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Best of Breed vs. All in One: Why Is This Still a Debate?


The eternal debate of open vs. proprietary technology solutions took a turn towards the past recently, and we’re a bit puzzled at the nostalgic direction some analysts are taking it with respect to “digital experience platforms” or the DXP market.

I’ve been in the marketing and technology world for sometime now, and I’ll be the first one to tell you that marketing isn’t the same as it was 10 years ago. The definition of marketing has changed, its far more technical and quantifiable than ever before, but consumers have changed the most, especially in how they regard digital touch points and their relationships to the brands and organizations in their lives.

As purveyors of all things digital within our companies, we’re expected to own the “customer experience” or the “customer journey.” The CMO and marketing team are given the Big Data function and looked to for insights into the market and customer expectations. Yet somewhere along the way in this evolution, we’ve all evolved but our approach to our systems and tools have not. A decade or more ago big proprietary enterprise scale vendors like IBM and Oracle could do it all, and there was actually a grain of truth behind their claims. After years of acquisitions, proprietary vendors may continue to claim to do it all, but I beg you to consider, at what cost to you? And at what expense of quality, control, agility and future options?

A few well-known vendors offer all-encompassing, proprietary marketing cloud solutions. These range from Hubspot and their SMB and mid-market targeted suite, to Salesforce.com, Oracle, IBM, and Adobe. Each one has its own blend of marketing applications from metrics to CRM, but they vary based on what the vendor has deemed most important or closest to its core value. While an integrated bundle of basic marketing tools might seem like a cost-effective, time-saving solution, it’s often not the case.

The typical “integrated” suite of marketing technologies isn’t usually built and developed by the vendor, but acquired as they scoop up small point solution specialty companies and cobble them together into a Franken-stack with the illusion of seamless integration. A proprietary marketing cloud is designed to fence you off within a defined set of marketing tools instead of what you’re currently using—or patching together—even though the vendor’s suite of tools is not itself entirely integrated in its own back end.
Adopting an all-in-one “marketing cloud” is like a religious conversion. It means that you will have to discard some specific applications you currently use and perhaps depend on. To be sure, some marketing suites may have one or two products that are considered best-of-breed, yet one all-star does not make a winning team.

If you want to use the marketing tools you’ve already invested in to optimize the customer experience — the ones that best suit your business needs, meet the needs of your customers, and can even help you accomplish a new strategy you’d like to try — you’ll likely run into one of a couple scenarios:

  • The technology you’d like to use, although on the vendor’s roadmap of future integrations or connectors, won’t be ready for months, or even years.
  • You can integrate the technology you’d like now, but it will require expensive custom code developed in-house by your corporate developers — and likely consume much more time than you can afford if you want to remain competitive as your developers wrestle with proprietary APIs.

This all begs the question -- Would you rather invest in a proprietary technology platform, in which you are at the mercy of the vendor’s roadmap and integration calendar? Or would you rather invest in an open, cloud-based technology platform that liberates you from vendor lock-in and puts you back in the driver’s seat?

It shouldn’t be a hard question to answer, yet here we are. There are some people who simply get it. When I saw this Twitter thread with Scott Liewehr, the CEO of the Digital Clarity Group, and Tom Wentworth, CMO of RapidMiner and my predecessor as Acquia’s CMO, I’m certain I have never hit the RT button so fast.



Scott and Tom are spot on. Because the world I live in, and the world Acquia’s customers live in, is a world where API-first solutions reign supreme. Instead of rip and replace, Acquia liberates. Instead of being held hostage by a single vendor’s roadmap, we offer an open platform that enables you to integrate deftly with the legacy customer data systems and the best-of-breed martech solutions you need to succeed. We believe the only way to manage a customer-centric digital experience platform is to implement a digital factory model, and the best way to do that is to adopt an open platform that allows you to build and orchestrate customer journeys on your terms.

Don’t just take my word for it. McKinsey published the following definition of what a digital factory means when done right:

When executed well, the digital factory provides a blueprint for the future of work that energizes the business and excites employees. It creates a vortex for innovation and creativity that attracts the best talent from inside and outside the organization. And it delivers results. The best digital factories can put a new product or customer experience into production in as little as ten weeks. The innovation can then be introduced and scaled up across the business in eight to 12 months.

Try building such a factory with a proprietary marketing cloud.

In the digital world, standing still is the fastest way to go out of business. The pace of change is only accelerating, and I think it’s about time we settle this debate once and for all. You know your business best; and your customer won’t wait around while a vendor you depend on reacts or not.

At Acquia, we believe the best way to see what tomorrow holds is to build it. Build it with a digital factory approach, one that values open APIs and innovation. Build it with Acquia.


Posted on by Martin Fitch (not verified).

A couple of years ago Kaiser looked at best point solutions to do a radical overhaul of our member (customer) website. We also considered and eventually selected Adobe's suite, while very competent, we believed that ultimately, empowering our business team to own the solution with as minimal developer involvement as possible won the argument over point solutions that typically required a greater level of technical competence to deploy effectively.

I won't say things have been a slam dunk, I will say that having an integrated solution is a good choice from where I'm sitting.

We went into this after years of refusing to implement the full suite of a different integrated product, instead only using the point solution that (at the time) of their suite that was at the top of the market. To get full value from our spend, we have to do things differently - like staying up with current releases, going back and reworking some code to take advantage of new functionality.

We've had some setbacks along the way. We're also transforming our delivery pipeline to take advantage of Agile in a much more comprehensive manner. I believe that Adobe's direction to involve greater community participation in some of their product brings the strength of an engaged customer base to improve the product for everyone.

The product suite is not cheap, it is far from perfect and we continue to build in functionality that we feel is missing that we thought our previous solution did better. I believe that staying in an integrated suite was and is a good choice for us and I'm eager to see the rest of our company explore how this might fit their needs.

We have built our functionality on top of an expanding platform of restful services that separates the back end from the front end. We are continuing to push for "mobile first". We expand the empowerment of our integrated teams to innovate at their own pace and guided by their business representatives embedded with them.

*I am but a lowly peon. My views are my own. They do not represent my employers views. This is not a company endorsement of any particular product. Thrive.

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