You might want to refresh your collection of Zoom backgrounds – experts agree that in a post-pandemic world, best-of-breed apps are here to stay.
The best-of-breed approach to technology means choosing the best tools for the task at hand rather than adopting a suite of software from one vendor. At our virtual Slack Frontiers 2020 event, leaders from Box, Okta, Slack and Zoom discussed the myriad reasons why organisations are moving away from one-size-fits-all solutions in favour of beloved best-of-breed products to do their best work.
The conversation underscored four key themes:
- User experience
Here’s what you need to know about the future of work, according to the pros.
Best-of-breed supports secure, remote work
Even before the pandemic forced organisations to go all-remote, workers were already logging in to their corporate devices from remote locations like home, hotels or coffee shops. That’s why Simon Thorpe, the senior director of competitive intelligence at Okta, said we’re living in a zero-trust environment, then and now. That means every IT leader has to choose solutions that allow workers and stakeholders to securely log in to their platforms and tech stacks, whether they’re in the office on a corporate laptop or on an aeroplane checking emails from their personal devices.
Thorpe emphasised that best-of-breed tools are meant to address the exact kinds of security concerns that come with remote work. ‘We’re seeing the erosion of the corporate network as a secure perimeter,’ he said. ‘Then the pandemic created a sudden shift to remote work, which just accelerated people’s plans to migrate their services into the cloud. Unlike the legacy technologies that have been driving IT for the past 20 years or so, best-of-breed apps were designed to be deployed very quickly and scale very easily.’
‘We’re seeing the erosion of the corporate network as a secure perimeter. Then the pandemic created a sudden shift to remote work, which just accelerated people’s plans to migrate their services into the cloud.’
Thorpe broke it down a step further and explained how Okta’s technology keeps its customers’ data secure, no matter where workers are. ‘Okta uses Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), OpenID Connect and other standards to securely provide consistent access and a single sign-on to different applications from a centralised location,’ he said. ‘These standards make Zoom, Box and other best-of-breed applications very easy to deploy from a security perspective.’
Best-of-breed was built for the cloud
‘The ecosystem of yesteryear doesn’t apply at all to the new one in the cloud,’ said Rafael Perez, a product strategist at Box. According to Perez, when the companies that built legacy systems and services adapt their products to the cloud, they’re largely focusing on the quickest, easiest ways to become cloud-based.
‘There are companies out there that have, I kid you not, thousands of administrators. Best-of-breed solutions recuperate a lot of those resources and costs and provide better experiences for both employees and customers.’
‘But the product is only the tip of the iceberg,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of layers underneath the water, such as administration, governance, integrations, accessibility of the API, and the specialised training users need to take. So often, the solutions they offer are hacks that might impact the user experience.
‘Take OneDrive, which Microsoft positions as kind of offering unlimited space or unlimited storage for their users – it’s capped at 25 terabytes. If you hit that threshold, you need to create a separate space to save content. A lot of that is due to the initial architecture the service was built on. Meanwhile, at Box, we’ve been delivering seamless content experiences for our customers at petabyte scale, across all these different services.’
Best-of-breed powers productivity
Best-of-breed tools integrate with organisations’ existing tech stacks, making it easy to share information across tools. As a channel-based messaging platform, Slack connects the most popular workplace apps in a single place, making it easier to share information. And when teammates don’t have to chase down tasks and messages across multiple platforms, they have more time to focus on the work that really matters.
On the IT side, best-of-breed solutions save administrators time. ‘We have customers telling us how they’ve seen incredible gains in productivity because they’ve freed up resources that would have otherwise been spent administering multiple systems,’ Perez said. ‘There are companies out there that have, I kid you not, thousands of administrators. Best-of-breed solutions recuperate a lot of those resources and costs and provide better experiences for both employees and customers.’
Workers already know and love best-of-breed technology
When it comes to helping organisations make the dramatic shift to all-remote work, Zoom has been on the front lines. Mila Ferrell, lead product manager at Zoom, said best-of-breed solutions are often so effective because workers are generally already familiar with them and enjoy using these tools for their personal lives.
‘A lot of the time, best-of-breed solutions are adopted bottoms-up,’ she said, ‘where users bring the solutions to their companies. Now that people are working from home, they expect the same experience and usability from their work apps that they expect from their personal apps. They’re begging IT administrators to roll them out in the workplace, as opposed to the more traditional approach of top-down, where an IT manager would decide what everyone should use.’
‘Now that people are working from home, they expect the same experience and usability from their work apps that they expect from their personal apps.’
Andy Pflaum, the director of platform at Slack, agreed. ‘There’s no price, including free, that’s worth it if you’re going to put out a tool that your users don’t want to use and won’t use, or will use very inconsistently,’ he said. ‘What we’re seeing across all the solutions represented here are tools that organisations and team members love to use.’