By: Matthew Bagshaw on November 5th, 2020
Marketing Technology: All-In-One Solution or Best-of-Breed Integrations?
Whether your organisation is a small startup or a multinational enterprise, you need to determine whether your next tech investment will be a monolithic all-in-one solution or an integration of best-of-breed applications. Although a single piece of software is usually easier to set up, it may not be able to fit your business as well as a system built with multiple applications.
To understand what would be best for your organisation, you first need to know how your current operations are running. When doing so, hiccups and opportunities for improvement are equally essential guides.
Let's discuss these concerns in more detail.
Key Areas To Examine In Your Organisation
Current workflows and processes
The most common and typically most essential revelations can be found anywhere that data is handed off from one person to another, for example, approvals or work distributions.
Similarly, it is beneficial to look at where data is being transferred between systems; it may be a person is rekeying that data.
Next, make sure that you understand the timeline of your workflows and processes. Which tasks need to happen before which other tasks? Which tasks are you finishing serially when you could perform them in parallel?
Also, make sure that you examine your workflows from an end-user standpoint. High-level executives and managers will understand processes in a different way than those at the coal face do. Because employees may be accomplishing tasks quite differently than what's on paper, executives should take the time to understand what's going on within the organisation.
Current and previous software solutions
Go over the technology solutions you've tried before and those you're currently using to understand what worked and what didn't. Is there anything that's working well for you right now or that you know isn't the right fit? This assessment can help you figure out which directions to go in next (and avoid).
Pain points and opportunities
Ask yourself why, specifically, you want to search for a new solution. Everyone in the organisation likely has different concerns and pain points. Interview some key personnel to discover the most significant issues that they face in their day-to-day work.
Also, use this time to identify the most promising areas in your business for automation. Processes and workflows that are repeatable, predictable, and rules-based are good automation candidates. On the other hand, operations that require high-level judgments and strategic thinking will likely need a human hand.
Most organisations import assets and information from other places and likely export them as well. Ask your external contacts whether they're experiencing any challenges—they may be willing to partner with you on a solution.
Key questions to ask
- Where would time savings create the most significant benefit, and which processes have the greatest effect on your overall timeline?
- What are the quality requirements? Where does error carry the most significant risk?
- What is the lifecycle of the average asset, and when is it no longer relevant?
- Who needs access to which assets? What is the minimum level of access that can be given to everyone in the organisation?
- What is your budget? Where is the money coming from? Is it fair that one department or area bears more of the cost if they're experiencing more or fewer pain points? Is any aspect of the solution going to benefit outside parties?
- What specific functionality do you require? Does the extra functionality of multiple applications outweigh the benefit of having everything in one place?
- What can you see coming down the road? Do you need to make sure you are prepared for expansion?
- Are your existing solutions working well? Do you want to build around your current software, or do you want to shake things up thoroughly?
Making the final decision
The most important thing is, to be honest with yourself about the minimum feature set you can work with. From this list, you can see if there's a single piece of software that fulfills all of these requirements.
Working with a single solution is typically easier and less complicated: different applications don't have to exchange data, and your IT team isn't subject to an additional burden. However, not every situation calls for a single piece of software.
Some businesses have specialised requirements that practically scream out for multiple solutions. If you're doing a lot of web development, for example, your team will likely want its own set of systems to have ultimate control over the code.
Like retail, complex ecosystems will often need multiple system solutions to manage a product's lifecycle and its data from concept or buying to sale. If a multi-system solution is inevitable when comparing the current software state against your requirements, how large an area can each component own?
The final decision between single and multiple systems is one that will be extremely specific to your business. Many factors, including current and future state software landscape, company and departmental goals, end-user requirements and processes, external touchpoints, budget, security, and IT policies, should be considered and weighed before you conclude.
How working with an integration expert can help
A dedicated integration partner can guide you through the discovery phase to gain a clear picture of all your processes and understand opportunities for improvements or automation. These analyses will form the foundation of any design, be it a single application or multiple.
In the case of a single application solution, your integration partner can continue to work with you on the configuration design, tailoring the software to your business needs.
Should integration points be required between multiple applications, their purpose and specific interactions will naturally follow from the discovery process.
Finally, once the solution is in place, your integration partner can ensure that it continues to function and is properly supported.
Perhaps the most valuable asset that an integration expert brings to the table is a different perspective. The right partner can import tactics and concepts that they've successfully innovated and implemented at other organisations. Partners with cross-industry, multiple deployment experience will enrich any solution.
No two organisations are alike—you are the best judge of whether your tech stack needs multiple applications or just a single solution. By going over the points above in detail, you'll be much more likely to make the right choice and to find the solution that aligns best with your processes and business.
In addition, working with an integration expert such as IOI can help bring in insights and ideas that you hadn't previously considered. Click here to get in touch with an expert from our team.