Comparing an all in one platform versus a best of breed platform

February 8, 2020 in Manage Training



Comparing an all in one platform versus a best of breed platform

Choosing new online platforms for your organisation can feel a little overwhelming. A common problem is a choice between an ‘all in one’ system and multiple best of breed platforms.

The temptation of ‘all in one’ platforms

Your organisation is often dealing with issues on multiple fronts. There are strategic goals to achieve, along with general efficiency improvements to implement. Every day is a series of battles with multiple problems. Not surprisingly, it would feel fantastic if you could solve all these problems and start to get ahead.

This is the common starting point for many organisations: let’s find something to solve all our problems.

But therein lies the catch. You have to find a solution that actually solves all these problems. For human resources and training teams, these problems can include:

  • Employee recruitment
  • Employee payroll
  • Employee onboarding
  • Employee induction
  • Compliance training
  • Compliance policies
  • Employee engagement
  • Employee review processes
  • Knowledge management
  • Process and systems training
  • Leadership and personal development training
  • Remuneration processes
  • Certification management
  • And more!

Then you see a platform which ‘does it all’. But can it? It’s easy to list features on a website or brochure, but can one platform really do everything – and do everything well?

All too often, ‘do it all’ platforms are hiding a secret. They are actually very good at some things, but everything else is tacked on. You end up with a multi-use tool that’s great at one thing and useless at everything else.

Now you have an even bigger problem. You have probably justified the purchase of this platform as the ‘one solution. Now you are stuck with it. There is unlikely to be extra budget allocated at this point as your business case probably explicitly stated that you wouldn’t need any extra budget. Ultimately, you are stuck with a huge new ‘all in one’ platform system that doesn’t actually solve all your problems.

Where did ‘all in one’ platforms come from?

Let’s start with stakeholders and consider how the ‘all in one’ platform came into being.

Through the 2000s as cloud platforms started to emerge, there was a focus on process. Simplifying internal processes was the goal. Not surprisingly, two trends emerged.

  1. A focus on platform administration to make for easier processes…at the expense of a positive online experience for employees. These platforms placed administration as the priority. This is putting the needs of the few admin stakeholders ahead of the needs of the majority of employee users.
  2. A focus on platforms buying competitors or tacking on more processes. As a result, many ‘all in one’ platforms are actually made up of different systems acquired over time and hobbled together…at the expense of those systems having completely different architecture and data structures. This is putting quantity (‘solve more problems’) over quality (‘actually solve those problems’).

It can be extremely tempting to look at ‘one platform which does it all’. It seems like it should simplify things and, in some ways, it might. The problem is one of meeting expectations. An ‘integrated’ platform often doesn’t work as you might expect. Their ‘integrations’ are internal (between the various parts of the platform) and often not well implemented.

Essentially, ‘all in one’ platforms are a relic of the 2000s before application integrations become easy and common. Today, specialist platforms have ‘application program interfaces’ – APIs – which allow to easy and powerful cross-platform integrations. As so arises an ‘ecosystem of apps’. A best of breed approach.

How do best of breed platforms differ?

‘Best of breed’ platforms are specialists. That doesn’t necessarily mean they do just one thing.

‘Best of breed’ platforms may actually address several problems at once, but they don’t try to address every problem at once.  They are focused on selected problems, driving deep into those issues without worrying about solving every possible related problem.

This combination of focus, combined with the need for ‘best of breed’ platforms to excel at integration, has given rise to a new ‘ecosystem of apps’ approach which is replacing the more traditional ‘all in one’ approach.

Consider analysis from independent technology experts such as Josh Bresin – HR Tech’s dirty little secret or Lynne Capozzi – Best of Breed vs All in one: Why is this still a debate?.

Stop for a moment and really consider how ‘all in one’ versus ‘best of breed’ platforms stack up in 2020 (not in 2010).

Integrations

This isn’t even close. ‘Best of breed’ platforms have a dominant win with integrations – they are made from the ground up to be open and ready for integrations. ‘All in one’ platforms are conversely propriety and closed with external integrations a competitive threat to their business model.

Support

This is another clear win for ‘Best of breed’ which are specialists in their fields. Support from ‘best of breed’ platforms tends to be specialist consultants with deep expertise in their field. Support staff at ‘all in one’ platforms are like general consultants – they know a little about everything.

Implementation

‘All in one’ platforms require a ‘big bang’ implementation. You are committing to a massive implementation project with a single vendor. ‘Best of breed’ platforms are more focused, with smaller objectives and easy implementation from specialist support staff. You can more easily manage the incremental implementation of platforms over time.

Flexibility

There is no comparison here. ‘Best of breed’ platforms can be swapped out if they aren’t working as planned. The ‘all in one’ solution locks you into that platform for everything. Leaving, even for just one specialist area, is expensive (no discounts from the vendor if you don’t use a feature) and difficult (due to the lack of integrations). It’s not double or nothing – it’s all or nothing.

Innovation

Once again, ‘best of breed’ takes the win – every platform in your ecosystem of apps can be innovating and developing. With an ‘all in one’ platform, innovation is shared around the platform – often with no improvements for months or years in some areas of the platform while all attention is given to other areas which need improvement. If you read reviews of ‘all in one’ platforms, you often discover they are broad in approach but lack depth in features.

What does a best of breed platform mean for you?

When organisations start the journey to find a new platform, they often have a list of desired use cases and associated features. The platforms you choose to fit in with your needs. That’s what a ‘best of breed’ approach can do – bring in the best of each to fit your needs.

With an ‘all in one’ platform, it is often the other way around – you will need to fit in with that one platform’s approach to everything. It is impossible to avoid compromise. And for what gain? Simply to have ‘one platform’? Yet if that platform doesn’t actually solve required problems, compromises on features and delivers less suitable options than a ‘best of breed’ approach, what is the point exactly?

Ultimately, choosing platforms which are ‘best of breed’ is the sensible choice for modern organisations looking to choose platforms based on current technologies.

Tribal Habits is your ‘best of breed’ platform for learning. It is focused on the capture and transfer of knowledge with simple but powerful tools built for that purpose. We don’t try to also be your onboarding platform, recruitment platform, employee engagement platform or help desk software. Our APIs and spreadsheet uploads and downloads allow you to plug us into other platforms as needed. And if you need help choosing those other platforms, we can happily share our knowledge of platforms which can build an ecosystem suitable for your organisation.