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The Business Magazine May 2024
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Best-of-breed? Not such a great idea in software

Zoho's Steve Baxter
Zoho's Steve Baxter
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Zoho's Steve Baxter

We all want the absolute best, don't we? At work. At home. In clothes. In food. In friends. In everything. What idiot would suggest otherwise? Well, this idiot.

Here's the problem when best-of-breed is applied to software: best-of-breed software is the best at what it does. App X is the best email system. App Y is the best CRM system. App Z is the best project management system.

Unfortunately, your business doesn't just need an email system or a CRM system or a project management system. It needs all of them. If you use App X, Y and Z, some poor so-and-so gets the thankless task of making them talk to each other.

In big enterprises, that's a problem. Forrester say that 75% businesses see integrating their systems as their biggest challenge. That's enterprise organisations, remember - the corporate leviathans with big IT departments and big budgets.

For SMEs, it's more of a nightmare than a mere "problem". SMEs have small IT departments that provide application support. If they work on complex interfaces every other IT task get less attention than last year's Christmas cards.

You could ask your regular staff to setup your apps but is that really what you want them to be doing? No! If they're Marketing, you want them to generate leads. If they're IT, you want them to stop Russian hackers pillaging your bank accounts. If they're Operations, you want them to make something you can sell.

Best-in-Bundles beats Best-of-Breed

This is why best-in-bundles is a better idea than best-of-breed. The beauty of bundles is that all the apps talk to each other from Day One. The most you'll have to do is setup the rules between them: send valuable leads to Claire The Closer; send customer complaints to Dave The Drool.

Once you adopt a best-in-bundles approach, your business shows immediate improvements. Your sales team and customer service desk work within the same system. So does your marketing team. And your operations team. And your finance team. And your HR team.

Your customers start seeing you as one company instead of several disconnected and disjointed departments. You start being able to complete processes twice as fast.

Not all bundles are equal

You know what I said earlier about bundles being designed to integrate from Day One? I was stretching the truth so far even Trump would blush.

It's common for companies to develop a couple of core apps and buy the others in. Commercially, it makes some sense. Technically, ouch. The new owner has to try to get its existing apps to talk to its new acquisition. They're heading into Frankenstein territory. These bundles are neither best-of-breed nor best-in-bundles. They're best-we-could-get-at-the-time.

At Zoho, we have the luxury of speaking from a very comfortable position. We can and do develop apps from scratch in our own time. We grow them like new branches on an thriving tree, rather than as a Frankenstein graft onto a moribund carcass.

Simple is beautiful. When it comes to software, simplicity comes from best-in-bundles.

Steve Baxter is Enterprise Marketing Manager at Zoho UK and has worked in B2B marketing for over 30 years. He joined Zoho in March 2022 having previously worked for large multinationals, local SMEs and his own consultancy.
When he's not working, he's drumming in his rock band, following F1 or being dragged into equine activities by his wife and daughter.


Stephen Emerson is the Managing Editor of The Business Magazine and is responsible for the publication's print publications and online properties including the newly launched Biz News websites in Hampshire and Dorset.

Stephen has been a journalist for 20 years and has worked at local, regional and national publications and led a team which made The Scotsman website one of the fastest growing news sites in the UK with over eight million monthly users.

He has a keen interest in technology, property and corporate finance and telling the stories of the people behind the successful firms in these sectors.

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