ARTICLE TABLE OF CONTENTS
This is about best-of-breed vs. best-of-class vs. best-of-suite vs. all-in-one software.
- What best-of-breed, best-of-class, best-of-suite, and all-in-one software are
- The differences between them
- Lots more
It’s time for the first step!
What Is The Difference Between Best-Of-Breed, Best-Of-Class, Best-Of-Suite, and All-In-One in Software?
It’s a million-dollar question.
Best-of-breed vs. best-of-class vs. best-of-suite vs. all-in-one software: Which is the best of them all?
More importantly, what are their differences and why is it important that you can tell them apart?
Knowing the difference between these software classes can save your business or consultancy a lot of money in the long run by helping you avoid purchasing and integrating the wrong software for your needs.
These distinctions are often used in the context of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software but do not necessarily refer to these software systems.
In this article, we will take a close look at what each concept means, why it’s important to know their differences, and how this knowledge can be applied in a professional context.
Definitions: Laying the Foundations
Before we dive into the differences between these types of software systems, let’s go over each of their definitions and provide an example for each of them.
Below, we’ve defined each of the concepts and clarified some misconceptions regarding what each software class entails.
What Is Best-of-Breed Software?
Best-of-breed software is software that is considered the best within its referenced category or niche.
Best-of-breed software systems perform specialized functions better than integrated systems but are constrained by their limited capacity within their specialized niche.
A best-of-breed software solution, in other words, executes one function exceptionally well at the cost of versatility.
Whereas other software classes can perform well at various tasks, best-of-breed holds the distinction of being the best at a given specialty or niche.
For example, a system maintenance solution to stress test a server can be considered best-of-breed because it serves a sole purpose.
On the other hand, a software solution that does more than only system maintenance cannot be considered best-of-breed by definition.
What Is Best-of-Class Software?
Best-of-class software is a specially-designed software solution that is optimal for a given product category.
Therefore, best-of-class software cannot be a software “suite” designed to cater to various business departments or fields.
Unlike software suites, best-of-class software is designed to perform exceptionally well within the one department or area of focus in which it serves.
This is why the term “best-in-class” or best-of-class is often used to describe software that specializes in such as
- Accounts payable
- Accounts receivable
- Candidate screening
- Human resources
A software solution cannot be considered best-of-class if it performs all of the above functions.
Instead, best-of-class solutions can only carry that status by optimizing for one function or business department alone.
What Is Best-of-Suite Software?
Best-of-suite software is a core software function or application that offers supporting features as peripheral functions.
Although the best-of-site software approach is considered by some to be an outdated form of selecting and developing enterprise software, it remains an important concept.
In a best-of-suite software model, the developer will release a full software suite that performs various business functions.
However, one of these functions will be considered “core” and will, therefore, be the most robust of them all and will serve as the flagship offering of the suite.
If you want to select an enterprise software that performs various functions within an integrated system, a best-of-suite solution might be best for you.
These products allow for institutions and businesses to streamline business processes because all functions are managed in a single interface or platform.
What Is All-in-One Software?
An all-in-one software system is often conflated with the best-in-suite approach.
IT solutions such as these offer a full suite of applications and functions to handle all aspects of a business’s operations, from payroll to security and monitoring.
All-in-one software provides everything a business needs to complete and maintain their IT infrastructure.
However, the main downside to adopting an all-in-one approach is that it is more vulnerable to security threats.
A data breach in one part of an all-in-one system is therefore a breach to the system as a whole.
Comparing the Systems: Which Is Better?
Now that we understand the fundamentals of each IT system approach, let’s take a critical look at each of them and compare them against each other.
In the section below, we’ll discuss the various positive and negative attributes of both and where one might be preferable to another.
Best-of-Breed vs. Best-of-Class
When it comes to best-of-breed vs. best-of-class, the best way to describe the distinction is that a best-of-breed solution involves a tailor-made solution for a specific problem.
By contrast, a best-of-class approach involves a full suite of software solutions integrated into a single enterprise IT system.
In the case of best-of-breed solutions, the main benefit is that these solutions handle their core function exceptionally well.
In these cases, each department in a business is kept distinct and is responsible for its own IT system.
If something goes wrong with one system, it does not necessarily affect the performance of the other systems.
On the other hand, best-of-class solutions offer complete data integration across all aspects of a business.
In today’s increasingly interconnected business landscape, best-of-class solutions are becoming more popular because they ensure that cross-department communications and data sharing are streamlined and simplistic.
