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Technology Stacks vs. Suites | Tech Terms to Know

November 25, 2020

Category: Digital Transformation Strategy

As the need for digital commerce experiences has increased, the number of technology options available has skyrocketed. Because of this, B2B businesses must be strategic in choosing which technology and technology vendors to invest in. 

As you evaluate your business requirements and consider the 3 C’s of enterprise B2B commerce platforms, there are two main types of solutions that emerge: Stacks versus Suites.

Historically, technology suites were the go-to option when considering your commerce platform options – think behemoths like SAP, Salesforce, and IBM who offer software solutions for every business need, “pre-integrated” together. The more modern approach we see emerging is what we’re referring to here as technology stacks. Envision a best-of-breed approach to technology that allows you to take advantage of the best-of-the-best options for each of your needs (commerce, CMS, accounting, PIM, CRM, etc.), forming a sort of stacked approach – almost like legos.

Technology Stacks vs Suites: What’s the Difference? 

Suites: This is the type of technology that many businesses are familiar with and use – think of Microsoft Office for a well-known example. A suite-based approach to enterprise software is a single technology vendor that offers many capabilities. Sometimes referred to as an all-in-one solution – a suite could contain a content management system, a product management system, analytics and reporting and more. Suites are usually accessed through a license and come packaged under a single data model. 

Stacks: This is a newer approach to enterprise software sometimes referred to as a best-of-breed approach. A business carefully chooses specific technology platforms that fit their business needs to create a custom technology solution. From an architecture standpoint, these technologies are typically API-first, allowing them to integrate seamlessly via exposed APIs. Technology stacks make it easy to swap out software vendors as needed.

So, how do enterprise businesses choose? While the convenience of having a solution that’s all-in-one might sound appealing to many businesses, there are hidden challenges that can cause headaches. 

Benefits & Challenges of Technology Stacks vs. Suites

For many enterprises, the suite based approach sounds appealing: all features and functionality are under one roof. It can seem easier to work with one single vendor for all of your technology needs. And these vendors often over-promise easier integration capabilities and shorter timelines. 

However, there are limitations that come with suites. Suites typically do not have the flexibility, scalability or customization that many B2B enterprises need as they grow and respond to the evolving market. Additionally, enterprises that choose a suite based approach may experience the dreaded vendor lock-in. Vendor lock-in is when a customer is dependent on a vendor for products and services, unable to use another vendor without substantial switching, or replatforming, costs. 

While technology stacks promise the scalability and flexibility that technology suites lack, it is sometimes challenging for organizations to shift their thinking around this new procurement approach. Purchasing technology stacks does involve the management of many different contracts and licenses under each connected vendor.

However, complex, enterprise-level organizations looking to break the replatforming cycle are looking beyond these perceived challenges and selling the benefits of technology stacks within their organization.

Because a stacks-based approach offers components that are pluggable, scalable, replaceable, and can be continuously improved, there’s more flexibility for the enterprise. As needs change – business-wide or from a customer level, it’s easier to make modern, future-looking decisions with technology built for each specific business need.

In order for an enterprise to choose the right solution, stack or suite, they must first map out their digital strategy and clearly define their requirements. Make sure the technology is able to meet your future business needs and quickly respond to changes in the market.

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