When you’re looking for new software, one of the first things you must decide is whether to look for two or more systems that are best in their particular fields, or one software system that does nearly everything you need.
This choice is between ‘best of breed’ systems:
The problem with the best-of-breed choice is that you have to do the integration yourself, or commission it. This means developing software to map the data in one system to the data in the other, scheduling the execution of the integration software, ensuring that reference data such as account codes and department codes are synchronised in both systems, and that both systems can be reconciled. It gets even more complicated if there are more than two systems in the mix.
The problem with the integrated choice is that you rarely get everything you want from one system, or, not affordably. And it means that if you only want new software for one particular purpose (e.g. professional services management) then you have to throw away everything else that you have and start again.
It’s not easy to choose.
But if you decide to go the best-or-breed way then Infor’s ION integration framework solves the integration problems by providing technical, logical and procedural management of all aspects of integration.
See this YouTube video to see how we’ve integrated time@work (for Professional Services Management) and Infor SunSystems (for back-office accounting):
I think integerated systems being a ‘mongrel’ is implied here, which implies conflicting genes. That’s not the case when an integrated system comes from one software author.
Also the point about having to throw away an integrated system to add a new function appears misleading. As stated, systems can be made to talk to each other. Few integrated systems would claim to do absolutely everything so most are used to interfacing with other products. A client should always speak with their software author however to discuss whether new functions can be added to the product.
It’s very important that integrations are thoroughly assessed. Assuming that any ‘best of breed’ software maintains that status by being updated each year, you are then in the position of trying to manage interfaces between products that regularly changing on different cycles. As stated, frameworks exist to support them, as integrations will remain complex to maintain. It is indeed an area where expert help is needed. In this aspect an integrated system is an easier route, where a lack of some functionality is the compromise.
Yes, these are very good points. I was deliberately provocative and making the case a little crudely! My company develops a best-of-breed solution for professional services management (PSM), and it doesn’t include an accounting module, the idea being that it can interface to any. Many of the all-in-one solutions that include both PSM modules and accounting aren’t particularly strong or flexible in the PSM area and the accounting modules don’t usually work well internationally. Sometimes we win sales using the best-of-breed argument and sometimes we lose because people perceive integration as a chore. With Infor’s ION we can defend ourselves from such criticism more eloquently.
You certainly make a good point about upgrades. The more systems, the more risks with upgrade. But then upgrading an all-in-one is an organisation-wide and massive task in itself. There is, I suppose, no single way, and certainly no easy way. All the choices are difficult.
Thanks for your comment.
It’s also a fact of life that mixed-gene dogs are stronger!
For larger systems, consider developing a comprehensive software requirements profile. Then measure how well the competing products meet that profile. Otherwise, you are doing little more than guessing when selecting software.
However, if you do identify the best-fit software you can boost your ROI. See http://www.cio.com/article/2906315