Ultimately, there is no clear winner between these two systems.
Picking one system approach over another depends on a business’s needs.
For example, one that prioritizes security over other considerations may want to opt for an a la carte best-of-breed IT system.
Best-of-Breed vs. Best-of-Suite
A best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite comparison comes down to the level of complexity your organization might want to adopt for their IT infrastructure.
For example, a best-of-breed approach won’t deliver all of the solutions necessary to develop an integrated system.
In the event that your organization chooses a best-of-breed approach, you can expect a greater degree of complexity in importing and exporting data between departments and file sharing more generally.
However, you have the benefit of greater flexibility and tighter security.
In a best-of-suite arrangement, all systems and functions are integrated into a single interface and software suite.
Naturally, this makes interoperability a breeze and generally makes your life easier when it comes to file sharing and cross-department project management.
The downside, of course, is that security threats abound in best-of-suite systems.
Whether you decide to go for a best-of-breed or a best-of-suite approach, the salient question to ask yourself is whether you’re willing to compromise on security for convenience and simplicity.
If you are, then a best-of-suite approach may be the right solution for you and your organization.
Best-of-Breed vs. All-in-One Solution
The best-of-breed vs. all-in-one solution debate is not substantively distinct from the best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite debate outline above.
Largely, it’s a matter of preference regarding the usefulness of single-vendor suites.
Until the 1990s, it was commonplace for IT companies to leverage the convenience of all-in-one solutions and to minimize friction between departments and simplify the process of adopting new technologies.
The downside, however, is that this system allows for some degree of security vulnerability whereas best-of-breed allows for much less.
In the case of an all-in-one solution, a single vendor provides all core functions of a company’s IT infrastructure.
However, it isn’t common that a single-vendor solution performs optimally at all tasks. Instead, best-of-breed solutions let users pick and choose the best product for each of their business’s various needs.
Companies that opt for the best-of-breed approach benefit from knowing that all of their needs will be met.
Since they have the freedom to choose which solutions they want, they are not obligated to purchase products or licenses for solutions to problems they aren’t experiencing.
By contrast, all-in-one solutions may sometimes include features or functions that your business has no use for.
Therefore, all-in-one solutions may not always be the most economical solution because they can sometimes force you to spend money on unnecessary or irrelevant products.
Best-of-Class vs. Best-of-Suite
Regarding best-of-class vs. best-of-suite, a company may opt for the latter option if they want a product ecosystem that can address multiple pain points or needs at once.
However, in the case of the former, best-of-class solutions are more likely to do every business task better because they are solutions tailored to a specific business function.
With best-of-class software, a company can choose which products they want to use for building their IT infrastructure.
Not only does this provide greater flexibility for customers, but it also reduces the likelihood of security threats pervading the entire IT system.
With best-of-suite software, the inverse is true. Best-of-suite solutions provide “core” and peripheral functions so you don’t have to invest in multiple platforms or vendors.
However, this results in greater susceptibility to system-wide security threats and, often, the “peripheral” features of a best-of-suite package don’t perform as well as the “core” operations.
These days, the best-of-class software approach has become more popular about IT companies and consultancies because they allow decision-makers to hand pick vendors that specialize in certain functions.
This way, you know you’re getting a premium software solution for each department or function of your company.
Best-of-Class vs. All-in-One
The best-of-class vs. all-in-one debate pits two polar opposite approaches against each other.
Whereas an all-in-one solution prioritizes convenience, speed, and interoperability, best-of-class solutions prioritize flexibility and customization according to a business’s unique needs.
Let’s take the example of a firm that has an aging accounting system and needs to overhaul that aspect of their IT infrastructure while retaining the rest.
In this case, a best-of-class solution is their best bet because it would allow them to select the best accounts payable and accounts receivable product on the market for their needs without having to buy anything else.
On the other hand, all-in-one solutions might be the superior choice for a startup that needs to build a complete IT infrastructure from the ground up.
In these cases, all-in-one solutions are the economical choice because they bundle all IT products in a single package which often costs less than acquiring various software products piecemeal.
Best-of-Suite vs. All-in-One
In a best-of-suite vs. all-in-one scenario, you’re dealing with fairly minimal differentiation between them.
If you opt for a best-of-suite approach, you’re prioritizing software from a single vendor that features a core product with peripheral (i.e., non-core) functions included.
