Did you know that the Swiss Army Knife is over 100 years old? There are more than 100 different models available and more than 34,000 leave the factory every single day. It's one of those multi-use tools that you like to have in your pocket for that moment when you need just the right solution. No wonder MacGyver carried one all the time.

But you wouldn't expect a carpenter to build your house with a Swiss Army Knife, or that an artisan would use one to craft a fine piece of furniture. We have to believe that even MacGyver, given his preferences, would rather have a set of proper tools to defuse bombs if they could only be made portable.

The Times They Have A-Changed

Since the beginning of modern business technology, one of the most vitriolic debates within the IT department has been should we adopt a suite of applications or deploy a best-of-breed solution for each element that we need?

Business users, technologists, agencies, analysts, everyone seemingly has an opinion about which approach will deliver the right approach of features, ROI and ultimate benefit to the business. And, for many applications, this argument can be persuasively made for either side. But for today’s new marketing processes, where new challenges for dynamic content experiences across multiple channels emerge every day, the need for adaptability and new components simply make the argument clear. To create a strategy of what Geoffrey Moore calls “systems of engagement” enterprises need a best-of-breed approach for CXM.

Reason #1: Marketers Feel The Need For Speed

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Vice President of Global Marketing for SAP, Michael Brenner wrote last year about the opportunities and challenges of being in marketing in today’s environment. Citing a Business Marketing Association study, he noted that of CMO’s surveyed:

  • 97 percent see the pace of change accelerating
  • 34 percent feel overwhelmed by the change occurring
  • 21 percent feel that the skills for which they were originally hired are now obsolete

To put it simply; they know the need for change is here -- and that they must change rapidly. And, in order to overcome the “knowledge gap” CMOs and IT Professionals must work much more closely together to make the organization truly agile with content. As I wrote for CMSWire late last year in an article called CXM: A Strategy That Really Needs Smart Technology:

(CMO’s must make) decisions in tight alignment with their technology teams. They will be invaluable in ensuring real time integration with multiple data sources, the ability to manage multiple channels and that the solution will truly scale and perform over time. And regardless of whether this technology is packaged as a 'suite' of tools -- or as an integration of 'best of breed' solutions -- at the center of the technology strategy is a very strong solution to manage and display content experiences in a completely dynamic and liquid way."

However, suites simply are not (or cannot) keeping up with the innovations that are happening with best-of-breed solutions. And that brings us to reason number two.

Reason #2: Technology is Innovating Faster Than Marketing can Keep Up

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One might argue that software is just now coming of age, reaching the tipping point for where best-of-breed applications are more compelling. New models of software delivery -- including cloud, and more importantly hybrid cloud, and standards-based API’s -- makes the old argument of sacrificing functionality for integration one of the past.

Today’s “all in one” software suites that deliver content-driven experiences simply don’t allow for easy integration with all the different types of “apps” that marketers must have the ability to spin up. In his latest marketing technology vendor landscape, marketing technologist Scott Brinker identifies more than 900 different vendors that are being integrated into the marketer’s “stack.” This is something that Digital Clarity Group’s Robert Rose called the “appification of marketing” in his session at Intelligent Content 2014 and this interview with CMO.com.

New mobile and social media channels, app driven technologies, dashboards and methods to display content require today’s marketing group to be standing up new technology driven experiences in hours and days, not weeks and months. Most suite vendors simply can’t keep up with this pace of innovation – because there are too many moving parts for them to have to build into.

In a best-of-breed model, the business becomes agile. As long as the marketing and IT groups work together (an important prerequisite) the business can engage a new solution -- and it’s not the vendor’s responsibility to make sure they can integrate the data and functionality into the client’s other systems. And that brings us to the third reason.

Reason #3: The Only Way To Deploy A True Hybrid Solution

One of the true needs of an agile marketing group that is partnered with their technology counterparts is to be able to move seamlessly between cloud and on premises infrastructures.

Analyst firm Gartner has predicted that nearly half of all large enterprises will have deployed a hybrid cloud by the end of 2017. You can bet that customer experience management will be one of the key solutions that drive this growth. As Forrester Analyst Dave Bartoletti said recently, “hybrid is indeed the cloud architecture that will dominate …. There will likely be very few private clouds that don’t have a public [hybrid] component.”

These days there are usually only two choices for businesses looking at CXM suites -- go all in on installed, on-premises software, or go to a pure SaaS for the entire suite. And, even those few that do offer some elements of a combination -- such as email, marketing automation, social media analytics, etc. as a cloud-based offering -- they are discrete elements that themselves can’t be moved in and out of the cloud as necessary.

The key with a hybrid, modular best-of-breed solution is that by default it must integrate seamlessly into existing web based channels and allows the marketer and their technology team counterparts to move pieces of it in and out of the cloud and their private infrastructure as the business requires.

For example, a lightweight cloud-based content solution can be deployed for owned social channels -- such as a blog -- and then be pulled into the existing infrastructure if it needs to be secured. The hybrid solution can be a bridge to a new future or an effective way to handle a temporary point solution. It helps marketers get the more dynamic and open ways to manage multichannel experiences without disturbing the governance model (and more security conscious pieces) that may be managed in a private cloud or on premises.

The Times Have Changed, the Tech Has Changed 

There is no doubt that CMOs have a huge challenge these days. They and their teams must continually adapt to new modes of customer interaction through digital channels. Building an organization that flexes and pulses with modular “systems of engagement” is no easy task -- and it’s not one that can be MacGyvered together with a Swiss Army knife.

As the CMO’s team wants to go faster and faster to streamline the process, the CIO’s team is working to make sure the business is protected from risk. Best-of-breed is the answer. The old days of big, multi-function, single source, guaranteed interoperability and scalability as benefits of a suite have just simply gone the way of the mainframe computer. Best-of-breed is best indeed.

Images by: RIMZ / iStock Photo and motophotosports / iStock Photo