Best-of-breed vs Integrated Portfolio: The building blocks of success

There is one question I get asked more than any other: Should I invest in best-of-breed products or an integrated portfolio?

Technology essentially provides the building blocks on which we can build solutions to deliver value to the business.  Each of the individual building blocks needs to meet the design brief.  However, key to project success is the ability for those building blocks to work together.  So how do you choose?

This is a concept many of us were faced with very early in life, and for those of us with children, get to re-live all over again.  Building blocks are one of the first real opportunities for children to create masterpieces of their own design.  So how do they choose which blocks to use?

First and foremost they trawl through the blocks on offer and pick those that meet their design brief – most often related to their favourite colour.  They pick the reddest red, the bluest blue, and the most golden yellow.  Once they’ve collected all the blocks that meet the brief, they start to build.

Herein lies the problem: if they’ve only chosen based on colour, how do they know whether the blocks will all fit together?  If they are fortunate enough to live in an organised household this won’t be a problem as mum or dad would have already organised the different types of building blocks into different boxes.  In our disorganised house, they may not be so lucky!

This is where many designs, both in kids’ masterpieces and analytical solutions, fall down.  Without pieces that are inherently designed to work together you can find yourself with an incomplete solution that doesn’t deliver the business value you were expecting.

Sure, you can try to manipulate and mold the problem piece to fit the rest of the solution, but that is an extremely costly and risky approach with no guarantee of success.  In the world of technology, it also exposes you to unnecessary risk that individual components may no longer work together after an upgrade.

The alternative is to select building blocks that are already designed to work together.  When you think about the decades of scientific research and mathematical analysis that has gone into designing the perfect Lego block that clicks but doesn’t catch, it makes complete sense to build a masterpiece solely of Lego blocks knowing that you are giving yourself the best chance of success.

So why would technology be any different?

Some vendors invest significant research and development resources into making sure individual components of their analytics portfolio work seamlessly with each other – so that you don’t have to.  This not only reduces the overall cost of implementation, but more importantly minimises the risk of an incomplete solution and increases your chance of success.

This is one of the key reasons I choose to work for IBM each and everyday.  The IBM Business Analytics portfolio provides an integrated suite of building blocks to create analytical solutions that deliver real business benefit.  In this case the building blocks come in the form of:

Should I invest in best-of-breed products or an integrated portfolio?  If I had to choose I’d invest in an integrated portfolio to minimise the risk to my business and ensure success.  In over a decade, I’ve never heard of an analytical project that failed because of a missing feature or function.  I do, however, know of many that never delivered the value promised because they couldn’t get the individual components to work together.

Fortunately you don’t have to choose.  Each of the individual building blocks in the IBM Business Analytics portfolio also happens to be in the leaders quadrant in major analyst reports, meaning you don’t have to compromise between a best-of-breed or portfolio approach – you can have the best of both worlds.