Best-of-Breed Solutions with Simple Integration Give Businesses More Choice

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Businesses deserve to have the procurement technology that best suits their needs, and with the rise of the cloud and easier integration of best-of-breed solutions, businesses of all sizes can choose from an array of offerings to solve specific problems.

This increased choice stems from the trend toward more open computer networks and APIs, the application programming interface. What the API does is let companies bring data, workflows and in some cases third-party functionalities to their existing backbone system or ERP to create their own version of an end-to-end suite.

As companies mature in their digital transformation from manual processes to automation, they’re in a better position to consider the buffet of solution options that will help them become more strategic.

For enterprises that started with a suite solution but have evolved digitally, they may be ready to find the best-of-breed solutions that will make them more strategic and a better fit with the customers they’re trying to serve.

Solution providers also have been focusing on improving the user experience to drive up adoption. If that’s important to your business, it’s critical to upgrade the UX.

This ease-of-use philosophy is at the heart of an A.T. Kearney study from last year, “The Future of Procurement Technology: Mediocrity is No Longer Acceptable.”

“Successful procurement technology has one job, a north star: to provide a robust yet easy-to-use system for transforming needed goods and services into value for a company so that it can excel at its own business,” the study says. “Such a system puts the procurement power in the hands of the user, rather than the user being at the mercy of the system or a rigid and unnecessary procurement process. The more users are empowered with full transparency and analytic insights, the more likely they will adopt the desired behavior.”

The study also documents the rise of the suite providers a decade ago and the emergence of best-of-breed options that offer choice today. It lists three options for companies seeking a new solution provider:

  1. Switch from one suite provider to the next, investing heavily in a long-term deal where the payoff in benefits takes years instead of months. “It is also a single-shot decision, where the business is committed to a specific technology for another generation or so,” the study says.
  2. Do a “like-for-like replacement,” keeping the existing system while adding on individual best-of-breed solutions. “This is the least disruptive path,” the study says.
  3. Do a full digital transformation, seeking out the latest architecture and the right best-of-breed solutions. It can take years to fully form, but it offers a company the most flexibility and cutting-edge options. The A.T. Kearney study says “this third option, when paired with significant automation, is increasingly going to be the right answer for more and more procurement functions.”

These are important factors to consider, and remember that since network systems are becoming more open and API use makes connecting easier, best-of-breed providers have become better at integration. So when seeking a best-of-breed provider, make sure they have an API function that lets you see how their solution connects with your own system.

"The goal of integration is having all fields in the system be API-connected,” says Troels Tolstrup, director of technology for Scanmarket, which has APIs for ERPs, DocuSign and its modules for e-sourcing, contract management, risk management and P2P. “We don’t care what system our customer has because we can make our data available to whatever the customer has to collect their data."

If your business has been with a suite provider and is seeking a change, it’s prudent to consider a best-of-breed offering — because the suite provider is too.

If their suite is lacking in a certain capability, they shop for a best-of-breed solution and buy the whole company.

Smaller businesses don’t have that M&A option, but they don’t need to. Simply select from the array of offerings and easily integrate what solves the problem.

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