What Is Best-of-Breed Technology?

“Best-of-breed technology” refers to the leading applications, systems, or software in a niche or category. 

When organisations take a best-of-breed (or “best-in-breed technology”) approach to building their technology stack, it involves selecting various tools that serve specific purposes. Put another way, instead of purchasing a product suite from a single vendor that tries to cover multiple bases, it means adopting specialised solutions from many vendors, and integrating them. 

For example, a business can select a human resources solution from one vendor (e.g., Workday), a customer relationship manager from a different provider (e.g., Salesforce), and a communication platform from yet another company (e.g., Slack). This helps guarantee that employees are using the best solution for each function of their job.

With the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer look at how using best-of-breed technology compares to single-vendor solutions, and how organisations of every size can benefit from adopting best-in-breed software.

Best-of-breed vs. single-vendor solutions

As we mentioned above, a best-of-breed system enables businesses to mix and match specialised technology services from multiple vendors. A single-vendor approach, on the other hand, is when a business uses a suite of products from the same vendor. Take Microsoft for example: when businesses subscribe to Office 365, they gain access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Teams, and a handful of other applications—which can also be paired with directory tools such as Active Directory and Azure AD. 

Single-vendor solutions are appealing because they can be deployed across an organisation all at once. The problem with this, however, is that employees would then have to rely primarily on the products in a suite, regardless of whether they’re the best solution for the task. This can result in having to use programs and databases that aren’t fit for the purpose or reach end-of-life and are no longer supported by the vendor. By being tied to one suite of products, you also run the risk of shadow IT, whereby employees circumvent security to download tools that they prefer, but aren’t approved by your business—posing significant security risks to your organisation.

The single-vendor approach can also make businesses more vulnerable to threats, as flaws in one product will often be present across the entire suite. In addition, it may restrict an organisation’s ability to innovate as they have to wait for vendors to release new versions and features.

At first glance, taking a best-of-breed approach seems complicated, as it involves working with multiple vendors that all have their own way of billing and supporting businesses. But when done successfully, organisations can combine all of their best-of-breed technology into one fully integrated system.

Pros and cons of using best-of-breed technology

Before deciding whether or not to use best-of-breed technology, you should weigh the pros and cons. While the advantages and disadvantages listed below can apply to organisations of any size, we’ve included some specific considerations for large enterprises, as well as small or medium-sized businesses (SMBs) so you can make a more informed choice.

Advantages of best-of-breed technology

  • Expert solutions: By taking a best-of-breed approach, businesses can handpick applications based on the features and functions that they require—and feel confident they’re using the best tools across the organisation, whether it’s a CRM platform, accounting dashboard, or marketing solution. 
  • Rapid innovation: Best-of-breed companies tend to be built on the latest, most modern technology. As relative upstarts, they are laser focused on solving a single problem, and designed to adapt quickly to changes in requirements or the market. As such, they’re more likely to drive innovation than a “full suite" solution. 
  • Growth opportunities: A best-of-breed approach gives SMBs the opportunity to start small and expand their technology stack alongside their growing business. 
  • Greater choice: Smaller companies sometimes only need software for limited amounts of time or for specific projects. Best-of-breed technology makes it easier for them to find a suitable solution—without committing to an expensive suite of products for the long-term.
  • Rapid ROI: Best-of-breed applications are often quicker to deploy and with intuitive design, are easier for end users to adopt than full product suites, which means a faster return on investment. 
  • Greater end user productivity: When employees are able to use the tools and systems that can help them succeed in their specific departments and roles, productivity increases.
  • Smooth integrations: Best-of-breed solutions are designed to be highly flexible, and often able to integrate with other best-of-breed technology, allowing organisations to connect multiple systems for more efficient workflows.
  • Tighter security: Selecting a suite of products is a big commitment, and organisations taking that route risk being locked into a system that isn’t fully tailored to their needs or becomes outdated quickly. Deploying best-in-breed technology ensures that patches, upgrades, and additional security requirements can be made without affecting larger workflows—regardless of release cycles.

Disadvantages of best-of-breed technology

  • Complexity: A best-of-breed approach means large enterprises may have to deal with multiple systems, databases, and vendors. This can contribute to a number of complications during end-user training, network orchestration, and troubleshooting, among other onboarding issues.
  • IT experience: Integrating third-party tools can be a difficult and time-intensive task, especially for smaller organisations that lack the technical know-how, manpower or infrastructure.
  • Data overload: Organisations that choose to use multiple software solutions may struggle when it comes to data sharing and integration. For example, using various systems can result in compromised data integrity, manual data entry, and redundant storage. Enterprises may also need to pay for expensive warehousing solutions in order to access and manage company, employee, and customer information.
  • Large investment: If best-of-breed solutions aren’t well managed, the cost of ownership can be significant—especially for SMBs. Not to mention, managing multiple licensing agreements and vendor relationships may require a substantial time investment.
  • Inconsistent appearance: Some large enterprises prefer that all applications and systems used by employees have a consistent look. While best-of-breed applications are generally more modern than suite solutions, consistency in design may not be possible with a best-of-breed approach.

The power of integration

As businesses across industries seek to develop customised technology stacks that meet the needs of their workforce and customers, this best-of-breed approach is gaining traction. In the marketing space alone, for instance, 34% of companies said they rely on a best-of-breed stack, while 27% rely on single vendors. 

It’s likely these numbers will only increase as organisations continue to support remote and distributed workforces: our research shows that 77% of businesses with Office 365 also use best-in-breed apps such as AWS, Box, G-Suite, Salesforce, Slack, and Zoom. Keep in mind, however, that in order to operate efficiently—and get the most out of best-of-breed tools—it’s important that they speak to each other. This helps to minimise the burdens we’ve outlined above, and improves the ROI of implementing best-in-breed applications. 

Fully integrated systems like the Okta Integration Network—which enables users to access more than 6,500 best-in-breed tools from one dashboard—seamlessly and securely connect third-party solutions, making it easier to deploy the latest versions, centralise user management, and automate access across cloud, on-premises, and mobile applications. 

Not only that, but integrated systems also improve user onboarding and adoption—and some even offer added security features such as single sign-on, bot detection, endpoint protection, privileged access management, and more. Having a robust integration strategy in place will help you make the most of a best-of-breed approach.

For more information about best-of-breed apps and how this approach could benefit your business, check out the following resources: