “throat to choke”) — even if it has a flotilla of apps with overlapping data models? Or is it a set of pre-integrated apps built on a common platform and a single data store (which we call a “sweet suite”)? There are a multiple options between these two ends of the spectrum. And, it’s really important to understand that a single ERP provider (or even BoB suite provider) doesn’t equate to an integrated solution set, a single architecture, a common support model, and so on."

There's a Lot More Unpacking to Be Done, But For Now, This Free Guide:

Here's how to begin thinking less about the question, "ERP or BoB?", and more about an agile architecture for your organization:

Download your copy of Pierre Mitchell's "ERP vs. Best-of-Breed Decision Guide: 3 Recommendations to Kill the Debate Once and For All."

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