GUEST OPINION

Best-of-Breed Solution Best for Government

Harry Barschdorf

By Harry Barschdorf

It is decision time for information technology integrators in the government enterprise software market. Policy changes at the General Services Administration and the Oct. 1, 1998, demise of the Financial Management Systems Software schedule have opened the market and increased competition.

Debate now has risen between enterprise resource planning vendors and best-of-breed solution providers as to which enterprise automation solution is best for government.

Who integrators choose to partner with and how they counsel their clients will have an impact on their bottom lines. But a clear look at the facts makes this decision a bit easier. Best-of-breed is best for government.

GSA's new procurement process ends the practice of open bidding for enterprise financial management software by government agencies. Whereas agencies were required to advertise project requirements and invite bids from all certified vendors, they now are able to choose which vendors to approach.

This means systems integrators will play a greater role in counseling government buyers on which products and services will best fit their requirements. The ultimate success or failure of those recommendations will reflect on integrators. It is important to understand which options fit the needs of your customers in order to provide expert counsel.

The best-of-breed approach involves integrating different enterprise software applications in an open environment based on the customer's unique requirements.

For instance, a government agency would embrace the best-of-breed approach when electing to implement different enterprise software applications for financial management, human resources, procurement and other related administrative systems.

This approach enables the agency to select those applications with the greatest vertical depth, which is the richest application functionality that meets government-specific needs, and integrate those applications under an agencywide enterprise architecture.

In contrast, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) approach takes a horizontal view of the federal enterprise by offering agencies a broad suite of administrative application software originally developed to support large-scale, private-sector organizations. These applications lack the necessary vertical depth to address the complex financial and related administrative processing requirements unique to government.

The agency implementing an ERP solution is then faced with two equally difficult and costly options:

  • Investing in application software enhancements to meet basic processing needs,
  • Or undertaking significant organization and business process re-engineering to accommodate the ERP software capabilities.


A best-of-breed enterprise solution comprised of open, scalable systems developed specifically for government provides an agency with vertical depth in critical administrative areas. It implements the best technology for each business function, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

When considering ERP vs. best-of-breed, it is also important to understand there is a distinct difference between best business practices and best business software. It can be argued that applying best commercial business practices to government has a positive impact. In fact, the new procurement process for financial management enterprise software creates a more commercial atmosphere designed to increase competition and service to government agencies.

American Management Systems Inc. is a strong proponent of best business practices in government. Sixty percent of our business is in the commercial sector, and we apply the same philosophy of achieving greater efficiency through the use of enterprise technologies in our government engagements.

But we also recognize government needs software designed to meet the needs of the public sector. The business of government works differently than corporate America. ERP software was built to automate private sector business functions, not federal government functions.

Today's government systems integrator must understand these differences in enterprise automation for government. It is important that integrators are able to recommend and provide customers with a best-of-breed approach to enterprise software needs. It is the method I believe will be proven to work best within government.

Harry Barschdorf is a vice president with American Management Systems Inc., Fairfax, Va. He can be reached at harry_barschdorf@amsinc.com.

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