Single-Stack or Best of Breed: Which path will you choose?
When it comes to your property management and accounting technology strategy there are two very different teams of thought. We’ve decided to explore the benefits and drawbacks of both options and give you some additional input from our own experiences to help make this difficult decision.
So what is what?
On one side we have the organizations on the “single-stack” team. Single-stack software organizations aim to offer a platform that includes all features and functionality for customers within a single system or “stack”. All aspects of the platform are developed, maintained and managed by a single technology provider. Single-stack providers may allow for limited integration of third-party solutions but more often than not the systems are locked down in a way that makes integration too difficult, costly or time-consuming.
This differs from open systems which allow for a “best of breed” philosophy. An open system is a software platform that typically features an open API, allowing you to integrate whatever you want into the system. These were designed to have a single core system, with limited focus, and then integrate modules or systems from multiple third-party providers to provide a more complete end solution for users. Best of breed approaches allow organizations to pick and choose which technologies are best for each business role, niche or category. While open systems are known to perform specialized functions better than single-stack solutions, they can be limited by their area of specialty and will either require integration with your other platforms or even more complicated, be utilized separately.
With either approach, you have to understand and remember how this will impact the actual users. A single-stack solution can be more user friendly as far as single sign-on and a single source for support, but the desired functionality may not be there. At the same time, users may get all the functionality they want with a best of breed approach, but this complicates login, maintenance and reporting.
Let’s dive deeper into the benefits and drawbacks of each.
|Single source for all of your technology needs||Risk – “all of your eggs in one basket”|
|Single contract||Long-term contracts|
|Large, well-known industry players||Can provider accommodate growth and changing needs|
|Leverage discounts when adding new solutions||At their mercy – provider dictates timeline for all fixes and improvements|
|Single sign on (or at least fewer than most)|
|Single source for support|
Best of Breed Approach
|Niche technology, best at what they do||Narrow focus, limited to specialty|
|Narrow focus gives more options and functionality to a specific specialization||Must manage multiple systems/integrations|
|Updates can be rolled out without impacting other systems (if not integrated)||Limits to cross-connectivity|
|Respond quickly to market changes and customization requests||Often multiple logins to manage|
|Difficult to maintain|
|Oftentimes smaller organizations that may not be able to accommodate growth|
Which methodology is best for me?
When it comes to choosing a technology methodology for your organization you need to ask yourself what is going to work for my organization. Do you place greater value on the benefit of a single provider and single source for all of your technology needs, or is it more important for you to get the best technology to support each job function?
As a company executive you may feel the draw of single-stack, one contract, one contact and volume discounts, a no-brainer. As a technology executive you may immediately be drawn to the best of breed and open systems where the possibilities are endless.
At JDR, we’d say that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. We are often brought into organizations in a technology advisory role. Their technology stack is a hodgepodge of systems that have been acquired or custom built over time without the proper planning and foresight from the start. If this sounds like you, the most important thing you can do is take a step back and assess what you have now, what is working, what is not working, what you are still missing and your goals for the future. Once this is all on paper, it’s easier to make better decisions and form a real technology strategy and roadmap for what you have now and where you need to be.
Single-stack is great for some, but you can’t always get exactly what you want, when you want it. Because of this, we often recommend a hybrid approach where your primary technology tools are with a single technology provider but do allow some wiggle room for outliers when they just can meet your needs and demands. This approach gives your organization the structure you need but allows for flexibility when it makes sense. Your software should never dictate your workflow processes or hinder future business potential.
If you’d like to learn more about our technology advisory and business process review services, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.