Best-of-breed approach gains traction in collaboration

It has become an increasingly viable option to single-vendor suites

By , IDG News Service |  Unified Communications

For social capabilities, Nationwide picked Yammer long before Microsoft acquired it in July, and it chose Office for its productivity applications. However, it uses a variety of tools for video conferencing, including capabilities in IBM's Sametime IM and presence application, and is monitoring options in video communications for future technology acquisitions.

About 30,000 Nationwide employees use Yammer, for example, and the company has consolidated several legacy document-management systems into an on-premise implementation of SharePoint 2010, which it launched in July and where it has about 1,500 sites for collaboration.

Alan Lepofsky, a Constellation Research analyst, said the question of best-of-breed versus single-vendor is highly relevant in the collaboration market today, in particular because of the new cloud applications from specialized vendors in areas like enterprise social networking, file sharing, idea generation, network sentiment analysis and gamification.

"I'd recommend as one deciding factor to determine how aggressive they are about implementing and getting new features" from cloud-based application providers, he said. "If that's important, the best-of-breed approach may be best."

If, on the other hand, having a dedicated, secure, on-premise implementation is paramount, the single-vendor approach might be a better option.

With best-of-breed, the user experience can suffer and lead to a lack of engagement among end users, which defeats the purpose of investing in collaboration software.

Collaboration systems need to be intuitive and friendly, because they are meant to be used by many different types of users, including those who aren't particularly tech-savvy.

"Unlike business intelligence or ERP [enterprise resource planning] systems, collaboration tools are used more, and by more people," Lepofsky said.

When dealing with multiple vendors, especially providers of cloud-hosted applications, IT decision makers need to do due diligence on all of them regarding issues like data security, data access and, if they are small startups, the possibility that they might be bought or go out of business, he said.

Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

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