By Charles Araujo
All-in-one versus best-of-breed used to be a simple decision between additional functionality and the benefits of lower costs and easier management. The all-in-one pitch, however, now rings hollow. For the modern enterprise, the trade-offs are much more significant than that, and the viability of the organization is now at stake.
I remember the pitch vividly.
The salesperson stood in our conference room and explained to me why their integrated solution would help us reduce costs and overcome the management headache of dealing with a bunch of best-of-breed solutions.
It seemed to make so much sense. The salesperson explained that we were paying a heavy price in management overhead and costs by buying, deploying, and managing these different systems. Their all-in-one, integrated approach, he went on to say, made all that go away.
We had a decision to make.
For most of IT’s existence there has been a tug-of-war between these two competing approaches: go best-of-breed or use an all-in-one single-vendor solution?
In the past, it was a relatively simple trade-off. Did you need the additional functionality that best-of-breed solutions delivered or could you get by with fewer features to reap the benefits of lower costs and easier management?
While the all-in-one pitch remains the same, it now rings hollow. For the modern enterprise, the trade-offs are much more significant than features versus cost and manageability — today, the viability of the organization is at stake.
The Demise of the Jack of All Trades
There are two reasons that the all-in-one approach will no longer suffice and may actually represent a risk for the modern enterprise.
The first is the complexity of today’s technology stack. In the past, it was conceivable that you could put together a horizontally integrated stack that could meet all the needs of a specific IT function. But that was a time in which there were only a handful of technology components necessary and creating a fully integrated out-of-the-box solution was possible.
Today, that’s no longer the case. No matter how extensive the all-in-one stack, it will never be comprehensive enough to do everything that an IT function now demands. Those demands are just too complex and change too fast for any one company to keep up.
In response to this increased pace of technology evolution, the all-in-one players gobble up new market entrants to fill the continuously emerging holes in their line-up — which leads to the second reason that this approach no longer works.
This same complexity and pace of change also mean that the all-in-one solutions must continually acquire new companies, leaving little time to truly integrate the new acquisitions into the portfolio — negating the primary benefit of the all-in-one solution in the first place.
Even worse, the acquisition process often creates a distraction, leads to less innovation, and ends in technology homogenization that diminishes the value that the new addition was intended to bring to the portfolio.
The result is a broad, but often poorly integrated portfolio that is all-in-one in name only. But as bad as that may be, it’s not the most significant challenge with the all-in-one approach.
Fielding Your Best Team
Imagine that you are the new general manager of a professional baseball expansion team. You need to assemble your team from scratch.
Your head scout walks into your office and says that there’s a new way to field a team using an all-in-one approach. A farm club in South America is building complete teams giving you the ability to acquire an entire team at once with every position filled by players that already know how to play together.
It would unquestionably make your job as general manager simpler, but would you do it?
The answer is almost certainly is a big fat NO.
While in the short-run this approach would deliver some efficiencies, that would not be your primary concern. What you would be most concerned with is fielding the best team possible — a team that would win.
As an IT leader, you are in much the same position. We are far past the days in which IT existed solely to drive efficiency and optimization. Today, an organization’s technology stack is a primary enabler and driver of business value and, as a result, it is growing ever-more complex as organizations seek to create advantage from it.
As an IT leader, your primary job is to field the best team that you can. That means selecting each player — which, in your case, is each element of your technology stack — based on its ability to help you achieve your objectives.
An all-in-one solution will inevitably come with trade-offs that will lead you to field a less-than-best team. In today’s technology-drives-advantage world, that’s a trade-off you can’t afford to make.
The Intellyx Take
When someone sets out to compare vendors in a space, they inevitably create a set of criteria by which to evaluate them. One such benchmark is often the comprehensiveness of the solution — which is usually code for this sort of all-in-one portfolio approach.
Including this criteria is an artifact from the days in which trading capability for management ease and cost reduction was a reasonable and valid assessment criteria. Today, it is nothing more than a red herring.
Yesterday’s all-in-one solutions have largely devolved into less-than-best technology compilations offering little cost savings or management relief.
Most importantly, the entire orientation of this approach is wrong-minded. The all-in-one approach is vendor-focused and emphasizes the creation of a technology portfolio, rather than being focused on solving critical business problems.
A great example of this is the current bifurcation of the broad networking market. One one side you have legacy technology companies amassing disjointed portfolios that claim to do it all. On the other, you have best-of-breed players, such as CloudGenix, which is delivering highly-targeted capabilities that help organizations take an innovative, application-aware approach to networking focused on enhancing application-derived business value.
Today, IT’s strategic imperative is not ease-of-management, cost savings, or even integration. These factors all remain essential, of course, but what is much more critical is the ability for the technology stack to enable an organization to deliver competitive advantage and organizational agility. Doing so demands that every organization put their very best team on the field every day.
Copyright © Intellyx LLC. CloudGenix is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this paper.