Best of Breed Multiple Platforms vs Single Solution Platform

We are often asked by clients during discovery engagements if it is worth retaining some of their existing HR solutions and integrate into a best of breed stack of solutions or move to a single platform. Either option can work dependent on the clients’ needs but there are several pros and cons to take into consideration when weighing up which approach is best for your organisation. 

Best of Breed 

Best of breed is defined as having multiple software applications/vendors to service each specific business need. 

Pros

  • Each application offers strong functionality and a richer domain offering.  
  • Innovation release cycle is quicker to market – leading edge. 
  • Specific licensing models are ring fenced to relevant populations within the module. 
  • Quick to implement, smaller, agile, less stakeholders and typically less system dependencies to consider.
  • Lower implementation costs, typically implementation is offered by the vendor at a low entry point and costs fixed or capped price.   
  • Passionate and more personal communities 
  • More flexible vendor support, smaller operators are willing to go the extra mile.
  • Vendor is more open to further development/enhancement requests and meeting the client’s needs.   (Can be a double-edged sword).
  • Higher retention of internal application support staff as less opportunities in the external market.  
  • Often driven or supported by loyal internal product evangelists who are highly motivated and have autonomy and domain to succeed.  

Cons

  • Integrations can be difficult.  While APIs are offered as a standard but getting the various solution providers to work together and play nicely is challenging and also comes at a cost. As a result of this you will often static daily CSV exports/imports being used, or duplicate data entry required across the various applications.
  • There is more work involved with integrations for regression testing when there are code changes, updates, or improvements to the systems.
  • Duplication of data between systems.
  • Hard to recruit specialised application support staff due to smaller numbers of organisations using platforms.
  • Scalability may be an issue for future needs.
  • Business risk of managing multiple vendor procurement relationships, often smaller players get acquired by larger companies. 
  • Small independents are always chasing new clients to grow which can cause resource conflicts when it comes to implementation leading to delays.  This can also impact on support post implementation.
  • License cost per module is significantly more than a single platform per module.
  • Non-functional requirements are not always able to be satisfied. The expectation on security, privacy, environments, hosting locations is now often above what the small operators can accommodate.  Results in clients requiring minimum expectations in this space.  
  • Increased costs with training support staff across multiple platforms/applications.
  • There is a higher degree of support required and ongoing maintenance 
    • Multiple release cycles and restrictive time frames increase testing support 
    • Cross-skilling internal support team is challenging and typically results in a larger internal support team.
    • Integration support is challenging – monitoring and triaging of failed integrations.
    • Creating and maintaining support documentation can be challenging given multiple products.
  • Applications linked to smaller independents can result in the application no longer being developed or improved after a certain period of time resulting in the product no longer being supported.

Single Solution Platform 

Single Solution Platform is defined as single application/vendor that provides the full functionality required across the suite of HR domains. 

Pros

  • Seamless data sharing between modules within the platform. Single source of truth.
  • Typically, in our experience there is now between 85-90% functionality fit between best of breed and single platform modules solutions.  
  • Configuration options are vast within a single platform and out of the box. 
  • Investing in a product that is fully scalable for future needs.
  • Single throat to choke – risk management for the vendor relationship. 
  • The single platform providers are stable, established and very profitable organisations’ service will not be impacted.
  • Vendors spend significant amounts on R&D each year therefore ongoing improvements and additional functionality
  • Extensible platforms – platform provides an app store for partner providers to develop and build functionality using the products frameworks. 
  • Access to a large support resource pool locally and globally.  
  • Huge worldwide community, most problems solved, or solutions offered by peers.
  • Follow the sun support models – support anytime, anywhere.  
  • Out of the box modules, processes, fields. Ability to adopt not adapt – all providers have a concept of a model company.
  • Two release cycles a year, one large and another cosmetic which reduces support burden. 
  • Easier to recruit specialised application support staff who are certified due to platform being used by a larger portion of the market.

Cons

  • Significant implementation investment up to 3-5 times the cost of the annual licenses for implementation. 
  • License for platform and modules based on core HR solution population which often does not equate to need eg Workforce Analytics or Succession Planning.  
  • Potential for module underutilization (shelf ware). Many customers sold on modules with future intent as the bundle price for the core platform is negligible. 
  • Need to watch for true single platform or stitched together best of breed, not all platform providers are equal. 
  • Support models heavily depend on trawling support communities for reference material.
  • Innovation release cycle longer lags, competing with:
    • Multiple module development space – prioritising enhancements. 
    • New product offerings within vendor stack.
    • New config based on community voting – high volume required and more weighting given to large multinationals. 
  • Lots of ‘add on products’ – platform’s always wanting to expand their footprint into customer
  • Change management is significant as typically rolled out in large functionality chunks. 
  • Huge cost and overhead to revert once you have a single platform implemented. 
  • High cost to train and have qualified support resources. Single platforms have a certification process. 
  • Retention of support staff – always competing with the external market for platform providers.