Why Best-of-Breed Works for Nonprofits
For years it seemed like the Sophie’s Choice facing every nonprofit manager was whether to go with a single vendor for all of their business applications (accounting, fundraising, HR, etc.) or source them independently and sacrifice meaningful integration. The story went that if you didn’t buy from a single vendor, integration would either be impossible or prohibitively expensive translating into hours of duplicate data entry and reconciliation between systems.
All-in-one software suites are often anything but that. At JMT we have watched organizations struggle over the years attempting to make these all-in-one suites work, all the while ignoring the fact that the individual applications in some cases completely failed to meet their business objectives, integrated or not.
As pointed out in this Wall Street Journal blog, the tools have emerged to make it not just possible, but preferable to focus on best-of-breed point applications in your business office. Getting the exact right accounting, fundraising, membership or billing applications doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice interoperability. While not all applications are created equally, the majority of Cloud-based business applications available today share the fact that they are built from the ground up to communicate with other applications seamlessly.
What happens when things go wrong? The other alleged selling point of all-in-one software suites is that it allows the customer the luxury of having just “one throat to choke” when things go wrong. If you have ever been part of one of these monolithic implementations, you know that this is a myth and the only thing that changes is the fact that all of the throats you have to choke have matching business cards. The finger pointing is just as vigorous.
The best choice, we have found, is to work with an independent third party integrator (like JMT) that can own the project management and vendor coordination on your behalf. If each of the point applications matches well with your business requirements at the department level, the likelihood of things going wrong is diminished. Further, getting proactive experienced help at perfecting the interfaces will make sure the design and configuration of the overall best-of-breed solution meets your organization’s goals.