Technology Vendor Selection – Best of Breed or Suite Based

I asked our teams in the IT Department at the American University of Sharjah to put together a short presentation to help me get to know the team members, to understand what their operational and project responsibilities and our technology vendors. In some cases, the teams worked on an integrated platform (suite) with the majority of the technology residing in one or two vendor architectures. In other teams, the approach was very much a “best of breed” technology selection with more than 4 of 5 vendors required to deliver a service.

One of the challenges we face is escalating costs from our vendor partners and in these economic times, the result is pressures to move away from older vendor solutions. This can result in some architectural problems when IT teams need to start to integrate multiple vendor technologies. I am not sure what is the right solution but I am convinced that making procurement decisions for specific technologies without an enterprise architecture is bound to cost more for ongoing operations.  Rarely are the soft costs of ongoing operations accurately calculated.  Most organizations treat their internal staff resources as free.  This is a major oversight and  creates a more optimistic but false view when looking at a total cost of ownership of an architectural decision.  Keeping your key IT staff trained and current for multiple technologies costs more than having them focus on a smaller set of technologies.  Another cost is that people will specialize in a few technologies but not all of the ones in your architecture.  This causes a service support issue and opens your company up to risks of not being able to support a service if the employee departs or is on leave.

The question I have is: What are the criteria used by your organizations to help decide your architectural approaches:  best of breed or suite based or some blended approach?