Brains Trust

Why an all-in-one tech vendor can be risky business for startups

- April 17, 2019 3 MIN READ

The classic saying “two heads are better than one” reflects the idea that collaboration is the key to success. In the software technology world, best-of-breed represents this approach, encouraging businesses to have several solutions working closely together to create a better experience for end-users and IT teams, rather than relying on a single-vendor solution.

Businesses should not rely on one solution for every aspect of their digital transformation, rather they should envision the mythical Hydra, combining different heads to create a digital transformation beast. Any vendor that claims to do everything is, in reality, probably not doing at least one thing adequately. By integrating services from a network of partners from the get go, startups will be able to provide the best experience for their employees.

There are three main pillars of the best-of-breed mentality startups should consider.

  1. First, it is unrealistic to expect one vendor to do everything perfectly.
  2. Second, if employees are not satisfied with IT solutions, they’ll end up using the best services anyway, risking significant shadow IT.
  3. Third, cloud services have made it easier than ever to incorporate different products into one perfect platform within a business’s IT solution.

Choose specialised excellence rather than a jack of all trades

Companies build core competencies in certain areas to deliver the best product experience available. Software supplies can build out their product suites, but there are limitations to their areas of expertise. Rarely will a company be able to specialise in identity management, video communications, team collaboration, content management and so forth.

If a vendor does all of the above, then at least one component of their solution isn’t going to be the best option available, resulting in a loss of productivity and happiness for employees. After all, it’s unrealistic to expect your video conferencing platform to excel at providing best-in-class, wholistic cybersecurity solutions.

Don’t keep IT in the shadows

If startups try to implement a single-vendor model, maybe for the benefit of having just one “neck to choke,” they risk significant shadow IT. Workers want the best solutions, regardless of whether their workplace offers them as part of their IT platforms.

As such, they will find and use the best tools for the job, even without the awareness or support of their workplace. A recent report from Expensify shows that employees choose to expense the best collaboration solutions if their internal IT team doesn’t provide them with the appropriate tools.

Additionally, according to Okta’s 2019 Businesses at Work report, 76% of Okta’s Office 365 customers have one or more apps that are duplicative of apps offered by Microsoft. Over 28% are chatting on Slack, while nearly 24% are connecting with their colleagues on Zoom.

Heads in the clouds

Best-of-breed is a fantastic convenience of the cloud-based, software-as-a-Service (SaaS) era today’s startups are born into. When software had to be managed from the client operating system, it was inconvenient to have multiple services.

However, now that all services are delivered from the cloud, end-users have the agility and scalability to more easily find, test, and adopt best-of-breed solutions, and IT can more easily update and manage them across the entire business.

Software providers can help

For providers, the most important thing is that SaaS companies come together to build thoughtful workflow integrations, so that it doesn’t come across to the end-user like they are switching between multiple solutions to try to get their work done. Consider solutions with built-in market places, allowing other platforms to be integrated seamlessly into other solutions.

If you think of it like your mobile phone, operating system providers like Apple and Google provide basic apps for your experience to be satisfactory but allowing other applications to use the operating system to incorporate their own services into the device enhances the user experience.

Software providers must prioritise forming relationships and teams with other SaaS providers to get tight integrations successfully in the hands of businesses. Providers and startups all win if an open-minded approach to embrace other services into their platforms is taken, even if this might entail some overlap with our own features.

For startups, it’s simple. In addition to quality, reliability, user experience, and functionality, startups should add two things to their list of key requirements – interoperability and openness.

In this instance, the Hydra is better than Hercules, and certainly better than using an all-in-one vendor that does everything okay, but nothing the best.

By Michael Chetner, Head of Australia and New Zealand, Zoom Video Communications

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