Image: all of the two- and four-door model cars offered by Dodge in 1974 (excludes station wagons), by John Lloyd, CC license.

It used to be that if you wanted a certain type of software application, you would identify the 2 or 3 companies that specialized in what you needed. That specialization still exists today, but the picture is becoming more and more blurred.

You will find that many software vendors are trying to grow beyond their core expertise by claiming their solutions can also handle other functions within an enterprise.

As an example, consider software firm Enterprise 21, whose advertising places it firmly in the category of manufacturing: “Discover Enterprise 21 Manufacturing Software Solutions.”

But its advertising also includes this claim: “Enterprise 21, however, is more than a stand-alone manufacturing software system – Enterprise 21 is a fully-integrated ERP system that encompasses order management, inventory management, procurement, RF and barcode-enabled warehouse management, advanced forecasting and planning, CRM, business intelligence, and e-Commerce functionality. All transactions and processes in manufacturing are directly linked to all other business departments and units throughout the enterprise with a single database to deliver vital, real-time business information.”

What to do with this information, that this package can also replace systems for other functions? Some applications can, and some truly cannot. It’s quite possible Enterprise 21’s solution is a good fit for some companies for multiple functions.
My experience with these types of claims is that:

  • While a package can indeed perform other functions, it is likely to do so with limited features because the ancillary features are not what the firm has spent years developing and improving, unlike the core features of the application.
  • There are usually other vendors that specialize in or have spent years developing applications in those other functions the vendor has expanded into.
  • If you just want the core functionality that the application was originally designed for, you’ll need to determine how to use just that portion of the solution while integrating it with the rest of your enterprise’s software.

Determine the scope of what you need – that scope that gives you the bulk of the benefits you want. From there you can incrementally determine in an incremental way whether the added value of expanding the software’s footprint is worth the added cost and time of implementing it.