A fully digital workplace should first and foremost enable mobile working from any device, anywhere. Any digital workplace should stimulate productive working and collaboration with easy sharing, conferencing and chat functions. The solutions should secure and facilitate compliance with centralized data and application access, rather than running and storing applications and files locally, and should also be platform agnostic while avoiding vendor lock-ins.

There are several technologies out there that evolve to a digital workplace. Some solutions start from applications and files, others start from collaboration while others start from the internet. All these platforms evolve to a central solution covering all your workplace needs. The problem is that many enterprises are looking for a single space to do everything — a single platform that integrates apps, manages content and enables collaboration. However, that is starting to change.

Single Platform Martech

In the recently published Walker Sands State of Martech Content 2019 report (registration required), the research authors, Scott Brinker from chiefmartec.com, and Jennifer Mulligan, account director at Walker Sands, points out a move, or interest, in best-of breed technologies has been growing since at least 2017 and has been even more pronounced in this year’s research.

Our 2017 report was very clear, the group getting the most out of their marketing tools are those using best-of breed stacks. This year’s respondents agree, and now 34% of marketers use an integrated best-of-breed stack. Up from 27% last year, movement toward best-of-breed hasn’t slowed down since we last checked in.

Based on a survey of 300 professional marketers, the survey found that marketing organizations need more help maximizing the benefits of their martech solutions to keep up with the rate of innovation. And just look at the technologies they are using:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Machine learning
  • Chatbots
  • Virtual reality (VR)/Augmented reality (AR)
  • Blockchain
  • Internet of Things

Roughly half of those surveyed have or plan to implement these technologies, which are also key to building the digital workplace.

More to the point, the report reads, "faced with quickly growing competition, vendors tend to highlight their solutions’ features and benefits rather than how organizations can best use them alongside their current strategies. Organizations must understand how their teams will absorb solutions before they will feel confident in a purchase."

In terms of how marketers spend their budgets to build a marketing stack, the best-of-breed stack route still reigns over single vendor suites, as has been the case over the last decade. More than a third (34%) rely on a best-of-breed stack (the same rate as in 2018) while 27% rely on a single vendor suite. Two other points worth noting:

  1. Marketers in the digital workplace have rejected the “set it and forget it” philosophy — 52% of marketers assess their martech stacks at least every six months.
  2. Organizations can’t keep up with the rate of martech innovation — 63% of marketers feel the martech landscape has evolved rapidly or at light speed in the last year, while only 28% feel the same about their company’s use of martech.

Related Article: How to Simplify the MarTech Stack

Single-Platform Digital Workplace

Outside of pure martech, and across the enterprise the situation is similar. The work environment is changing, and today’s global distributed teams need tools that can help them be more effective. However, tools also have a point of diminishing returns — a team that isn’t leveraging tools at all is perhaps slow and unproductive, Suresh Sambandam CEO of Kissflow said. 

Faced with quickly growing competition, vendors tend to highlight their solutions’ features and benefits rather than how organizations can best use them alongside their current strategies.

Organizations must understand how their teams will absorb solutions before they will feel confident in a purchase. But, as the number of tools being used within the organization increases, and the amount of creative energy spent on the upkeep of these tools increases, it adversely impacts productivity.

The best digital workplace has the ability to bring all the tools used within the organization into one cohesive, productive environment that allows users to measure the contribution and impact of each team member and business unit to the organization’s overall outcome. “Companies of today will be built around digital workplace platforms that hold the intelligence and consistently make an effort to simplify things for them so that they can focus on making the main thing the main thing and not worry about writing reports and managing the silo of tools,” he said.

Best-of-Breed Advantages

There is no denying that working with a single vendor has its perks. Specifically, companies can benefit from streamlined billing, support and training when they work with a single point of contact, said James Carroll, partner and director at TetraVX.

Learning Opportunities

However, working with a single vendor also has its downsides. “You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none,’” Carroll said. “Well, in a situation where you are limiting yourself to a single provider, you’re not only tied to the lesser developed solutions that make up part of their suite, but also you have no escape plan should the relationship with that vendor or their products go south.”

Another challenge to consider when it comes to a single vendor approach is the lack of flexibility with their solutions. More and more often we are seeing shadow IT becoming an issue in the collaboration and marketing technology space. Teams are looking for ways to streamline their operations and work more efficiently. 

If an IT department or a solution isn’t solving for that challenge, then more than likely a department will take matters into their own hands. “By taking a tightly integrated, multi-vendor approach, your IT department can satisfy the needs of specific user types while still integrating that system into your larger digital workplace strategy,” he said.

Related Article: What Does Martech's Ecosystem Evolution Mean for Marketers?

Single Platforms Are Not Enough

Simon Peel, chief strategy officer and CMO at Jitterbit, argued that a single platform approach is just not feasible. In any case, if companies were to wait for a panacea system that can do everything they really need it to, for one vendor to put everything people need into one great platform, they'll be waiting for quite a while.

Instead, he said, many companies are piecing together existing best-of-breed solutions and pulling out just the bits of data they need from large back-end systems, essentially composing new systems to meet their disparate wants and needs. “There are about 150,000 SaaS apps on the market today, and countless legacy products — some on-premises, some in the cloud. Companies need to connect these different worlds together — this new wave of innovative cloud technologies with the legacy products. Combining best-of-breed is exactly what’s driving integration and API projects,” he said.

Integration and APIs are the only way to tie the new world of apps together with the legacy apps existing in enterprises, but moreover, companies need to be able to automatically create such connections, to keep up with the pace of business, and they need to do that easily and through a non-technical experience to give the power of information to as many people as possible across a company.

The problem spans the enterprise and leaders need to decide what technologies are needed across the organization and how best to meet those needs. Every team member has their preference of workflow management software, CMS, CRM, ERP, collaboration and file sharing.

If you're a manager at an enterprise-level company, you need to find the perfect fit for the company, not just each individual's particular preference. In some instances, you may find that needle in the haystack platform that perfectly covers your needs. “Unfortunately, it's highly unlikely — most companies need to cobble together 2-3 different SaaS products to cover all of their needs,” said Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva. "As such, I would not recommend entering into a contract with any company assuming it's going to be 'the' solution. So what do enterprise leaders do?"

Leaders should create a checklist of solutions they need, and try to project a little into the future. Search for platforms that address each of those needs, and write them next to each one as you tick your boxes. “You may find some redundancies, and that's great — whittle the list of SaaS options down to as few as possible. In the end, you'll likely end up with 2-3 platforms you need to rely on, but that's better than going with an omni-solution that ends up letting important tasks fall through the cracks,” he said.