We’re excited to bring you this guest post – the second in a two part series – from our friends at Hubb. Hubb helps organizations automate workflows & tasks required to collect, manage and market content for conferences and meetings. Hubb offers event solutions for many leading companies & associations.
If you like this post, check out the webinar we hosted with Hubb on Ten Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Event Mobile Solution. Get details and the link here.
One of the most famous scenes in cinema—you’ve undoubtedly seen it—comes from the second Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke Skywalker finds out Darth Vader is his father. This dirty secret, previously unknown, turns the whole trilogy upside down, and nothing is the same for Luke or Star Wars.
Well, brace yourself. There is a similar dirty secret that redefines the entire best-in-breed vs. all-in-one debate: all-in-one event technology solutions are a myth; there has never been a purpose-built all-in-one event technology solution.
What the debate really centers around is event technology solutions you create from separate best-in-breed tools that meet your specific needs (the best-in-breed tools we’ve been talking about) and event technology solutions also created from disparate tools but compiled without your input and for which the quality of each tool is secondary to the tool existing for the sake of claiming comprehensiveness (all-in-ones).
[now would be a good time to play Darth Vader’s theme music]
Let’s unpack that last paragraph, because it’s essential for understanding whether a best-in-breed or all-in-one tool will perform best for your event.
All-in-one event technology solutions aren’t born, they evolve. Every all-in-one began as a best-in-breed tool focused on doing on thing. To gain an advantage against competitors, these tools began adding tools with the goal of creating a comprehensive solution (we’d call this “going to the dark side,” but we’re probably biased). Some of these additional tools were added via acquiring other companies. Others were built in-house, and others still were created by grabbing open-source code from online.
The different origins of these tools results in the quality of each varying considerably and, because they were not purpose-built but rather assembled from different sources and created with different technologies, they don’t integrate as well as you’d expect, or as well as you’d find in tools designed to integrate (best-in-breed tools). Cobbled together from many different sources, these all-in-one tools are the Frankenstein’s Monster of event technology.
So, the debate is not about comprehensiveness, but about who can build the best solution for your event: you or an all-in-one company.
Best-in-breed and all-in-one tools present other opposing attributes. Here are some of the continuums on which you can assess them:
Greater Flexibility / Better Integrations (Best-in-Breed) versus Less Flexibility / Fewer Integrations (All-in-One)
Best-in-breed tools are designed to easily integrate with other tools and services.
Want to connect your event content management platform with your marketing automation system, or that kickass new mobile app? Do you want your membership tool to pass data into your speaker management tool? None of that will be difficult. Because best-in-breed tools are built around APIs and are designed for plug-and-play connectivity. In other words, they snap together like Legos.
All-in-one tools take an opposite approach. They focus on building an entire ecosystem under their control. They want you to stay within their ecosystem, so they’re going to discourage you from using anything not sold by them. Because of this, integrations will not be a focus (and are frequently impossible). If you want to take your data out of their system, it will likely be as a .csv Excel file (if you can get it out at all). From a business point-of-view, this makes sense for an all-in-one. But it doesn’t help you as an event manager, or benefit your events.
Lower Cost (Best-in-Breed) versus Higher Cost (All-in-One)
Believe it or not, compiling an event tech solution from best-in-breed tools is usually less expensive than purchasing an all-in-one solution. Why? The same reason your cable TV bill is so high—you’re being forced to pay for a lot of channels (or in this case, event tech tools) that you likely don’t need
More vendors (Best-in-Breed) versus Less Vendors (All-in-One)
By definition, you’re going to have less vendors with an all-in-one solution. For those who like to have “one throat to choke,” this is preferable. However, because best-in-breed tools tend to work better, there is usually less need to “choke a throat” with them.
More Knowledgeable Support (Best-in-Breed) versus Less Knowledgeable Support (All-in-One)
This may seem counterintuitive but in our experience, you receive better support with best-in-breed tools. Why? Because all-in-ones are so vast and sprawling, containing different modules built with different technologies, it’s rare to find somebody who knows the entire platform well. Focused best-in-breed tools are much more manageable in size, and support teams tend to know these tools inside and out.
High quality (Best-in-Breed) versus Inconsistent quality (All-in-One)
Finally, as we’ve discussed, best-in-breed tools focus on doing one thing exceptionally well. All-in-ones often have some high-quality modules (usually their original focus) but the others are lacking. For example, the proto-typical all-in-one is Cvent, and they’re strong with registration, which is where their business originated many years ago. But their other modules (and there is more than a dozen of them) vary considerably.
