As business owners, we are understandably always looking for the “top” products and the “best” tools to optimise our ability to manage our companies. Until recently one of those choices was selecting between Best of Breed products and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. The environment has finally evolved to the point where it is no longer an either / or decision. We now have a real choice, with the ERP system being just one of the options available to us as opposed to the only choice, as some over zealous ERP salesmen would have us believe.
Best of Breed products are dedicated products designed to be the best at what they do. Back in the day, our companies had to purchase software from an assortment of different vendors to get the best offering for each segment of our business – accounting software from one vendor, human resources from another, and project management software from yet another, for example. This resulted in a range of business needs being serviced by a plethora of applications running on a host of different databases on a variety of hardware platforms, creating an integration nightmare for all concerned.
Out of this chaos, ERP software emerged offering us a single platform and a single database with all business requirements being met from a single application – great in theory and at the time seemingly heaven sent. There were of course issues, including a lack of flexibility, a lack of user-friendliness and an inability to meet niche needs. ERP vendors claimed their integrated systems offered all the business applications you might need, but it was extremely rare for all of these applications to be best of breed.
Over time the database environment became less complex, with less players (today Microsoft SQL and Oracle have become the predominant players), and the introduction of standard middleware that enabled simple integration between databases. Likewise, the platform environment became more streamlined with the introduction of virtual machines and communications protocols that enable real-time and easy connectivity.
The result is a relatively seamless Best of Breed environment, where software packages need not be sitting on the same physical platform or running on the same database to deliver quality solutions to businesses. Companies can select the applications best suited to their business requirements, whether they choose to have an all-in-one system or a variety of individual packages. You can easily introduce new specialised products to your existing software and your core data processing engines without fear of drawn out integration complications. We can now have all the benefits of fast simple integration without being restricted by a limited choice of applications.
*As published in Accountancy South Africa magazine in October 2014