The Lowest Common Denominator
Being all things to all people is a tough proposition. Providers of suite-based enterprise software have to develop or acquire all the possible tools an enterprise might need. If the goal is to get companies to buy most or all of your products, it's surely difficult to develop each piece so that it fits or appeals to as many types of business as possible. Businesses, even within a specific industry, are unique; they have different needs, different customers, different management styles, and different cultures. For suite-based products, R&D and product development investment is spread across the whole suite, instead of being concentrated on any one application or functional area. Each product release within a given product silo must be tested and proven to cause no problems across the rest of the suite. Sounds like a lot of work!
Suite Providers Find Themselves Left out of the Game
Another thing to consider is that suite providers are in competition with literally everyone in each market for each of their products. So, for example, NetSuite offers a CRM solution within both of its main product suites. Many companies looking to move their financials and accounting system to a cloud-based multi-tenant architecture will consider NetSuite as an option. Many of those organizations will already have a CRM system in place, and it's certainly no secret that the dominant player in the CRM space, especially in the cloud, is Salesforce.com. Salesforce has proven to be a transformational product and its expansion into the Platform-as-a-Service realm with Force.com has allowed companies to extend its scope and functionality beyond CRM and case management. Salesforce integrates with many other cloud and legacy systems via open APIs, allowing companies to create the perfect ecosystem of applications on which to run their business. But Salesforce is also in direct competition with NetSuite as a CRM provider. So, I'd like you to do something (this blog post just became interactive!): Go to the Salesforce AppExchange (https://appexchange.salesforce.com/) and search for "Intacct," the best-of-breed financial management system that is also cloud-based and multi-tenant. You'll get the following result:
It's a dedicated page that shows a deep partnership and integration between the systems with more than 130 reviews - the vast majority of them positive. Now search for "NetSuite," and this is what you'll find:
A list of "middleware" products you'll have to buy and install so that the systems can talk to one another. So this is my point: not only do suite-based systems get watered down in order to be all things to all people (and fail to do so), but they also limit your ability to connect them to the systems you already have OR to the best-in-class systems that are out there that will enable peak performance for your business or nonprofit.
I'll give you an example: If you run an Oilfield, Industrial, or Environmental Services company, you need not only accounting capabilities, but also electronic field ticketing capabilities, AND you would want the systems that provide those two functions to talk to one another. Well, in searching for the best electronic field ticketing software, you'll likely come across FieldFX from LiquidFrameworks. It's designed precisely for those industries, down to even emulating the whiteboards most of those companies have used for years to track jobs, equipment, people, and certifications, but doing so digitally and running on rugged tablets even when they're unable to connect to the internet out in the remote oil patch.
FieldFX is a Force.com application, so it integrates natively with Salesforce. It also uses published APIs to integrate with other best-of-breed applications, like Intacct. You can bet a suite-based provider won't have developed functionality so specifically designed for the unique requirements of an industry the way LiquidFrameworks has. So by choosing a suite, you are excluded from playing in the ecosystem of industry-leading products like Intacct, FieldFX, and Salesforce, unless you want to pay more money for middleware applications to get you a ticket into the game.
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