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Blog By Retain

The pros and cons of best-of-breed versus ERP


By Editorial Team

  • 6 min

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems have traditionally been the ‘go-to’ solution for large firms. But in today’s agile business environment, monolithic ERPs can be slow, inflexible, and frustrating for end users.

That's why more companies are now considering “best-of-breed” software - specialised systems laser-focused on your specific needs. These nimble solutions deliver deeper capabilities, faster implementation, and a better user experience.

So do lumbering ERP platforms still make sense in the 21st century? Or is it time to embrace best-of-breed resource planning applications? In this post, we’ll analyse the pros and cons of each approach. 

Let's dive in and settle this debate once and for all. 

Defining best-of-breed and ERP systems

Best-of-breed solutions are software applications focused on doing one thing extremely well. Take payroll processing, for example. Rather than just having payroll as part of a massive ERP platform, you get specialist payroll software that provides advanced capabilities tailored for that function.

Other examples of best-of-breed solutions include Xero for accounting or Salesforce for CRM. And Retain for resource planning. The key is they concentrate on a specific business process.

In contrast, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solutions aim to be a one-stop-shop covering all your core business needs in a single system. This might include modules for HR, finance, supply chain, manufacturing, inventory, e-commerce, and more. 

The appeal of ERP is having one centralised database and platform that, in theory, can streamline operations. But as we'll see, this jack-of-all-trades approach also has some limitations compared to specialised solutions.

Now that we're clear on what we mean by best-of-breed and ERP, let's look at how best-of-breed software vs ERPs compare when it comes to resource planning.

Best-of-breed software vs ERPs: How do they compare?

So which approach is right for your business? Here we'll analyse the key trade-offs between these options...


While ERPs aim to be a jack-of-all-trades, best-of-breed software zones in on doing one thing exceptionally well. This laser-like focus allows it to provide much deeper capabilities for that specific process or function. And because they concentrate on their niche, best-of-breed apps tend to get updated more frequently and continually enhance their expertise in that area. This means that they pull further ahead of ERPs that are operating across multiple areas of expertise.

Take Retain's cloud-based resource management software for example. It's been purpose-built from the ground up to handle complex resource planning and skills management. The functionality for these core tasks blows away any ERP's attempt to cover it as part of their massive suite.

User Experience

Because they cater to specific user needs instead of generic business processes, best-of-breed solutions can provide a much more intuitive interface and workflows. Employees aren't left puzzling through complex software that tries to serve every need imaginable. 

For example, most ERPs have developed from core accounting, human resources, or manufacturing requirements. Making it hard for them to meet the needs of users. ERP interfaces are often complex, presenting too much often irrelevant information; this drives up your training requirements and drives down users’ acceptance and overall experience.

Yet with customised software like Retain, users adopt it readily. Rather than forcing staff to conform to the technology, the technology conforms to the people using it. And happy staff means better productivity.

Implementation time and cost 

Rolling out an entire ERP system can take months or years of expensive implementation. Best-of-breed solutions win again here with their faster, cheaper deployments. 

Because they integrate fewer systems and require less customisation for focused needs, targeted solutions can be up and running in weeks or months. You get the capabilities you need quickly, without waiting years for enterprise-wide changes.

This agile approach drives faster ROI. Rather than a monolithic ERP initiative, you take incremental steps that show value immediately — making them a good fit for teams that need results today. ROI can be measured in months rather than years.

You can see how much you can save with best-of-breed software with our ROI calculator.


Having software that can grow with your needs is crucial. While ERPs boast about all their modules, the reality is these systems often become unwieldy and slow-moving.

In contrast, best-of-breed solutions easily scale to support your business needs today and tomorrow. You can implement new systems incrementally, rather than being locked into a single vendor's roadmap and bloatware updates.

For example, Retain's software is proven to handle complexity as you grow - the very complexity that balloons costs and timelines with ERP rollouts. This focused approach makes scaling much simpler.

Provider choices 

With an ERP, you're stuck with a single vendor controlling your experience. But best-of-breed software gives you the option to switch providers if needed. If you don't like a product or service from one vendor, it's easier to change to an alternative solution. And you aren't locked into enterprise contracts with promises that don't meet reality.

For instance, as a best-of-breed specialist, Retain is dedicated to meeting all your objectives for resource management and staff planning. Our incentives align with your success.

Integration capabilities

Of course, the ability to integrate with existing systems is key. Retain has deep expertise in integrations and APIs. Our software connects with the likes of SAP, Workday, CRMs like Salesforce, Oracle, and other platforms.

Not only does it provide you and your people with an easily adopted, highly functional software, it also delivers real business value at the earliest opportunity. It’s no wonder so many FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, including the Big Four accounting firms, rely on Retain for their everyday staff planning.

With all this in mind, next-up let’s take a look at the key factors to consider when deciding between the two. 

Best-of-breed vs. ERPs: Key factors to consider 

When deciding if you should take an ERP or best-of-breed approach, there are several important factors to weigh-up:

1. Immediate needs vs. long-term strategy 

If you have pressing pain points and need quick solutions, specialised systems can provide faster relief. But if you're looking to standardise processes across the entire company, an ERP might play into that long-term vision.

2. Available resources and implementation bandwidth

ERPs require large, lengthy implementations that tie up resources. Best-of-breed needs less effort to get up and running. So consider what resources you can allocate and your appetite for complexity.

3. Number of systems to integrate

The more surrounding systems the ERP or best-of-breed software needs to integrate with, the more complex the project. If you have lots of legacy systems, incremental best-of-breed solutions may be smarter.

4. Appetite for a multi-vendor approach 

Using multiple specialised vendors requires managing relationships and integration. Some prefer the simplicity of a single vendor, although it's not as common in today’s interconnected world. So decide on your preference for a single vs. multi-vendor environment.

Assessing these factors will help determine if an ERP or targeted best-of-breed solutions make more sense for where your company is today and where it's headed. The right approach depends heavily on your specific situation now and your goals for the future.

Why best-of-breed is often the smarter choice

The debate between monolithic ERP systems and specialised best-of-breed software may continue. But for many modern organisations, agile best-of-breed solutions are increasingly the smarter choice.

Rather than one-size-fits-all platforms, laser-focused solutions like Retain provide deeper capabilities for specific business needs. And much shorter implementation timelines speed up value as companies respond to changing conditions.

Of course, the needs of each company are different. For some, an ERP still provides long-term benefits. But for many, point solutions to solve immediate pain points and improve productivity prove the wiser road. As we've seen, specialised software delivers advantages in functionality, user experience, speed of deployment, and flexibility. 

ERPs no longer deserve an automatic green light. The days of "ERP first and ask questions later" are gone. Forward-thinking companies embrace modular best-of-breed solutions as smarter building blocks for the modern digital business.

Keen to learn more about best-of-breed solutions? Check out Retain’s Cloud-based Resource Management software now. Or you can take a look inside Retain, the number one resource planning software.

Or explore our resource planning guide for more detail on:

  • Symptoms of poor resource planning (and how to cure them!)
  • The formula for resource planning success
  • Steps to future-proof your approach
  • How a legacy system costs you money.



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