Swiss Army knife or Best of Breed apps?

I am interested to know what people think before I spend more time and money investing into either approach.

A bit more context from apps or platform perspective. Either I can choose some all-in-one app or a suite for email, calendar, to-do list, reminder, note taking, collaboration, etc. Slack is one example. Notion is another.

Alternative, I can go for the best in the field, like Things for to-do list, Draft for note taking, Fantastical for calendar, Roam Research as research tool

What criteria do you use to make decision, one way or the other. Can it be a hybrid approach?

chrismessina's avatar
2 years ago

Quick thoughts on considerations:

  • who will be using this software (just you, you and your team, you and people outside your org?)
  • will you need to share what you're working on in real time?
  • how important is that your data/work/content is findable/discoverable by others rather than just yourself?
  • is cross-linking data between mediums/formats necessary or nice-to-have?
  • what is your budget and/or who is paying?
  • is integration with other applications necessary or nice-to-have?
  • how often will you be working on different devices and different screen sizes (i.e. mobile/desktop)?
  • how tolerant are you of learning to work the way software wants you to work vs being idiosyncratic in how you work?

Those would be questions I'd consider.

3 points
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @chrismessina )
2 years ago

That's an incredible checklist to run through. On integrations vs. cross-linking: Often it seems the best in breed apps are more likely to have detailed integrations with other software (at least via tools like Zapier), while bundled suites tend to work better with cross linking and sharing data between software in the same bundle but may not focus as much on external integrations.

1 point
Thirstylizard's avatar
@Thirstylizard (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

great insight @chrismessina. This is a very comprehensive checklist. This is very helpful for me. Not sure one day we have the convergence of bundled suite becoming best of breed apps (if not in all areas, not least the core functions)

2 points
maguay's avatar
2 years ago

I'd typically opt for best-in-breed tools, especially for software that I use daily for my core work.

There was a discussion a bit back about what software should be in a modern office suite, and if anything it highlighted the value an office suite can provide with such a large bundle of software for $10/month or less. That's impossible to match when using best-in-breed tools for each task, where every individual app might cost that much.

So it's a challenge. Honestly, Slack, Notion, and other similar newer apps end up falling on the best-in-breed side more than the suite side; each have a counterpart in Office 365 and G Suite. Perhaps the best value is in the suite that does everything in one.

But the best experience tends to be in the software that's specifically designed for one task, and if that tool can make me better at my core work, that's what I'll pick. Sometimes that's a tool in a bundle—Google Docs is the best collaborative tool for editing copy, for example, and Excel is still the best spreadsheet. Those are best-in-breed and in a bundle. But then other individual apps—things for me like Ulysses for writing, Airtable for databases, Notion for notes and projects, and more—are worth paying extra for as they pay for themselves with their better experience. And say something like Roam Research would be hard to replace with a bundled app; few other things have similar backlinks.

It's all in picking the best software for the work you need to do.

0 points
danieldcn's avatar
@danieldcn (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

As mentioned above who is using it I believe starts to become extremely important. If you wan to scale your business and have people rapidly adopt and or adapt to your platform having tools that work for a broader number of people help a lot. Best of breed a this point tend to address far to narrow a context in my opinion, where the people building these tools are solving so specific a problem for so specific a target audience that they don't scale across culture regions, or generation of workers. Slack remains a tool that I find useful, however many in my own cohort of workers detest IMs and much more prefer working in Email only. These discrepancies can lead to disfunction in tool usage, and breakdown in communication. So I would also add that depending on your team, where they are coming from, and how important onboarding and training will be to fomenting a consistent team culture around tools and data should play into a best of breed vs complete platform. That being said I find that Microsoft's platform is disparaged way to much because there seems to be an association to the "older way of working" whereas it's honestly astounding how powerful the 365 platform with Microsoft Graph giving you incredible access to data throughout the platform.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @danieldcn )
2 years ago

Ahh onboarding is a good point here.

Best in breed tools seem to be best for individually or smaller team-driven software choices, where suites make more sense for larger company site-wide rollouts.

1 point
Thirstylizard's avatar
@Thirstylizard (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

agreed with you @maguay. From the checklist mentioned by @chrismessina. One issue is very important for me, that is the best of breed apps need to be able to talk to other apps, otherwise, I become the translator or manipulator of data passing from one to another app all the time

1 point
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