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PHOTO: KT

C-suite managers are no longer the only organizational leaders who have a say in the IT systems utilized across the enterprise. Leaders across a wide variety business functions and services are stepping up and getting involved in the decision-making process. After all, in most cases, they’re the best judge for what will work or won’t work for their specific business or departmental needs.

Having more leaders provide input can lead to a demand for greater platform flexibility. Either because specific platforms or applications are necessary for operational teams or, in some cases, to provide the option to opt out of certain systems when they don’t serve a specific business function. Stepping away from a monolithic, single platform and into this “best of breed” platform approach to meet the growing demand from internal (and external) stakeholders comes with some potentially large paybacks — but it isn’t immune from risk.

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Pros of Best of Breed Approach

In today's business world, even companies that have standardized on large platform suppliers recognize that some functionality — especially leading-edge applications — must be sourced separately. This type of best-of-breed approach is helping organizations take advantage of three main benefits:

  1. Easier execution: Business leaders are focused on the specific deliverables expected of their team. They know better than anyone where their teams excel and where they struggle. Implementing a platform or application that best meets the needs of the team can help them execute on deliverables that could otherwise become timely, costly or frustrating with an ill-fitting system.
  2. Faster time to market: Product innovations and customer service improvements must iterate very quickly to meet current demands. With system flexibility, an organization can implement the right platforms or applications necessary for speedier testing or improved automation, for example, that will ultimately accelerate time-to-market and customer satisfaction.
  3. Greater user adoption and experience: Users are more likely to adopt and appreciate an application or platform that improves their everyday experience. But one size doesn’t always fit all, which can make user adoption difficult with a single-platform approach. If a new or customized product is implemented to help a team more efficiently complete tasks, both user adoption and overall experience will improve.      

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Cons of Best of Breed Approach

While these benefits make a best-of-breed approach seem like a no-brainer, it’s important for organizations not to overlook the potential risks:

  1. Integration challenges: Having a variety of applications and platforms requires a significant amount of integration work on the back end to ensure all systems are connected and talking to each other. Challenges with integration can lead to prolonged or costly delays if the right team and tools aren’t in place to manage the process from the beginning.
  2. Retraining and reskilling the workforce: Implementing new platforms, applications or processes requires an organization to retrain and reskill its workforce. For these systems to be used accurately to achieve desired outcome, leaders need to take time to map out training programs, so the workforce feels supported, informed and confident during the transition from a legacy monolithic system to a new or hybrid solution.
  3. Unfamiliarity with new systems: Organizations implementing new, innovative platforms or applications are, in many cases, among the first to do it. But if they don’t do their research on the best technologies, or forget to seek third-party expertise, they’re more likely to fumble with timelines and miss opportunities to use the new tools to their potential. This is one journey where going alone, without expert advice from peers, consultants and integrators, can drive one off the digital cliff.

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Tips for Making the Switch

When an organization decides to move toward best of breed, there are several steps leaders should follow to ensure the transformation is successful — steps that will help them prepare for risks and allow them to reap the benefits of a hybrid infrastructure.

A successful best of breed approach must be planned with comprehensive details involving enterprise-wide impact. This involves developing a roadmap so leaders can continuously monitor the status of the migration and implementation process to ensure adherence to deadlines and delivery of business value.

Communication is a key factor for success as well. People need to embrace change in order to achieve growth, and this requires a well-planned and cohesive organizational change-management strategy that considers how the enterprise at large will be impacted.

Any company planning to switch from a single, monolithic platform to best of breed must also recognize and plan for significant disruptions to the way people work, and they should consistently communicate what those changes will be, promote the benefits and acknowledge the challenges.  

Finally, before embarking on this best of breed journey, organizations must ensure that a business continuity plan is in place in case an unplanned event occurs and impacts operations. This plan should address every aspect of operations and should include a detailed action plan for how to move forward.

By following these steps, leaning on others for advice and considering all the aspects of a potential change first, companies can reduce the risks and improve their time to value. Balancing the pros and cons of best of breed is a necessary step for any organization. But when you involve the right people, processes and technologies, the result can be highly beneficial for all.