3 Ways to Implement an Enterprise Software Strategy
Should you take an all-in-one or pick-and-choose approach when adopting a business technology platform? Or does the solution lie somewhere in between?
As the adoption of online services for small businesses continues to gain momentum, we've seen many companies who are running into the highly-debated topic of integrated vs. best-of-breed solutions. When it comes to implementing enterprise software into your organization, traditionally there are just two basic paths you can take:
• The integrated approach; or
• The best-of-breed approach
The integrated solution supplies all business apps and functions under one large system, whereas the best-of-breed solution allows users to pick and choose vendors that fit each desired function best. Each approach to enterprise app integration has its own benefits, but also its own drawbacks.
Path #1: Integrated Solution
The more conventional approach to a software strategy is the all-in-one umbrella solution. These extensive platforms, known as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, can encompass all of the business functions an organization needs to operate efficiently.
The size and format of different ERP systems can vary based on the vendor. For instance, some are directly installed, while others are cloud-based. But from our experience, one thing that all integrated systems have in common is that there is always one troubled department who runs into problems trying to integrate the system.
No one software company can be great (or even good) at everything, so during most ERP implementations at least one department gets left out in the rain.
Path #2: Best-of-Breed Solution
A best-of-breed strategy is like a stew made up of several different “ingredients,” or applications. It is not uncommon for businesses that use this approach to have five to ten different apps, ranging from BI platforms to workflow systems—all operating in a single environment.
For example, a company may choose to use Google Apps with Gmail for e-mail purposes, Basecamp for project management and Microsoft's SQL Server for keeping track of important corporate data. While this pick-and-choose strategy has become increasingly popular, there are a number of problems that arise with such an approach:
• Training. When you implement different applications, it means that you have to train employees how to use each system appropriately, which can create big headaches. UI inconsistency not only makes the initial implementation more challenging, but lowers productivity later on.
• Cost. By using one system, you are focusing all of your money on one vendor, giving you the ability to better negotiate price. However, if you deal with five separate vendors, you simply have less bargaining power, and thus you can expect to pay more.
• Troubleshooting. In the event that you have integration problems or a service goes down, who is to blame? With one vendor, you know who to call when software hits the fan, but identifying the source of a problem when you have multiple systems can sometimes be tricky.
• Security. Five vendors mean five username, five passwords, five authentication systems, etc. A single breach in any one your applications could compromise the other important systems that are linked to it.
Path #3: SharePoint Combination Solution
Fortunately, if you can't decide which type of enterprise system to go for, there is a lesser-discussed and highly underrated third path you can take instead—a combination of both integrated and best-of-breed approaches.
One such solution is SharePoint. While technically considered a best-of-breed system, SharePoint also allows users to extend to other applications, like an integrated system—giving you the benefits of each approach.
Using SharePoint's 2013 App Model, users have the ability to develop in any language that supports OAuth, which gives developers the flexibility to select the appropriate platform for the application they are integrating with. And without sacrificing the user experience of a single department, everything can be included under one SharePoint umbrella—either on-premises or in the cloud.
Innovative Architects' SharePoint consultants have helped all kinds of organizations leverage IT to move their business forward—from small “mom-and-pop “ businesses to major Fortune 500 companies like Bank of America, UPS, Siemens, and many more.