4. Do you have the IT resources necessary to perform a complete integration?
While integrations are more easily performed due to the reasons mentioned above, they still require IT expertise and commitment from end users.
5. Are the near-term hurdles of implementing a suite or best-of-breed system justifiable for long-term business improvements, or are they prohibitive?
Just like any investment, IT managers need to consider that the near-term challenges (training new staff, migrating existing data, or modifying business processes) may be worth the long-term benefits gained with the right software system.
6. How truly integrated is the integrated suite vendor's offering?
If the ERP vendor acquired the system, it may not be "truly" integrated. It might just be a best-of-breed system with some basic integration. If the vendor built it themselves, it could use a different code base and therefore not be tightly integrated with the ERP suite's older core.
7. Is the ERP vendor's solution close to a best-of-breed system?
Some ERP vendors have invested so much in specific applications that they achieve functional parity with best-of-breed systems.
8. What is the long-term viability of the best-of-breed vendor?
While some best-of-breed vendors are financially and strategically viable, others may be too young and/or have too narrow of a focus to survive in a competitive industry.
9. Will the ERP vendor give you such a significant price discount that it offsets the sacrifice in functionality?
Buyers who are looking to add a module to an existing ERP system can usually expect to pay much less than implementing a best-of-breed system. However, best-of-breed systems can sometimes cost about the same.
10. Does the new applications category (i.e. CRM) merit a different deployment model (i.e. SaaS) than your back-office ERP system (i.e. on-premise)?
If so, implementing a best-of-breed system might make more sense. This is becoming increasingly popular for SaaS systems that require collaboration and/or remote access.
The software research and selection process is notoriously difficult. Buyers who consider the 10 questions above should be well on their way to making the right front-end decision between integrated suites and best-of-breed systems. Sometimes that decision is the hardest one to make.
Austin Merritt is vice president of Software Advice, a free online resource with reviews and comparisons of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. He has performed a number of roles at the company, ranging from marketing and research to blogging about software trends and news.
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