Ever since I was a baby, I have heard arguments about whether you should buy best-of-breed packaged software or suites. Suites had the appeal of common look and feel, integration across modules, shared data models and other advantages, but often could not match the feature/function depth of best of breed solutions. Additionally, they came with the risk of overdependence on the vendors or the curse of “lock-in”.
But what exactly is a suite? Something with 10+ modules? something with at least 2 modules? Something like Microsoft Office with Excel, Word, Powerpoint and Outlook? Wait, Microsoft Office Professional to include Project and a few other components?
In the 1990s, at Gartner (and at AMR and others) we tried to come up with a broad definition of an enterprise suite. It was called ERP – a much broader definition of a previous generation of MRP. But the definition was not clearly broad enough because we had to coin CRM, SCM, EAM and a whole bunch of other 3 letter acronyms a few years later. We also found ERP was too manufacturing centric. It did not address major “engines” in other industries – claims processing in insurance, merchandising in retail, reservation systems in travel, billing in utilities and telecom and on an on.
Gartner and others have tried to come up with broader definitions – Extended Enterprise, Enterprise 2.0 etc but none of them have stuck.
So, we have a situation where vendors with 3—4 accounting modules call themselves ERP and banking customers snicker when even fuller fledged ERP vendors offer to sell them suites – in their world fintech startups in London are redefining “suites” as they target wealth management, payment processing, currency trading and other aspects of their operations.
In politics, there have been a hilarious focus on size of human hands. I guess, we are entering a phase where we will be making similar jokes about the width of enterprise suites. About time – I for one was getting tired of the ancient arguments of best of breed versus suite