In 2020, CRM is more vital and meaningful than ever. In continuing our examination of reasons why, let’s now have a look at a very interesting conflict that has existed for some years now in the software industry, one which affects CRM a great deal: the “suite” versus best-of-breed. A suite is a group of products that is marketed as a total solution for a company so that they need not turn to another vendor. Best-of-breed means that a company chooses the best possible product for each area—accounting, manufacturing, tech support, CRM and so on—with no attention paid to any one provider. They are all integrated through an API.
Today, we have applications being developed and released at a mad rate. Part of the reason can be seen in the number of programmers out there—just look at open-source platform GitHub, which currently boasts a membership of 37 million programmers. With that kind of programming power, it’s no surprise that applications are being developed in record numbers.
This sheer volume of applications only makes the software world more complex for companies in search of new solutions. Fortunately, with the advent of advanced APIs, companies can utilize these applications and embed them into corporate data flow.
A Single Developer
One misconception that I see today is that a single developer can develop multiple different applications that will all excel in their specific areas.
All the way back in 1776, a book was published entitled The Wealth of Nations, written by Scottish economist Adam Smith. In this book, which formed the foundation of today’s capitalist economics, Smith pointed out that even the manufacture of one single product requires different workers with different roles. He wrote that the business of pin-maker (“pins” being the word for “nails” at the time) is “divided into a number of branches, of which the greater part are likewise peculiar trades. One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points it, a fifth grinds it at the top for receiving the head; to make the head requires two or three distinct operations; to put it on is a peculiar business, to whiten the pins is another; it is even a trade by itself to put them into the paper; and the important business of making a pin is, in this manner, divided into about eighteen distinct operations…”
The world today is far more complex than in the time of Adam Smith, and we can see how true his words ring just in the field of medicine. Going back 100 years, there were, for the most part, no medical “specialists.” Most doctors were general practitioners and could treat a very wide range of illnesses. Today, though, there is almost no such thing as a general practitioner. Just look into any hospital, and you’ll see cardiologists, orthopedic specialists, oncologists, neurologists, and many others, all experts in their areas. While each of them has studied medicine, none of them will touch you if your issue isn’t one in which they’re experts.
In short, one person cannot be great at everything, and with today’s complexity, I believe this is truer than ever. This is why I believe the best-of-breed approach is the right one, and that the “suite” approach is incorrect. With software, we’re dealing with the precise handling of data, and its flow from one process to the next. Anything less than the best at each point is unacceptable.
From the standpoint of a developer, a single development team could never, for example, jump from CRM to a quoting app, to document management. If a product is going to be great and compete in the marketplace, just a single application requires highly detailed R&D and an expert programming skillset. Therefore developers should focus on what they can do best.
Another issue with the “suite” approach is this: how does a developer decide which products to include in a suite? Out of the dozens of different categories of software, how is it decided that a majority of customers will need this particular set of tools?
And yet another problem is communication with prospects for each of these different products. In reality, each product requires its own marketing message, collateral materials, and sales communications. For the most part, trying to blend them all into one communication results in a failure.
Best of Breed: Workflow and API
One claimed benefit made by suite developers is that a suite will have a standard user interface for all the applications in the suite. My argument against that claim is that, working through an API, you’re going to have far superior applications, standard interface or no. And you’ll only be using the applications you really need.
With best-of-breed workflow automation, when you do need an additional application, it’s available. An example is my own Pipeliner CRM; we didn’t try and program an included support ticketing system because very few of our customers use it. We can, however, connect with a great one (Zendesk) through the API, and display the Zendesk data right there within Pipeliner.
Great functionality will beat the suite approach’s “convenience” every time. Let’s face it—great functionality is what you’re after to begin with. The best-of-breed application is easier to use, is more robust, and has superior features.
Concentration on a Single Task
A best-of-breed application has another advantage: it has been developed for a single purpose, and all of the development effort, including updates, have gone into it. An example is our own CRM. Last year, we averaged one update per month, with the improvement of over 3,000 items—all and only for CRM. We never could have done that if we were a suite.
Constantly improved APIs have made the integration of such applications into workflows more possible than ever. At Pipeliner, we utilize the very latest API technology, including REST and GraphQL. Such technology makes it possible to tailor the precise flow of data through a company.
Pipeliner CRM: One Thing Done Well
At Pipeliner, we concentrate on what we do best: manage customer data. Any business, especially one that is scaling to new levels, no matter what else it might need, will have to manage data. Managing data is what we do. We do it visually, and we do it extremely well. We make it possible for companies to integrate other applications, such as support ticketing, with CRM. The data from the ticketing system, which is best-of-breed, can then be displayed within our CRM.
As an example of how they integrate, let’s say that your company has prioritized your customers into levels A, B, C and D, with “A” being the most important. Let’s say one of your “A” customers has a support ticket. The ticketing system will handle it, but through CRM the account manager of that account is informed that their “A” customer has a support ticket. It doesn’t mean that the account manager will handle the support issue, but they’ll at least be able to keep track of it to ensure it is resolved for the client.
It might happen, too, that when the customer spoke to support and that ticket was issued, the customer had a question about an upgrade. That information will be right there in CRM, and the account manager can reach out to the customer and offer their assistance concerning the upgrade. At the same time, tech support will be able to see through CRM that the account manager is in touch with the customer, and they can coordinate, if need be, on the technical issue. This is a real live example of workflow automation using integrated best-of-breed applications.
There’s no real need for suites any more—with today’s APIs, you can integrate all the best possible software you can use. You end up with a “suite” of best-of-breed software that exactly fits your company’s needs.