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Supply Chain Software Buyers Guide
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Guest steve shifley
  Is there a general consensus as to whether best of breed systems are better or worse?
  Edy Chuck Schaeffer
    There is less of a consensus and more of a historical pattern whereby supply chain software innovation is brought to market quickly, often as narrow best of breed point solutions, and then over time morphs into a broader suites (sometimes through organic growth, but more often via acquisition).

Companies seeking hard to find functionality, available only in best of breed supply chain software, will acquire those applications and then invest in the system integration in order to benefit from the specialized functionality.

However, as supply chain applications evolve, they accumulate more and more features and tend to mature into suites. Those single vendor suites often then trump more narrowly focused point solutions as SCM products reliant on multiple vendors impose additional cost and risk in systems integration, user training, system administration, new version upgrades and the all too frequent problem of multiple vendor finger-pointing during support issues.

Best of breed software solutions can deliver additional functionality, however, that should be weighed against additional costs in the forms of integration and user complexities stemming from learning, operating and upgrading different systems from different vendors at different times. It's rare for multiple vendor systems to consolidate customer and inventory information in single views for a complete picture or follow consistent practices with regard to the user interface, navigation and keystroke sequencing, which thereby puts an increased learning curve on the user community.

System operation and administration issues born from best of breed systems are many and include important questions such as what happens when one of the vendors launches a system upgrade or a new point release? How are SLAs (service level agreements) measured when the source of the error is unclear? What happens when the software vendors fail to get together to identify and resolve bugs, errors or issues? If one software vendor in a multiple vendor solution has software, data center or customer service problems, does is impact or interrupt the other integrated applications? Is it feasible or even possible to develop and automate business processes that cross multiple vendor applications and can it be done cost effectively? How will you manage without a single point of contact for support and problem response with multiple vendor integrated systems? What additional steps can you put in place so that resolution time frames don't exacerbate system downtime or result in a loss of user confidence?

It's important to also understand that not all "integrated suites" are equally integrated. When reviewing the integrations among suites or multiple software solutions, looking beyond superficial interfaces can reveal serious implications.

Although well documented APIs and Web services have eased platform integration, integrating supply chain systems with legacy ERP systems is usually time consuming, expensive and fraught with small difficulties. The integration routines are often relegated to batch processes of staged data which may thereby defeat the goal of real-time information across the supply chain.

Comparing best of breed supply chain systems with single vendor supply chain software suites generally becomes an exercise of weighing unique or increased functionality against user benefits (ease of use across applications), IT benefits (ease of system administration, upgrades, etc.) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). While suite solutions may reduce IT headaches, multiple vendor solutions may accommodate unique business processes which deliver competitive advantage.





Supply Chain Software Buyers Guide



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