Choosing a CXM Solution: Best of Breed or All-in-One Suite?

Customer Experience Management (CXM) is not only Web Content Management. It requires several additional components such as Web Analytics, Optimization, Lead Management and others that need to be fully integrated and work smoothly together. Should you choose the “best-of-breed” products and integrate or should you choose an all-in-one suite? 
CXM_puzzle.pngDeploying a successful CXM solution requires several components that need to work smoothly together. Depending on your needs, you may be looking for several items from the following list:
CXM buyers have to make a choice: which components do I need and where do I buy them? Shall I buy a single, all-in-one suite that contains everything or shall I choose several best-of-breed products and integrate them? And what if I already have some of these components – should I replace them or integrate? Let’s take a look at various decision factors and what impact they have on your choice.

Decision Factor #1: Functionality

With best-of-breed products, you may expect deeper, more advanced individual components functionality.  These types of vendors have focused on a single hopefully well thought out component. With suite products, the components may vary in depth of the features and may not cater to some advanced scenarios. Still, it’s not a hard rule – some CXM suite vendors have invested in specific components to ensure they achieve functional parity with best-of-breed systems.

If your business demands advanced scenarios, best-of-breed approach seems to be a win. The obvious question is: Do you really need all the advanced features in every area and are they worth the investment?

Decision Factor #2: Integration

In order to deliver on customer expectations, CXM components need to be fully integrated not only with your CMS which typically serves as a hub, but also with each other. For example, your E-mail marketing platform should be integrated not only with your CMS, but also with your Web Analytics, Campaign Management, Lead Management or Lead Nurturing components.

With a best-of-breed approach integration is a requirement. This means you need to answer the following questions:
  • How do I integrate everything together?
  • How do I integrate on-premise and cloud-based services?
  • Is the latest version of product A compatible with product B?
  • What if one of the vendors changes their API or data schema?
  • Do I need to pay extra for various connectors between systems or even for a system integration platform?
CXM is a real-time customer experience. Visitors of your website may not appreciate that they get a personalized web content if the personalization relies on data that is synchronized every hour or even worse, once a day. And a real-time integration isn’t always an option since calling external services to display the page may significantly slow down your website.

The all-in-one suite often helps to solve some of these issues. Although, it’s important to keep in mind that you will rarely find a single solution that provides absolutely every scenario or replaces every CXM component, such as CRM. So even with suite approach, you need to be ready for some integration – but it may be significantly easier as the number of components is lower.

If you consider that every component of the CXM solution may need to talk to any other component, the complexity of integration grows exponentially with every additional product. So your goal should be to buy as few products as possible. 

Decision Factor #3: User Experience for Your Business Users

Deploying multiple products from various vendors inevitably leads to multiple applications that your business users need to access. This has its own y difficulties and it may easily jeopardize the success of your project:
  • Different user interfaces lead to steeper learning curve, lower productivity and slower adoption.
  • Users may need to sign in using different credentials into every application. “Which user name should I use for XY?” is the question your administrators will hear all the time, unless you integrate the security information or implement a single-sign-on authentication which can easily be a major project by itself.
  • As vendors tend to change their user interface with every major version, prepare for more frequent end user trainings.
  • With any version change integration testing is required.  
  • If the components aren’t properly integrated, users may face complexities, such as copy-pasting data or identifiers between systems manually.
  • It may be near impossible to analyze data across multiple the components and preparing even simple report may require going to several applications and aggregating data manually in Excel sheets unless you integrate everything in a single data warehouse.
In contrast, suite products tend to solve this more elegantly and provide users with a single, consistent user interface that can be accessed using a single login. However, make sure that you see all the components and how they work together before you make the purchase – some suite vendors rely on integrating third-party products (whether through OEM contracts or after acquisition of another software company) into their suite which often leads to similar issues that you encounter when integrating several best-of-breed products. 

Decision Factor #4: System Maintenance

Similarly to integration, the complexity of system maintenance grows exponentially with number of products. For every product involved, you need to take care of:
  • Upgrades
  • Security
  • Backup
  • High availability and performance
These factors lead to significantly higher cost of ownership for a solution built using multiple best-of-breed products rather than a single suite product. 

Decision Factor #5: Price and TCO

When talking about money, there are six things you need to consider:
  • Initial purchase price – the price of several best-of-breed products may easily grow to multiples of the suite products.
  • License costs predictability – most CXM vendors, whether best-of-breed or suite, won’t give you their full price list and you may not foresee all license costs you will eventually pay when you deploy the complete solution. With multiple vendors, each of which has a different licensing structure and various per-user, per-server or usage-based fees, calculating the final price before you go live is often near impossible.
  • Integration costs – as mentioned in Decision Factor #2, the complexity of integration is generally much higher for a solution based on best-of-breed products that need to be integrated.
  • Development costs – developing a solution with multiple best-of-breed products may be much more complex due to architectures, APIs or even application and database platforms they run on. At the same time, however, if you need some more advanced functionality that is not available in the suite products, you may spend more on customizing and extending the product for scenarios that may not be supported.
  • System maintenance costs – see Decision Factor #4.
  • Hardware costs – again, it’s much more difficult to estimate overall hardware infrastructure costs when deploying several products. Also, running several best-of-breed products often leads to less efficient use of hardware resources and the integration between systems may lead to a significant performance overhead. 


Decision Factor #6: Vendors

Let’s be honest, dealing with several vendors is a pain when combining several best-of-breed products. The fact that you have to talk to sales people, support people and consultants from several companies makes the purchase and maintenance more complex. Moreover when things go wrong, you don’t have a single company that would be fully accountable. 

The Kentico Way

We at Kentico believe in the power of a fully integrated CXM solution. Thus, we provide a complete, all-in-one solution that provides you with everything you need to manage your website and get instant marketing results from your CXM investment. With Kentico EMS, you get everything you need, in a single, fully integrated product. We believe in transparency, providing all information about available features, free trial and the price list on our website, so you know exactly what the product does and what it is going to cost you.

At the same time, we are aware that you may need to integrate our solution with products you’re already using, so we provide you with several integration options:
  • .NET API
  • Web Services
  • Kentico System Integration Bus
  • RSS and XML feeds
We also provide ready-to-use connectors for Active Directory, Microsoft SharePoint and In the near future, we will publish a Connector and the connector for Microsoft Dynamics CRM will follow.

By providing a single powerful solution, we help you make your CXM initiative more successful and cost efficient.

Want to learn more about Kentico EMS - the fully integrated CXM solution? See our website or sign up for a weekly Kentico EMS webinar.
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Petr Palas

I'm the founder and CEO of Kentico. I write about Kentico, WCM, CXM, digital marketing and related technologies.