Best of breed apps vs. apps in the big bundle

I love cooking. In the last couple of years I’ve added a few select items of cookware that are best in class.
First, I bought a Round Dutch Oven. Soon after that,  I managed to get roaster and a skillet from Le Creuset. The craftsmanship and the quality of their products is amazing. I even have a favourite colour, Marseille Blue!
But, while I’d love to stock my whole kitchen with these products, there’s one small problem. They are quite expensive!
Also, it would be overkill as the value I can get from a cheaper brand like T-fal would be adequate for everyday use.
Why am I telling you this? I’ve been thinking about the apps and tools we use at work, tools and bundles that are part of this digital workplace and suddenly I start to see some parallels.

Quality is not cheap

A good quality app, will not be cheap. Yes, there are open source options and 99 cent apps on the App Store, but besides games (with ads, or in-app purchases) or a few honorable exceptions, good productivity apps are not free, or they are part of a service you are already paying for, with your money, or your data.

Hook, line and sinker

It is not uncommon to find that the free version of a productivity tool is designed so that end users will fall in love with the core features leaving out just enough.
Later on, as you get more serious usage and consider to onboard the tool to your digital workplace environment, requirements such as SSO (Single Sign On) or Data Loss prevention, will be on the table and now the “free” tool is really $9 to $30 bucks a month.
Granted, startups and some smaller companies may be OK to use the free option for a while, but at the expense of security, data protection and dissemination of information in multiple silos.

Kanban board tool as an example

Spending a few minutes using Trello will be enough to fall in love with it. The refinement and user experience are unmatched by other competitors that I’m aware of.
With this, I would dare to say that Trello is the “Le Creuset” of Kanban board tools.
Now, if I took some time to think of other use cases, I can probably find a “best of breed” tool for everything I want to do. And, just like my kitchen, things can get expensive and hard to manage really fast.

Wait, what about Office 365, the big bundle?

While Office 365 can be compared with other competitors like G-Suite, it is safe to say, the Microsoft suite is King of the Hill in the Enterprise space. The Office 365 ecosystem is unmatched in terms of having a wide selection of apps that support many different use cases to support the daily grind.
Some of the classics apps like Outlook (supported by Exchange Online) , SharePoint Online and Office apps are synonymous with workplace productivity and are well known by most information workers.
Newer additions to the family, like Stream, Flow, PowerApps or Planner are also there, helping to complete the picture.
Planner, in particular, is the Kanban board app in Office 365. And while it may not have the same UX/UI polish as Trello today, it certainly provides many (if not all) of the features you would expect.
Microsoft’s Planner has that big advantage, being part of the ecosystem, and being seamlessly connected to all other aspects of what could be required for team collaboration (SharePoint team site, email distribution list, Planner plan, Notebook, MS Teams, etc.)

So, is Trello better than Planner?

It depends! (drink if you are playing architect/consultant bingo)

What value are you getting from one over the other?  Can you manage workload in Planner and keep your project work/ communication in one location while team communication is happening though MS Teams? Is this best of breed app going to really affect the bottom line, your productivity?

If a tool is providing real value, making life easier, helping you make clients happy, then, by all means, deviate from the standard. Buy the Le Creuset fondue set!

Otherwise, for day to day use, why not stick with the bundle that works great together and as a whole provides more value than all best of breed tools that can’t really talk to each other that easily.

In summary, I think it comes down spending wisely. Personally I believe that the value proposition of the Office 365 ecosystem is the best out there to cover all aspects of collaboration. As other apps go, focus on what provides an advantage to delivering your product or service by improving your time to value, or customer satisfaction.

Cookware image by Stevensnodgrass