SalesTech Star

Best-of-Breed vs. Best-of-Suite: What’s Next for for IT Software 

By Jackson Shaw, Chief Strategy Officer, Clear Skye 

2020 has been a transformative year for technology. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed not only our priorities, but where and how people get work done. While the adjustment hasn’t been easy for many businesses, it’s also surfaced some of the software issues that plague many organizations and forced them to deal with it head-on. For instance, workforce enablement—which in previous years, has only been considered a mid-ranking priority for technology leaders—has jumped to one of the top three business priorities, according to the 2020 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey

It’s not a matter of if organizations want to create improved working environments, but before the advent of largely remote work, other priorities have taken precedence. Additionally, the tactical part of introducing new and better processes—financial, talent, training and education on new systems, integration with existing systems, etc.—can be daunting. However, the ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ mentality is wearing thin, and for businesses to succeed, workforce enablement needs to be a big part of the equation. 

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Even moreso than a time constraint or hesitancy of a big system overhaul is the historical focus on best-of-breed solutions that don’t necessarily all play well together, and thus, hinder workforce enablement. But there’s a fundamental shift happening in the enterprise software landscape. The best-of-breed SaaS application is going to be replaced by “best-of-suite” SaaS applications. Businesses have started to realize that the benefit of multiple best of breed solutions is no longer outweighing the seamless experience that companies want for their employees. Multiple best of breed solutions require too much context-switching for employees. 

In fact, a lot of companies have already made big investments towards being best-of-suite vendors. Salesforce, and ServiceNow—who although are all approaching this space from a different angle—are very successfully achieving this. Salesforce connects marketing, sales, commerce, service and IT teams from anywhere to offer the best customer experience. ServiceNow connects disparate technology to reduce the complexity of employees’ jobs through a modern digital workflow. The common theme here is not offering the best solution for the one task, but creating an all-encompassing solution for the many. 

Just last month, identity platform Okta announced the $6.5 million acquisition of Auth0, another smaller player in the identity space. Okta CEO Todd McKinnon said the move was part of the company’s push to be one of the five or six primary clouds—including the aforementioned Salesforce and ServiceNow—that customers will turn to as market leaders. Unfortunately, this is likely a losing game for Okta. While identity is a vital part of a company’s security stack, it’s just that—a part. Rather than emerge as a primary cloud player, it’s more likely that Okta will ultimately be acquired by one of the existing powerhouses who don’t already have a robust identity offering. And let’s face it: Microsoft, Amazon, ServiceNow, Salesforce, and the other cloud providers haven’t made their intentions in the identity space known yet—but they’ll be hard to compete with when they do.

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Despite what will happen with Okta and its big bet on Auth0, it’s easy to understand why its sights are set on becoming a best-of-suite solution. Increased productivity and ability to streamline tasks is nice a byproduct of workforce enablement, but there are other extremely important factors at play, too. First, organizations want to eliminate the internal silos of multiple, different applications that employees have to use and be trained on. Second, they want to significantly consolidate their data silos in order to unlock the potential of important insights – such as identity data – integrated with their business-critical data. Third, they also want to break down the barriers between IT and the business, which means empowering their workforce by providing a common set of tools that all employees can use together, to solve problems.

Consider extending the power of working with a common spreadsheet or word processing package to digital workflows and designs or having low- or no-code capabilities that enable all employees to participate in a company’s strategy or goals. The need for streamlined and secure operations has only been exacerbated by the work from home realities of the past year. Unencumbered by IT staff and left to their own devices, employees will do what they need to get work done—even if that means resorting to ‘bad’ habits. Best-of-suite solutions enable friendly UX and security to prevail in a way that numerous different best-of-breed solutions simply cannot. 

While best-of-breed solutions have their place, the real winners in the software market over the next few years will be the ones that prioritize the interconnected nature of today’s workflow. Even as vaccine rates accelerate, restrictions loosen, and some employers start to return to physical office locations, it’s unlikely that work will ever return to the way it was. Growing pains aside, we’ve learned how we can work effectively even while apart, and to arm people with the tools and technologies they need to succeed. Workforce enablement—as seen by the major cloud players and wannabes alike—is the next wave of software, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in a post-pandemic world. 

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