When you set out to buy some new software, community forum software for example, you may be faced with the choice of going out and buying a product that best suits your needs versus using something that is offered by an existing vendor. Many software vendors offer a suite of products or features, usually anchored to a primary offering that your company has already purchased. It might tempting to think that going with an existing vendor will be easier and cheaper, but that's not always the case. Before making a decisions, ask yourself the following questions:
How important is my community initiative? If community is strategic for you, a best of breed vendor (a vendor whose primary offering is community) will likely offer you more and better community functionality and services. The vendor will have deeper, more focused expertise in what makes a community successful.
Am I buying a product that is a jack of all trades and a master of none? By spreading themselves too thin, suites may be suitable, but they are far from best in class. Their road maps are strained by too many products, and "must-have" features may be lacking or fall to the back-burner as they are not primary components of the suite.
Have you considered TCO (Total Cost Of Ownership)?While the list price to add the community feature to a suite might look appealing, what is the cost of services or customizations if it comes with inferior functionality? What is the cost if the product in the suite does not give your company the desired value over time?
Is the vendor prioritizing your needs or the needs of your IT department?
The suites tend to focus their R & D on things that will make the CIO happy, often at the expense of end users. Best of breed generally focuses on building for those that will use your community day-to-day, with the primary objective of making it enjoyable and easy to use.
Does the solution support integration to other services? Best of breed products can work with a wide variety of third-party products via APIs or out of the box integrations. Suites vendors often instead focus on integration with the rest of the suite.
This is not to say choosing a community forum in a suite does not make sense. Sometimes there actually is a synergy when a community platform is part of a broader offering. Suite vs best of breed can be a tough choice. In the end what matters is selecting a solution that will deliver the desired value. Today, cloud-based delivery and APIs mean that best of breed applications can provide better functionality at a competitive cost and with full integration.