An all-in-one product is similar to a best-of-suite product because they both offer a full slate of products from a single software vendor.
Where they differ, however, is in the fact that all-in-one solutions do not have a “core” product, because their main selling point is that they address all business functions equally well.
Business owners may want to opt for a best-of-suite approach if they have a single core function (e.g., accounts receivable or human resources management) that they want to prioritize over others.
However, businesses who need a slate of solutions for every aspect of their business and want to take the most convenient approach would opt for an all-in-one.
Conversely, an all-in-one might be the better choice for early-stage companies that want an economical and streamlined solution for their enterprise IT infrastructure.
All-in-one products provide a convenient jack of all trades solution that can handle a wide variety of demands across a company’s entire operational structure.
Why Choose a Best-in-Breed Approach?
Businesses often opt for a best-in-breed approach to keep their IT systems and programs organized and distinct from one another.
For some, using multiple software systems to manage different aspects of their business provides the best results for each individual department.
For instance, a best-in-breed approach to developing one’s IT infrastructure would involve one solution for monitoring, another for administration, and others for training and onboarding.
Instead of choosing one solution that does everything moderately well, a best-in-breed approach emphasizes the importance of finding many solutions that are the best at what they do.
You can think of a best-in-breed approach as the method of choosing individual software solutions that are tailored to your company’s needs.
A best-of-breed approach, therefore, often involves multiple vendors who specialize in one aspect of a business’s operations.
Not only does a best-in-breed approach offer customization and flexibility, but it can also ensure that you get the best quality product for every aspect of your business.
Often, all-in-one IT solutions perform every element of a business’s operations passably well, whereas best-of-breed lets you choose the best of each product category.
Why Choose an All-in-One or Best-of-Suite Approach?
In the case of an all-in-one or best-of-suite approach, the main benefits involve the convenience of a one-stop-shop software solution.
Given that these approaches involve the use of one vendor, they save time on shopping around and often have lower overhead costs associated with the technology.
Further, all-in-one and best-of-suite approaches are more efficient because they reduce the friction between elements of a business’s IT system.
If that sounds hazy or unclear to you, let’s take a look at a concrete example.
For instance, a member of your business’s human resources (HR) department is running a background check on a newly interviewed job candidate.
Under the same system interface, the HR specialist can request documentation and licenses from the legal department without having to jump through unnecessary hoops or share files across systems.
With an all-in-one or best-of-suite approach, you have the convenience of being able to take care of a whole business’s operations under a single software system.
Therefore, these approaches are considered more efficient and streamlined when it comes to their effect on a company’s workflows.
Finding A Solution For Your Needs
There are a variety of factors that should influence your approach to finding software solutions.
Below, are broken down the various elements that should be considered when shopping for new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, or any other company-wide software acquisitions.
Understandably, one of the primary concerns for business owners looking to replace their legacy IT systems is the price of the replacement.
Selecting software for each department (i.e., the best-of-breed approach) often comes at a higher financial cost because it requires the buyer to purchase many pieces of software from multiple vendors.
Some reports indicate that all-in-one software systems can come with hidden fees and costs originally unbeknownst to the buyer.
For instance, these systems often require specialized staffing and maintenance fees can be steep for some products.
Although ERP solutions represent only one kind of all-in-one IT infrastructure, a 2019 survey found that a staggering 56% of implementations came in over budget by at least 1.25 times.
Further, many anecdotal reports indicate that all-in-one implementations take longer than originally expected and thus pose a steep cost on an organization’s time.
To protect your company against unexpected fees and costs, make sure you inquire about the total cost of ownership of a piece of software.
Asking about total lifetime costs can help you gain a clearer picture of what a solution might cost in the long-term.
Software is considered scalable when it can support your organization’s growth.
Therefore, IT products must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and technological innovation over time. Otherwise, they may require replacing after several years of use.
Scalability is sometimes referred to as “agility” in the context of ERP software.
The problem with all-in-one or best-of-suite solutions is that they often lack the agility to scale with your business as it grows, or the external environment changes over time.
This is because large system-wide software packages are designed to accommodate massive amounts of data, profiles, and order numbers.
With time, the system can scale up to facilitate an organization two, three, or five times your current size – however, only with its current operational structure.
If your company reorganizes entirely, it may need to invest in a more flexible solution to prevent system-wide failure.
This is one of the main reasons why some experts suggest decoupling B2C ecommerce functions from all-in-one ERP systems.
