Everything from a single source? Sounds practical at first. However, just as the proverbial “jack of all trades” has its fans, the opposite concept of many individual tools also enjoys great popularity. Best of suite vs. best of breed, this question has divided decision makers for decades. There is no clear answer as to which approach to choose. Each software setup has its advantages and disadvantages. This in turn raises the question of the reasons why you should choose one or the other. We try to get to the bottom of best of suite vs. best of breed.
Best of Suite vs. Best of Breed: advantages and disadvantages of “jack of all trades” software
- Eva Harmeling
- 8 min read
Best of Suite vs. Best of Breed: the eternal question
The first suite solutions originated in the 1970s and offered a revolutionary idea at the time: to combine as many applications as possible in one overarching management tool. The idea of best of breed (i.e., one specific tool for each business requirement), on the other hand, experienced its boom in the 1990s and made the best of suite idea look old. With the advancement of technology and the rise of the Internet and cloud-based applications, the multi-tool approach of finding the best possible software for each task became more appealing. And, of course, many new tools crowded the market during this phase. Even if this initially meant effort in implementation and deployment within companies, best of breed promised top performance in all areas.
However, the bursting of the so-called “Internet bubble” in 2000 put the brakes on this success story. Investors bailed out, start-ups went under or were bought up, and established software giants from a single source appeared in a new, safe light – for the time being, because the multi-tool idea remained. Since then, the question of best of suite vs. best of breed has been a topic of discussion among decision-makers and project teams.
Digitization makes finance teams’ work easier
Especially in finance, digitization is becoming an increasingly important issue: With home offices and increasing flexible working, finance managers and accountants are not only leaving traditional paper and folder work as much as Excel sheets behind. Instead, processes such as preparatory accounting are being automated, a well thought-out “finance tech stack” provides quick and meaningful insights and reporting, and the digital exchange of data ideally ensures a full overview.
CFOs and finance managers should therefore know which tools are worth investing in and how the budget earmarked for software should be prioritized. The requirements for the various applications depend not only on the sector, but also on the company size and business objectives.
So even with the finance tech stack, the question remains: best of suite vs. best of breed? In the following, we have broken down the advantages and disadvantages of the respective solutions.
Advantages: Best of breed
- Personalization of the software to internal work processes: Each area and each team can implement the best solution for themselves
- Risk minimization: In the event of a technical failure of the software, companies retain greater independence than with a best of suite solution. Perhaps you remember the total failure at Meta, formerly Facebook (and therefore also Instagram and Whatsapp)? At the time, Facebook had effectively locked itself out of its system – and since everything is centralized within the company, there was no backdoor through which they could get back into the system to fix the failure
- A best of breed setup gives you more flexibility, compared to best of suite solution from only one vendor
- Rapid implementation of individual tools: By adding or dropping individual tools, you can react quickly and adapt to new market conditions
Disadvantages: Best of breed
- The most obvious disadvantage: with software from different vendors, the tools may not engage smoothly with each other
- Low interface optimization can complicate the exchange of data between tools and increase proneness to errors
- Many tools also require a lot of coordination and especially training efforts between employees and vendors
- The overall cost factor tends to be high due to the multitude of licenses
Best of suite: Advantages
- The best of suite approach delivers a holistic product solution (yet further add-ons are possible where necessary)
- This holistic approach provides a “technical balance” (unlike a topical focus, to which other components are then added later), good interaction between the individual components and ease of use. This usually also optimizes collaboration across teams
- Software from a single source requires less training for employees
- A contact person on the software side ensures easy communication and solution of problems as well as contract negotiations
Disadvantages: Best of suite
- The advantage of having everything from a single source can also have a disadvantage: Integrating indispensable standalone tools into the holistic suite solution may not be possible or may be very cumbersome. This can diminish the overall functionality of best of suite for teams that rely on specialized software
- The broader the subject area best of suite aims to cover, the more “lukewarm” the issue can become – because a suite rarely delivers a hero product for all sub-areas
- The security aspect must also be taken into account: a security gap can affect the entire system in the event of an emergency
- A cost-benefit calculation is worthwhile: Are you, in the long run, paying for integrations of the best of suite that are not used? Can the software grow as your company needs it?
Conclusion Best of Suite vs. Best of Breed: Does a “jack of all trades” software make any sense at all?
Yes, we think so! Because even if it is very tempting to buy the proverbial Ferrari among the tools in the respective departmental garages: The principle of “jack of all trades” can make perfect sense, namely when a similar subject area is covered by the best of suite solution. So the questions you need to ask yourself to make a decision are: What processes do I have? And where are these processes the same or in which area is the same data processed?
In the best of suite vs. best of breed debate, the all-in-one solution can win the game where many processes of the same type are running. For example, in the area of finance on the side of accounts payable. Instead of having different tools for incoming invoices, travel expense reports, employee expenses and corporate credit cards, for example, a holistic financial operating system can meaningfully unite all needs and thus provide a good overall picture of expenses. Not only does this make it easier to keep track of the finances of a period, it also automates accounting in the same step, making it easier.
You might want to interject about this example: What about the process on the accounts receivable side? However, there you ask yourself completely different questions – the data should therefore be processed in another tool for an optimal workflow and does not necessarily have to flow into the accounts payable software. The link between accounts receivable and accounts payable can be liquidity planning (which, by the way, works wonderfully as part of a best of suite solution, as will be the case with finway as of February).
The bottom line is that you don’t have to make an enterprise-wide decision for best of suite vs. best of breed. Rather, it makes sense to look at the needs of individual departments, identify processes and leverage synergies where it makes sense. In this way, you can automate the same processes, combine data, and always know how things are going thanks to clear reporting.
A best of suite approach at the process level (to stay with the finway example 🤓) combines important workflows in one tool without becoming as rigid as a cross-departmental ERP as a operating system.
- finway as a best of suite stops unnecessary media breaks between tools (e.g. by separating cards and expenses) and perspectively offers a constantly growing, but always holistically thought solution by constantly expanding the process coverage (spoiler: soon we will also offer Travel & Expense Management!).
- finway as a solution is quickly usable out-of-the-box, but can be set up from simple requirements to more complex, individual processes and thus ideally covers the needs of finance teams – especially in medium-sized businesses
- Through an Open API (coming soon, yay), in addition to existing integrations such as Datev and GetMyInvoices (coming 02/21), additional tools can be individually and flexibly connected to finway as a financial operating system in the future and data can be exported as CSV for further processing – so you can combine best of suite with individual “best of breed” favorites
So with the right solution, you can integrate the best of both worlds into your business. If you’d like to learn more about our best of suite software, feel free to book a free finway demo here.