Trends Toward Best-of-Breed Software in the Cloud Provide a Roadmap for Long-Term Field Service Software Investments

best-of-breed field service software investments

Learn how investing in integrated best-of-breed software systems provides an optimal investment path in today’s cloud-dominated software environment.

Today’s businesses are faced with a decade’s old question: Should I invest in one broad enterprise management suite or integrate several deep industry “best-of-breed” solutions to meet my business needs?

While the breadth vs. depth debate used to have strong pros and cons on either side, the emergence and acceptance of cloud software has virtually eliminated past advantages of the “suite” solution. Because of the cloud, the pendulum has swung to the best-of-breed option and given businesses dozens of reasons to integrate several software systems to meet each of their functional business needs.

In field service, for example, businesses need specialized field service software integrated to their legacy ERP investment to differentiate themselves from the competition and meet their customers’ growing demands. Having the best technology for every step of the business process is the only way to stand out today.

Why Cloud Encourages Best-of-Breed Business Software Adoption

Before we dive into the case for best-of-breed software investments, let’s take a look at how the maturation of cloud has laid the groundwork that is allowing best-of-breed systems to thrive today. In other words, cloud has become the prime enabler for best-of-breed. Here’s why:

    1. Affordability: Cloud investments not only have little to no up-front costs during installation since the servers aren’t installed on-site, cloud, or software as a service (SaaS), business models offer pay-as-you-go plans, which makes cash flow management and planning much easier.

    2. No in-house IT costs: Once cloud software is set up and installed, companies don’t have to support cloud-based systems in house, which frees IT teams to focus on other projects.

    3. Faster Deployment and Easier Integration: Deployments in the cloud can be done in days or weeks so business can start reaping results sooner. Cloud-to-cloud integrations are also simpler since it’s easier to scale to your business needs, add more users, integrate more systems, and offer more software updates.

    4. Immediate Updates: It can be difficult, inconvenient, or costly to update software on-premises, so many businesses choose to run on an outdated system rather than go through the hassle of upgrading. Cloud solutions continually push new advancements so you’re always using the latest, most advanced versions of the software.

    5. Stronger Security: Cloud servers are protected by failover capabilities, so if one server goes down, you get automatic failover between hardware platforms and disaster recovery services to bring up your server set in a separate data center so you don’t risk losing any data or experiencing system downtime.

The Case for Best-of-Breed Software Investment in the Cloud

Most businesses’ back-office software (ERP/distribution/accounting) investment was months or years in the making. On average, once a platform decision is made, studies suggest it stays in place for six years or more. This legacy deployment was probably led by the IT department driving countless planning and deployment meetings and included high internal and external costs.

Functional users like sales, HR, and finance have painful memories of long deployments timelines, missed deadlines, high acquisition costs and feature shortcomings requiring they change their operations to fit the software. Functional needs played second fiddle to the “enterprise” solution du jour.

Along the way, if you chose the right software partners, they’ve continued to enhance their product with annual upgrades. But back-office technology does not provide the depth of functionality needed in every area of the organization.

In the service industry, organizations are realizing a need for deep field service functionality, achieved through mobile, scheduling, and workforce management software. To compete today, organizations can no longer rely on pencil and paper field processes. And a back-office system, no matter how much it’s customized, can’t produce the efficiencies of a best-of-breed service management app.

Entering the Best-of-Breed Era

Over the last five years, the cost to develop applications is a fraction of what it used to be. That means the cost to invest in best-of-breed enterprise applications has also shrunk. With the maturation of cloud, the lower cost tools to develop and deploy software and mobile, the software sector has exploded with functional or even feature-based, “best of breed” solutions.

In the days where the case for “suite” was winning out, options for functional software plug-ins were limited. You either had to wait for the suite vendor to offer a solution, customize the solution yourself (and maintain it), or source a vendor that had built an on-premises customized solution. These projects tended to be monolithic (project management, long development, IT involvement, continuous support for each upgrade).

Today, the options for best-of-breed are exponential and affordable given cloud deployment, making it a no-brainer for businesses to invest in an app to meet the specific needs of their industry or department.

Best-of-Breed Software Ensures Investment Security

A main benefit of investing in best-of-breed software is the incremental upgrade path to build a customized business solution. As an example, a business may have selected their ERP solution five years ago. It works well, staff is trained, and the business is leveraging operational benefits from it.

During these five years, the company may have added to better manage their sales, Hubspot for lead generation and marketing automation, Workday for HR/finance, and Service Pro for field service operations management.

Each of these add-ons are cloud-based, best-of-breed solutions that weren’t contemplated at the time of the back-office deployment. The advantage is that the business now has a system built on configurable components. The cloud suppliers are “built for integration.” Should the company upgrade to a cloud-based ERP solution, their migration path is straight forward, and their investment in other functional solutions is preserved.

Conclusion: Make Easy Configuration a Priority to Extend the Life of Your Software

Going from legacy system to legacy system is no longer an option if you want to succeed in service going forward. Since best-of-breed cloud vendors expect a high level of integration needs in their customer base, using a variety of deep, departmental-specific systems leaves the door open for future migration and adaption. Best-of-breed solutions extend your investment and allow you to serve your customers better without investing extra resources on managing software configurations, upkeep, and integrations.

Cloud 101: A Buyer’s Guide to Managing Field Service in the Cloud

Cloud opens the door to implementing a new depth of software functionality to fulfill each of your specific business needs. Use this guide to prepare your team for a transition to managing field service in the cloud.