One Integrated System Or A Multi-vendor Solution? What’s Best For Your Business?
Cloud computing has undeniably democratized the way businesses operate. Software technology that was once available at exorbitant costs to only the world's wealthiest corporations as ERP solutions are now available at a fraction of the cost.
Over the past two decades, the pay-as-you-use SaaS (Software as a Service) model has been made available to even the small and medium sized businesses as tools that can automate business processes, help gain insights, and improve productivity.
Any organization can pick from a wide range of business software providers to find a powerful tool to succeed in the competitive business landscape.
However, this bounty of choice is both a blessing and a curse, and camouflages one of the biggest challenges for companies of all sizes: building a tightly-integrated enterprise where different departments work cohesively.
As businesses begin to scale
When they begin, most organizations start with three to seven applications that automate a few essential aspects of their business process. Most notably, they manage their online presence (websites, social media), key sales processes (CRM), and collaboration tools (Document editor).
They do this by finding the cheapest and also the quickest way to automate, even if it means purchasing software from different vendors.
But as businesses grow, this ad hoc approach will become a disadvantage. As companies gain more customers they have to add more employees, deliver a consistent customer service, automate more processes ... things become more complex.
Some of the acute pain points in a multi-vendor solution include:
▪ Multiple invoicing leading to complex billing cycles
▪ Multiple logins hindering ease of operations
▪ Heightened possibility of security breaches
▪ Multiple interfaces creating inconsistent user experience
▪ Anxiety over getting stuck with old technology
▪ Bearing exorbitant costs of integrating different software
▪ Possibility of some single-solution vendors going out of business
▪ Difficulty to expand dynamically
Businesses that find themselves in this predicament have now started exploring options like unified cloud platforms that offer a broad spectrum of services.
Manage your business, not the software
One of the advantages of moving to a unified cloud platform is the time it frees up for IT departments. They are better off spending a majority of their time innovating and simplifying automations than figuring ways to keep the disparate systems working with each other.
Organizations that work with multi-vendor solutions run the risk of isolating entire departments in their organizations. When departments work in silos and there is no fluent communication between teams, business lose out on important intelligence and data.
Ideally, businesses want a reliable technology framework on which they can build and scale at will.
How to select the cloud platform?
Identifying the right cloud platform will make the transition easier.
The obvious question becomes: How to select the platform? What does a platform even mean? What criterion do businesses consider?
Let us take a three-pronged approach to this and consider the three main aspects that come into play for business process automation.
- Applications: Business applications are the most visible and obvious part of making a decision. Does the cloud platform have apps that help the business run while also being scalable?Are there enough apps that address the different departments - sales, marketing, customer support, project management, HR, Finance, etc.
- Services: Does the cloud platform have services that operate across apps to break down silos? Services such as organization-wide Search, Business Analytics, AI, and communication channels will help one's business operate seamlessly.
- Platform: How robust is the platform itself? Does it allow the organization to build customized apps? How flexible is the platform when it comes to integrating with other third party services?
Key advantage of a unified platform
The unified platform can address the pain points of a multi-vendor solution, provided the organization using it does so with due diligence and a strategic outlook.
There are several direct benefits that organizations can immediately expect to see moving into a unified cloud platform - a simple billing cycle, single sign on possibility, enhanced security, uniform user experience, ease of on-boarding, and cost savings on IT infrastructure.
The indirect benefits of moving to a unified platform will slowly emerge as the organization begins to scale its operations. The time taken to complete some business processes will reduce and organizations can work their ROI benefits by calculating the number of man hours saved.
The article's author, Karthik Subramanian, is a marketer with , the Operating System for Business. Zoho One is an integrated solution from Zoho, and is an industry first offering of its kind with over 45+ business applications built on the top of an unified services and platform available at an extremely affordable price.