Some events do benefit from using an all-in-one event technology provider. Generally smaller events with simple needs that aren’t going to demand too much from their event technology, and for whom the convenience of an all-in-one offsets the potential cost-savings and better quality tools they’d find from best-in-breed tools.
But for nearly everybody else, a best-in-breed solution will help you save money, will result in less headaches, will give you more flexibility and adaptability and help you better manage your events. It’s why we used best-in-breed tools when we manage events, it’s why we built a best-in-breed tool, and it’s why you’d likely benefit from opting for best-in-breed tools.
All-in-ones position themselves as one-stop technology solutions for events. Best-in-breed tools claim superior performance at a lower cost.
Which is the right choice for your event? And does it even matter?
It does matter. A lot.
Before starting Hubb, we were event professionals managing dozens of events around the world each year, ranging from ten-person executive meetings to city-wide events attended by tens of thousands. We found event technology to be essential for our jobs, and we tried out nearly every technology available. One approach enabled us to be considerably more successful than all the others, and allowed our experiential event management company to grow explosively (we twice made the INC 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America).
What enabled us to do that was our successful adoption of best-in-breed tools.
In Part 1 of this two-part post we give an overview of the best-in-breed / all-in-one debate. We also pull back the curtain on how event technology tools are constructed (don’t worry, nothing too technical!) and why that matters. In Part 2, we’ll dive into the specific strengths and weaknesses of best-in-breed and all-in-one event technology tools, and help you identify which will be best for your event.
So just what does all-in-one and best-in-breed mean?
It sounds like a lot of jargon, so let us break it down for you. The classic all-in-one tool is the Swiss Army knife. With a knife, spoon, corkscrew, screwdriver (and likely more), it can do anything.
So why don’t people use a Swiss Army knife as their everyday knife for kitchen work? Or use it to replace the screwdrivers in their tool box?
Even though it does the job of a knife or screwdriver, it isn’t necessarily better at those tasks than a kitchen knife or an actual screwdriver. You’re sacrificing effectiveness for versatility.
Once, in a pinch, we tried to use a swiss army knife to prepare dinner. It…did not end well, and now we rely on our trusty chef’s knife exclusively.
A best-in-breed tool is something focused on doing one thing and doing it as well as possible. Let’s say it’s lunch time and you’re craving a spicy tuna roll. You can get it from the local deli, where the person making your sushi also makes sandwiches, pizza, soup and more. Or you can go to the local sushi spot run by a chef who has trained for decades to perfect every element of sushi, who only thinks of sushi (like Jiro, he dreams of it) and who uses this expert knowledge and passion to create amazing sushi. Is there any question which store you’ll get better sushi from? In this example, the deli is an all-in-one and the sushi shop a best-in-breed.
Let’s talk about how event technology tools are constructed. But let’s keep it interesting, let’s talk about it in the context of Legos (those small plastic building blocks that you probably loved as a kid, and which will destroy your bare feet if you accidently step on one).
There are many tools within the broad umbrella that is event technology. There are registration tools, mobile apps, content management, badging, presentation tools, sponsor and exhibitor management, hotel sourcing, and staffing tools, to name just a few. Each of these functions as a standalone tool; essentially a Lego block. Your badging tool is a Lego, your mobile app is a Lego, your registration tool is a Lego.
Your event’s event tech solution is a combination of these tools snapped together like Legos to create a unified whole. Where Legos connect with their indentations and protrusions, event tech connects via the passing of data through APIs.
One might assume the debate is between tools that you assemble yourself (best-in-breed) versus tools that come pre-assembled (all-in-one). Except, that’s not accurate. Even though they operate under the umbrella of a single company, that doesn’t mean the tools in an all-in-one are well integrated; event managers frequently find themselves frustrated and wasting time trying to get the various tools in an all-in-one to work together. For example, you may need to export and import (or worse, copy and paste) your data from one part of an all-in-one to another because the tools were not built as an integrated platform. Or, a registration system may claim to do abstract management, but in-reality, the all-in-one company has jerry-rigged a tool that was designed for something else entirely. The result is a tool with only a fraction of the functionality you’d expect combined with a clunky integration with other tools in the solution.
Guest post by Allie Magyar, Hubb CEO. Allie is an award-winning event maven, entrepreneur and speaker. Her latest video, How Event Planners Can Go from Being Task Managers to Strategic Planners is available online.