In today’s world, too much attention may be focused on buzz words, fads and whatever else might be “hot” in the blogs or other social media, rather than on the core attributes of substance and sustainability. Many solution providers also tend to parrot David Letterman’s Top 10 list routinely making it seem like there are at least 10 good reasons to use their solution instead of another vendor’s. However, with Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), you don’t need 10 good reasons to adopt a Best-of-Breed solution over Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – you just need one compelling reason, supported by the ability to implement with little to no disruption to existing business operations, allow the solution to grow along with the your – and your customers’ – needs, and attain a predictable and reasonably high ROI that even your CFO will embrace. Again, 10 good reasons are not entirely necessary – all that is needed is at least one compelling reason, supported by clearly defined, quantifiable and documentable results. That is why we believe that, when it comes to SLM, a Best-of-Breed solution is a much better choice than ERP. Let me explain.
Our experience has shown that the ability to pick and choose the specific components to support an organization’s SLM activities offers a much more tailored solution that is able to address all facets of this service-centric process. That is not necessarily to say that an ERP solution will not, or cannot, support SLM – rather, that a robust, application-specific, Best-of-Breed solution can do it better.
Many ERP solution providers go-to-market with messages that proclaim “everything your organization needs to support its services activities”. However, the “everything” that is usually offered by these vendors typically only follows the 80/20 rule, providing only “80% of the SLM functionality required”, but delivered by a “brand name” company typically as an add-on to a more extensive – and expensive – ERP solution. On the other hand, a Best-of-Breed SLM solution typically offers 100% – or close to it – of the specific functionality required by the service organization from a service-oriented solution provider that truly understands the user’s needs from the requisite functional specs; to the terminology and buzz words; to the requirements for installation, burn-in and training; and ongoing service and support. In this way, a Best-of-Breed solution provider typically positions itself as a 100% provider of the specific SLM functionality and support required, and not merely as the provider of an add-on module from an 80/20 ERP solution vendor.
Any business relationship must be a two-way street in order for there to be a true partnership between the solution provider and the customer, and SLM is no exception to the rule. In fact, this is where a Best-of-Breed solution provider has a clear and distinct advantage over a more ubiquitous ERP vendor in that the former is more likely to be a specialist within the client organization’s field (i.e., service), rather than a generalist among a multitude of fields ranging from R&D and product development, to manufacturing and production, to sales and marketing, and various other business processes.
Best-of-Breed solution providers in the service segment have typically supported clients in their field for decades, gaining a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the marketspace including who the key and niche players are (i.e., vendors and users), how customers’ service organizations operate, what specific functionalities are required (and available), how usage has been and will be evolving over time, and what the key pain points are for all parties involved. Many of them have been around since the early days of equipment maintenance service and support where solution providers were first known as FSMS, or Field Service Management Systems providers. They then evolved into SMS, or Service Management Systems vendors; then into Customer Interface Systems, or CIS vendors; and ultimately into CRM vendors, or the like. Today, only some of these vendors have fully evolved into true Service Lifecycle Management, or SLM, solution providers covering the full range of service-centric functionality required by their respective user base. These vendors represent the Best-of-Breed that have been successful in differentiating themselves beyond the enterprise-wide capabilities of the ERP generalists and the 80/20 CRM vendors.