Monday, January 16, 2006

The Myth of "One Throat to Choke"

When decision makers start to compare various technology solutions, one thing that inevitably comes up is the notion of a single vendor solution, with one support organization, versus a best-of-breed solution with multiple support organizations. The so-called "One Throat to Choke" support model.

I call this a myth, for several reasons. While we can all recall situations where multiple vendors have pointed fingers at each other versus helping solve our problem. I can also recall situations where multiple vendors worked quite well together to solve problems. Just like we can all recall a single vendor not addressing a problem even though it was clearly their problem to deal with.

First, with most single vendor solutions, that have anything more than one moving part, so-to-speak, they have proprietary features of the integrated solution that are intended to lock you in. They also make it very difficult to get value out of their solution without using the proprietary features. With that, once you have landed in that trap, the switching costs start to mount, and for some conservative organizations, they become insurmountable. Once they have you in that situation, there support really doesn't have to be very good. So now, you have "one throat to choke", and you are just there choking them with no results! This is especially true in the software industry with "stacks" or "suites" that are supposed to save you from all the integration costs, because they are pretested and certified together.

Second, most mature technologies today are based on a set of open standards. With open standards, the integration costs aren't as high, and in some cases downright non-existent. With standarized interfaces and protocols between the various pieces of a best-of-breed solution, it is often quite easy to determine where the problem lies. Lessening the pointing of fingers, and making it easier to determine where a problem lies, and who needs to be involved to fix it. Also, when vendors are put into a competitive situation, often they will work harder to solve your problems then vendors that have you locked in!

Finally, with many technology combinations in a best-of-breed solution, the vendors have predefined cross support relationships, and if they don't, many times they are willing to put those in place for you.

While it may seem alluring to have "one throat to choke", I think the differences in resolving problems is minimal, at best, when compared to a multi-vendor solution. Also, with the lock in strategy of "stack" or "suite" products, you are many times left with an inferior solution with no competitive pressure that helps you as a customer.

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