April 21, 2014

Interactive Analysis Tools (calculators)

Integration vs. Best of Breed
An Online Calculator Sponsored by IFS

Does a Total Solution Add Up for Your Company?

This tool will help you determine whether an integrated suite of applications
or a collection of point solutions is the best bet.

Manufacturing companies have more choice than ever in terms of what type of applications they will implement to run all aspects of their businesses. These days, software tools enable just about every organizational function, from sales force automation tools to sourcing of raw materials to product design to plant floor systems to executive information systems to customer support. The challenge is applications architecture.

Companies considering adding enterprise applications have two major strategies to evaluate: whether to implement an integrated manufacturing suite (in which one vendor provides all, or nearly all, the applications the company needs) or whether to piece together a solution based on technology that is recognized as best-of-breed in each application space. The choice is far from clear-cut.

To help manufacturing managers choose the right strategy, IFS North America (a unit of Industrial and Financial Systems AB of Sweden) is sponsoring this online decision support tool, also known as a calculator. IFS' enterprise suite of over 60 fully integrated business applications provides companies with rapid payback, allowing them to quickly improve their bottom line, optimize resources and achieve faster ROI.

For a more detailed explanation of the integrated suite vs. the best-of-breed approach, please refer to this series of articles.

When it comes to deciding between an integrated manufacturing suite or a best-of-breed approach, most companies are looking for easy answers. And, in fact, there are some good rules of thumb.

Note that there are hundreds of enterprise applications vendors. Many of the largest vendors promote the integrated suite approach. And a sizable number of large, medium and small vendors offer what they claim are best-of-breed solutions.

Key Decision Factors

The decision about applications architecture should not be made strictly based on the size of the organization. Other factors are crucial. This calculator will provide some initial guidance about which approach would be more appropriate for your organization. But this tool is only one step.

You must create your own short list of important variables, with business strategy and business processes appearing near the top of the list. Then, with the help of this calculator, you can begin to home in on which approach makes the most sense for your own unique circumstances. Furthermore, a host of vendors and consultants can provide guidance.

"It all comes down to personal decisions," explains Greg Gorbach, director of collaborative manufacturing research at ARC Advisory Group, in Dedham, Mass. "Two different companies in the same industry can make two different decisions, and they both may be right--or wrong." Still, the calculator will help you define where your company fits in terms of criteria that affect the decision-making process.

Aside from company size, other important factors in making the decision include business process (such as whether the company has a centralized or decentralized structure), complexity of supply chain (having thousands of suppliers tends to make using an integrated suite from one vendor more difficult), complexity of end product produced and complexity of company structure. These criteria are part of the tool, which you can begin to use by clicking here.

The short questionnaire--it will take you less than three minutes to get an answer--and insights on the following screens were developed with extensive input from vendors, users and consultants. EnterprisesoftwareHQ.com would like to thank the following individuals and organizations for their extensive support:

  • Mike Burkett, research director, global manufacturing strategies group, AMR Research Inc., Boston.
  • Greg Gorbach, director of collaborative manufacturing research, ARC Advisory Group, Dedham, Mass.
  • Cecelia Casillas, industry manager, high-tech and electronics, IFS North America, Tucson, Ariz.
  • Jack Wagner, marketing executive for global solutions, IBM, Southberry, Conn.

Let us know what you think of this calculator. Send a letter to the editor.

Interested in learning more about our portfolio or have a specific custom content project? Contact Larry Marion at: lmarion@triangle-publishing.com