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The False Promise of All-in-One Software

Four myths and a truth about do it all user insights platforms.

It’s seductive, the promise of the all-in-one. Why have 10 tools when you can have one? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a single source of truth for your team, a single place to collaborate and call your SaaS home, a way to save some money and reduce complexity? Of course it would be. The problem is, that’s not reality. It’s a fantasy. Before signing onto a new all-in-one, or taking the path of least resistance and re-upping your current contract, consider that an all-in-one may be a riskier bet than you think.

I invite you to go on a journey with me. In this journey we’ll look at the top arguments for all-in-one tools, reflect on the problems with these arguments, and then explore an alternate path. This is an admittedly self-serving path, but it happens to be one I believe in, so let’s go.

Myth #1: All-in-ones can do anything and everything your team needs

In theory, it would be great to have just the one tool that did everything you needed—but rarely can a single tool deliver on this wish. In reality, all-in-ones do several things, but generally they either A) don’t do them all well or B) the things they do don’t perfectly match the things you really need. Let’s look at each case separately.

The modern research stack must solve for 3 fundamental needs:

  1. finding quality participants
  2. conducting research
  3. analyzing/sharing insights.

A few tools manage to do all 3 well for the limited number of research methods they support, or for the particular kind of participant they can help you find. If you happen to be a perfect fit for those methods and participants, all-in-one may work for you. But we find that research, product, UX and marketing teams increasingly employ a large variety of research methods to answer their user questions—and complaints about participant quality are rampant when these teams rely on all-in-ones for recruitment.

Another scenario you may see with an early stage research tool is the promise of a really comprehensive platform that covers a variety of methods AND has a panel AND does insights management. You may wonder how they do all this well. They don’t. The features are often there, but immature, shallow. There are frequent complaints about bugs and a lack of human support. One might worry tools like this have simply bitten off more than they can chew.

Basically, you can have some of your use cases be met well and others not at all. Or you can have most of them met, but just to an “ok” degree. They aren’t great options, are they?

The good news is, there’s another way—but it isn’t the all-in-one way.

Myth #2: Legacy all-in-one tools are more secure, durable, enterprise ready

Many all in one tools that have been on the market for some time have great security credentials. But nowadays, it’s frankly not that hard to get those credentials. Software like Vanta makes GDPR, SOC 2 and other security and compliance standards achievable. Even relatively early stage startups are now able to offer enterprise level security, privacy, and compliance.

Enterprise customers don’t just care about security though. They also care about durability, admin controls, and flexibility. They want power and guardrails at the same time. They may assume the tool that has been around the longest or that claims the broadest feature set is the one for them. This is not necessarily the case.

We’ve seen large, incumbent research tools struggle in recent years. We’ve seen their satisfaction and placement in G2 rankings go down. We’ve seen an emphasis on acquisition over innovation. We’ve seen stock trouble.

The idea that these tools are guaranteed to be around, to innovate—to meet the needs of tomorrow—is not really a safe bet in 2023. But they will be happy to lock you into a multi-year, 6-figure contract anyway.

Because that’s how these behemoth platforms work. Sure, many all-in-one tools do have some integrations; but their goal is to keep you locked into their platform, to make it painful to change providers. Because of this, data portability can be a real challenge when you commit to an all-in-one. While data security is of course incredibly important, the ability for data to move across secure, modern, quality tools is also important. What good is secure but siloed data?

Integration focused tools are inherently more future proof, allowing your stack to evolve as your needs do.

Myth #3: 1 tool is cheaper than 2+ tools

To state the obvious, cost is determined by the total cost of your tools—not by the number of tools you have. We see many contracts for legacy all-in-ones go well into 6 figures, sometimes 7.

And look, for many large enterprises, cost may not be the top concern. But value should be. As we’ve seen above, you may be paying a lot for something that is not exactly what you need. Then, you’re forced to do without, or pay more still. It seems unwise to scoff at thinking about cost and value in 2023, regardless of company size.

Purpose-built tools are able to provide better value because they don’t have all the organizational bloat of larger, older, all-in-ones. They’re built on modern, lean, integration-first infrastructure. They can move faster and stay laser focused on the specific thing you are paying them to do. They do it better and they do it cheaper. How much cheaper? It depends. Here are a few sample stacks you could build with User Interviews. Costs are estimated based on current pricing and incentive recommendations.

Use case: ~150 in-depth b2c interviews/year

  • User Interviews for participant recruitment with incentives - $10,000
  • Zoom for conducting interviews - $0 incremental, integrates with UI
  • Dovetail for insight management and analysis - $13,500.
  • Total = $23,500

Use case: ~150 B2B sessions, mix of interviews, surveys, and usability tests

  • User Interviews for participant recruitment with incentives, mix of our panel (Recruit) and yours (Research Hub) - $20,000
  • Sprig for usability testing and surveys - $2,100, integrates with UI
  • Grain for AI assisted note taking, clips, transcripts - $1,800
  • Total = $23,900

What's an all-in-one cost? Hard to say. Here's some crowd sourced information from Reddit. See how your quote stacks up to examples like above. Our bet is we can save you a good amount of money for your use case.

Myth #4: It’s easier to buy and manage an all-in-one tool

If every tool in your stack is as hard to buy and use as a legacy all-in-one, yes it’s going to be harder to have multiple tools. However, if the tools in your stack are easier to buy and use, this is not the case.

A great way to get a sense of what your buying process may look like is to check out your vendor’s pricing page. More transparency = simpler, shorter process. No pricing listed = longer, more convoluted process. You are also likely to be charged what you are able and willing to pay, which is not a good value for your team.

With single sign-on, robust integrations, and a focus on intuitive UX, managing multiple tools can be straightforward. Modern “knowledge workers” are quite used to switching between many tools in a given day. If they’re the right tools, it’s fine. What’s not fine is having multiple tools do the same thing or paying for tools no one likes, that don’t do a good job at what they’re supposed to do. The key is that your stack works seamlessly together, that your tools do their jobs well, and that you’re getting a good value out of your stack overall.

Truth: Best-in-class is the better way to build your user insights stack

As you can see, all-in-one insights and research tools aren’t necessarily all they’re cracked up to be. They’re perceived to be safe, robust, cost effective, easy.

In reality they’re old news and false promises. They are the jack of all trades, the master of none. They may have a place in your stack, but it is likely they are not the only tool you will need.

User Interviews is purpose-built to solve for the most painful, frustrating, and important part of research: finding quality participants. You can do good research with lo-fi, lo-cost methods. You cannot do good research with poor quality participants. You can recruit from our panel of nearly 3.5 million participants and get qualified candidates in hours. You can also manage your own panel and talk to your own users even faster.

We work with any tool you like to use to do research—yes, even all in ones—and make it easy by integrating with the leading players in the modern stack. We have flexible, affordable and transparent pricing. And according to G2, we are the leading tool in the entire user research stack.

There will always be a hot new testing tool. There are already many, many testing tools to choose from. As I write this, AI is already radically disrupting what research tools in general—and insight management tools in particular—are capable of. But there’s one thing that won’t change: good decisions are built on good insights and you only get good qualitative insights from the right participants.

Want to learn more about recruiting great participants fast through User Interviews? You can try us yourself for free, swipe a card and buy a transparently priced subscription when you're ready, or talk to sales to get started. Looking for a detailed side-by-side?

Erin May
SVP, Marketing

Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.

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