LeBron James, three-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is one of the best basketball players of all-time. With his recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Miami Heat, LeBron also boasts one of the most controversial careers in recent basketball history. But what can LeBron’s commitment issues teach us about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems?
Best-Of-Breed: Miami Heat
In 2010, LeBron left the Cavs, his hometown team of seven years, to join the Miami Heat alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh much to the anger and dismay of loyal Cleveland fans. Basketball fanatics anxiously anticipated the Big Three, the NBA’s newest best-of-breed solution, to lead the Heat to an NBA championship. However, fans were disappointed when the team started the season off 9-8 and eventually lost to the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA’s best-of-suite team, in the NBA finals. Even with their new all-star players, the Miami Heat faced problems similar to those faced by many businesses transitioning to a best-of-breed ERP system.
The best-of-breed solution for ERP systems incorporates specialized all-star point solutions into an all-encompassing ERP ecosystem. In best-of-breed ERP solutions, some initial challenges of implementation include difficulties communicating between business functions, coordinating with multiple vendors, and training employees on how to use different systems. When the Heat traded for James and Bosh, the overall synergy of the Heat suffered as old and new members adjusted to playing together, much like the integrations issues that can arise in a best-of-breed implementation. Hiring a cast of all-star players can get expensive as each player’s agent is looking to maximize their respective player’s pay. This can happen in best-of-breed implementations when negotiations with many vendors become expensive and drawn out. While “seamless” integration is often easier said than done, successful integration is incredibly important in an implementation of a best-of-breed ERP system. A well-tailored best-of-breed solution can properly address a company’s unique needs. With a poorly integrated system, you wind up with an expensive collection of independently operating pieces of software. After fixing the bugs and implementation mistakes of the 2010-2011 season, the Miami Heat were able to leverage their newly optimized best-of-breed solution to win the 2012 and 2013 NBA titles.
Best-Of-Suite: Cleveland Cavaliers
Just as software becomes outdated and obsolete, so did the Miami Heat’s best-of-breed solution. After dropping the 2014 finals to the San Antonio Spurs in five games, it was time for James to consider upgrading his system. James’ contract expired, and he returned to his home town of Cleveland where he planned to “bring a group together and help them reach a place they didn’t know they could go.”
Back in Cleveland, LeBron was now the central component to league’s most formidable best-of-suite system. The Cavaliers were now a complete team with each player or component knowing his role and contribution to the bigger picture. The Cav’s 2016 synergy and success is akin to ease of integration seen in best-of-suite solutions. Unlike best-of-breed, the best-of-suite solution uses one vendor to provide solutions for all the different functions of the business. Vendors such as SAP, Oracle and NetSuite provide businesses with the benefits of ease of communication and intra-company data transfer by being the only point of contact for any ERP issues. However, some drawbacks of the best-of-suite solution include less specialization in technical capabilities as well as a rigid dependent system (think LeBron getting injured or retiring). However, if these risks are successfully managed, the best-of-suite solution and the Cleveland Cavaliers can prove to be a winning option.
With the acquisition of Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors look to be building a best-of-breed monstrosity on the west coast. Just as the business environment is always evolving, so is the competitive landscape of the NBA. LeBron and the Cavaliers are already looking to make system modifications to adapt to this constantly changing environment. As off-season trades begin to happen, contracts must be renegotiated and players’ roles must be reconsidered. However, if properly managed, these initial hurdles can be cleared. As evidenced by LeBron’s career, both best-of-breed and best-of-suite methodologies can produce championship performance. It’s just a matter of what fits your unique needs.
And for more on how LeBron can teach us about consulting, check out “NBA Champs: 5 Consulting Lessons from the Cleveland Cavaliers” by Ben Snyder.