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How to choose between best-of-breed and easy integration

by Scott Priest, Managing Editor

June 22, 2010

I found this article by Austin Merritt (of CIO.com) an interesting look at how organizations should consider which applications to install. The article notes that the world many major software vendors, including SAP, were used to has changed with the increasing ease of integration and specialization of third-party vendors.

It lays out 10 questions companies should ask as they decide between expanding their software from established vendors or looking to more specialized options. Here are a few of them, but you should check the full article for all of it:

1. Are your needs for the new application really that specialized, or can they be met by your ERP vendor's (potentially) broader offering? 

A surprising number of buyers tend to think their business is unique. Software vendors have been addressing those unique needs long enough that many of them have been addressed in the packaged product.

2. Do you really need the systems integrated, or are you OK with two stand-alone systems?

A lot of buyers start the research process assuming that integration is essential, when many business functions are more disparate than they think.

3. Do es your ERP vendor offer (or come close enough to offering) what you need? 

As ERP vendors have built out functionality over time, many can meet more business requirements than their customers realize. If a vendor can't meet 100% of them, it may be worthwhile to sacrifice functionality for a smoother implementation.

I found the first one particularly amusing -- that everyone views their company as unique. Every year in our publication surveys we have readers select what industry they're in from about 20 choices, and most end up selecting "other" and explaining all the different things their companies do. When people ask me about WIS, I often do the same thing -- "Well, we do conferences and publications and communities, we focus on SAP and some IBM technology, etc." rather than just saying I work in "publishing" or "media" or something more general.

Anyway, related to technology selection the article is a good reminder of the things you should try to evaluate as you consider whether it's worth the potential integration hiccups you may experience, or whether you need to integrate them at all. The underlying theme is that whatever the choice is, be honest with yourself about your company's needs and how various technologies can or cannot meet them.

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