OPEN MIKE BY ALEC PETTERSEN

Avoid Gotchas Of Best-Of-Breed IT Solutions

Cobbling together an IT system with software from a variety of vendors can work, if you understand the pitfall and take steps to avoid them. Good communications between you and your vendors and among the vendors is key. Also, stay away from "one-off" systems that only a few people understand.

One of the most popular philosophies in choosing enterprise software today is going with best-of-breed (BoB) solutions. By following such an approach, a company’s IT executives take the best software for single purposes and, in essence, plug it all together to create a full operational system. Simply put, the sentiment is that media enterprises are best served when they find the best of the best — and string them together. 

However, what seems like a win-win strategy — keeping departments happy and reducing reliance on a single vendor — often breaks down. The ability to cobble together a functioning system when no single company is responsible for making it all work together is a great challenge.  

In fact, there are a number of “hidden gotchas” when implementing a BoB solution. By knowing what these are, IT and media executives can plan for them — hopefully reducing any risk and impact.

1. Ongoing planning and integration support among vendors. This is the single biggest gotcha of the BoB solution. While most media enterprises are adept at managing toward a successful live date, making everything work once is easy.  Making an integrated solution work over time is very challenging — and, potentially, costly. For a checklist of things to consider before deciding upon a BoB approach, click here.

2. Vendors’ evolving business directions/changes. Just like your overall business is growing and changing — so are the vendors’. It’s important to remember software applications are constantly evolving and never finished — unless, of course, the vendor has decided to kill a product due to merger, acquisition or a change in road map direction. Therefore, it is paramount that you develop an ongoing communication review with your vendors. It is also recommended that language in the vendor’s contract be added.

3. Alignment between strategic objectives and business direction. Just like vendors need to maintain consistent communication with you, you must also be responsible for communicating to the vendor what changes your business will be making. In essence, the more that a vendor knows about your company, the deeper a partnership can develop for overall success. Sharing the business road map above the feature/functionality needs is valuable for a vendor as well. Changes being made within your media enterprise may match internal changes within your vendors. Creating a joint business road map is the clearest way to avoid any development pitfalls.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

4. Open communication among your disparate vendors. While trust can be established between you and an individual vendor, now you must navigate tricky waters: how to create open-communication and accountability among the vendors themselves? Although there are a number of software vendors that claim to be partners with each other, the time and effort to create trusting relationships is not a priority. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the media enterprise to require vendors to create communication channels; openly share information as it relates to your specific system with each other; and host roundtable reviews and software roadmaps and issues on a regular basis.

5. Maintenance of the “One-Off” System. The hardest gotcha to avoid is building a custom system that is so unique only a handful of individuals can maintain it. Throughout the industry, a number of 20-plus year-old, legacy, customized, BoB software systems live in infamy; these are maintained by an IT or business analyst staff that is the only one that can “MacGuyver” the solution and keep it running. Not only is this a problem for new feature and functionality development but also it is a significant risk to the overall operations. Managing to such IT golden handcuffs is untenable.

Without fully understanding the gotchas of BoB solutions, many media enterprises could end up spending more than necessary to build, manage, maintain and staff such solutions. Utilizing intelligence and expertise in media software solutions during the system planning and selection process will insure that individual departmental needs are properly balanced against the overall needs of the organization.

It is widely recognized that media enterprises are different, and unique BoB solutions provide a way to manage this uniqueness. Not only can BoB solutions provide better visibility throughout the organization of operational processes, but they can streamline efforts, eliminating a number of manual processes. These are only a handful of the benefits of tight integration among software systems that increase the ROI of the system exponentially.


Alec Pettersen is the SVP of Edge Technology Services’ media practice. At Edge, he helps media executives develop sustainable IT strategies. You can contact him at [email protected].


Comments (2)

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Kathryn Miller says:

May 20, 2011 at 3:50 pm

I wonder just what niche within the TV broadcast industry this article is aimed toward, if any?

“It’s important to remember software applications are constantly evolving and never finished” I guess that’s right if your software runs your cell phone, but broadcast software must (and isn’t always) finished before marketing, and since the standards change in bits and uses evolve — none of which is predictable in any real sense — you want working systems that can be updated. Not coincidentally, such models help insure that one hit wonders are around for some time. Going into how to do be complete and still encompass required change requires more than a few pithy paragraphs filled with b-school jargon.

Edmund Kimmell says:

May 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Alec, Great article, you have an excellent grasp of the needs of communication between vendors to achieve the most for the client. This is what makes success and increases the ROI for companies. The merger of vendors to serve the clients needs will help with the evolving needs of software developement and current technology.


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