Keeping them tethered simply comes at too high a cost regarding agility and scalability.
When searching for a best-of-breed vs. best-of-class vs. best-of-suite vs. all-in-one solution, features and functionality should be top of mind.
In simple terms, you can think of all-in-one or best-of-suite software as being a jack of all trades. However, they often do not perform optimally at any one function.
A best-of-breed or best-of-class software is a specialized product designed to optimally manage one of a large organization’s core functions.
Therefore, all-in-one software offers a very wide range of functions and best-of-breed typically handles only one (or one plus a select few peripheral functions).
The problem with all-in-one solutions is that they often lack focus and offer only unsophisticated solutions to complex problems.
For example, it’s difficult to manage a large firm’s inventory with an all-in-one product because they simply do not have the depth to handle a fast-paced, constantly-changing environment without having to make costly customizations.
By contrast, best-of-class or best-of-breed solutions offer hyper-focused solutions that are tailored to one domain of a business’s operations.
If, however, they need customization or a workaround to meet a company’s changing needs, they can be adjusted without having to make changes to a company’s entire IT infrastructure.
Other Factors to Consider
There are several other important elements to consider before purchasing a new IT product for your business.
Regardless of which system approach you choose (i.e., best-of-breed vs. best-of-class vs. best-of-suite vs. all-in-one), you need to account for the following factors:
Complexity of Integration
IT infrastructure requires intricate integration capabilities to ensure bi-directional file sharing and streamlined workflows.
Exporting data using best-of-breed or best-of-class software can present roadblocks or slowdowns across departments.
The synchronization of data is made easier by all-in-one solutions that let users share data in real-time, which can expedite workflows and business processes.
The cost of an IT product encompasses more than merely the upfront price.
For example, it takes time to train employees, onboard a new system, install the hardware, and perform routine maintenance and analysis.
These “soft costs” can often add up with best-of-breed or best-of-class solutions because they require the integration and setup of various products from many vendors.
Integrating a new IT system requires significant manpower from an IT department.
As the infrastructure accommodates more employees and more users, a greater number of IT personnel may be required to maintain the system and perform troubleshooting and service requests.
Enterprise Service Bus
Enterprise service buses (ESBs) are used to integrate systems from various vendors, which makes them essential for best-of-breed software applications.
An ESB is a form of middleware that makes it easy to move data and work between departments and other components of an IT system.
With a best-of-breed approach, organizations have to factor in a product’s upgrade cycle.
On the other hand, best-of-suite solutions typically handle upgrade cycles entirely from the vendor’s side or the provider of the software itself.
Upgrades are an inevitable aspect of an IT product and should be kept in mind so they do not cause workflow disruptions after purchasing.
Why A Best-of-Breed Might Be Best For You
A best-of-breed solution might be the ideal choice for an organization that is decentralized and spread across several time zones and offices.
With a best-of-breed approach, large organizations can choose a vendor and solution that appeals to their specific needs without having to share their solution with teams located elsewhere.
Remote teams should look for solutions that address their own needs.
With an all-in-one solution, teams are forced to compromise on a solution that is acceptable to all offices and teams, whereas a best-of-breed lets offices or teams find one that provides the most value for them.
Best-of-breed solutions are often sought after by late-stage companies that have already achieved significant growth.
These firms, which are far along in the development of their digital infrastructure, likely have the capacity to accommodate sophisticated solutions and tools that facilitate larger quantities of data.
The Costs of Efficiency
The convenience and efficiency of an all-in-one software product shouldn’t be the end-all be-all factor that determines whether you adopt that solution.
With great efficiency comes a slate of costs that can offset whatever gains your organization stands to benefit from with an all-in-one IT infrastructure.
To summarize, here are the main drawbacks to all-in-one software systems below.
These issues are common among all-in-one and best-of-suite software systems and should give pause to anyone considering adopting these systems:
- Massive financial and operational commitment to a new system
- Gutting and replacing an entire tech stack with a new suite takes time and expertise
- Faith in the long-term viability of the new technology (i.e., 5, 10, or 15 years)
- Third-party integrations and APIs may not be supported
- Implementation and maintenance costs may exceed any perceived convenience benefits
Businesses slated for significant long-term growth may want to think twice before investing in a system-wide all-in-one IT solution.
By picking a best-of-breed or best-of-class product, you can reduce the likelihood of having to replace your entire infrastructure later.