Selecting the Best of Breed Product
Recently, I was discussing with a colleague the difference between a primarily Microsoft environment and the so called Open Source environment. I made the comment that it is sort of like the difference between selecting a unified approach vs. a build-it-yourself with Lincoln Logs approach. My colleague laughed and said, “Some people would call the Lincoln Log approach as selecting the Best of Breed, wouldn’t that be better?” In the mid 90’s when I embraced the Microsoft brand, I had to make this same analysis: Would I be leaving behind excellent products and buying into the mediocre? The answer to me remains, today, the same as it was almost 10 years ago. The so called “Best of Breed” products will change all the time. At any time arguments can be made for one product or another being best of breed. Yet when I suggest a technology purchase for myself or my clients, I need it to be a long-term solution.
Doing a “Best of Breed” analysis every time a recommendation needs to be made is time consuming and costly and potentially subjective and, most important, likely to be superseded soon thereafter. Microsoft consistently provides “Best of Breed” or Near Best of Breed products that are part of a unified vision to work together thus adding more value than the sum of the parts. That is not to say that when there is a significantly better product out there that has good market shares that we are blind; a case in point is our recommendation of Adobe Dreamweaver for web design. We weigh these decisions with a long-term view of the product, the company, the integration needs, and many other factors.
By trying to select the current “Best of Breed”, a company increases their costs for both selection and support while adding a degree of risk that the products will not work together as well as products created with a unified vision. This risk has a higher probability of a lowered return on the investment. This risk can be mitigated by very high standards in the selection process with an eye toward maximizing the ROI. This can work well when you have thousands of people to select for, and a small benefit is multiplied by that large number. Typically, the Small and Medium businesses I serve do not have the upside potential benefit of a perfect selection that a multinational corporation would see. For us, the most appropriate approach is basing the architecture on Microsoft core vision and then carefully adding in the key “Best of Breed” products, if and when this becomes necessary.