here are a number of vendor alternatives available to enterprises that are considering the implementation of an enterprise application integration engine. While many of the selection criteria for a particular package are technical in nature (feature availability, ease of hands-on use, etc. . .) most of these decisions are not technical. Instead, vendor selection decisions tend to revolve around larger business decisions.
In weighing the merits of a particular Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) vendor, the following questions should be asked/discussed:
- What is the viability of the vendor long-term? (EAI implementations tend to stay in an organization for a long time, it is important that the vendor of your solution be in existence for a similarly long time)
- What technology stack(s) is your organization already familiar with? (if your organization’s developers are primarily .Net-based. . . there are significant training tasks and costs associated with an EAI engine that is java based.)
- What is the deployed footprint of the vendor, in your area? (availability and cost of trained resources is largely dependent on the deployed base of a particular product in a given geography. Your ability to support a given product, and the cost of doing so, is greatly improved if there are a number of deployments in your area)
- What is the availability, and cost, for hands-on, face-to-face support from the vendor? (Phone support is fine for most situations, but there are times, particularly in the early stages of a new implementation, when having someone onsite at your business is critical)
- What are the internal political ramifications of the vendors that you are considering? (if the organization had a previous bad experience with particular vendor, you might be making the task of selling the project to get funding much more difficult)
- What is the vendor’s previous track record of successful implementations, and budgeted cost vs actual cost? (Is the price that is being quoted the actual price, or is there a track record unforeseen change orders? Will the project actually be implemented, correctly, in the timeline discussed, or will the project really run long?)
- How does the proposed vendor fit in with the overall vendor ecosystem at your firm? (Are you adding an entirely new relationship, or do you already have other products from that vendor in-house)
- When evaluating “open source” alternatives . . . when something goes wrong, who do you call? Who is responsible? (EAI systems frequently, and quickly, become the most mission critical piece of software in an enterprise, because the operation of all other systems becomes dependent on the EAI system functioning properly. If something goes wrong. . . it’s mission critical. . . who do you call? Note that this does not rule out open source solutions, as many of them are actually vendor-supported)
- Is there a potential conflict of interest with this vendor? (does this vendor have major contracts with competing companies that might jeopardize some element of their advice to you?)
By now you’ve seen a few guidelines we use while selecting a vendor. Essentially, the biggest step in the process of selection will be selecting a provider to manage your company’s processes and applications. Remember that outsourcing is a long-term relationship, and making a good desition is crucial to meeting your technology, business, and financial objectives. If you base your decision on the information you derive from following the steps above, you will eliminate the risks of engaging in ill selected affiliation that can not only fail to improve your business, but also harm it.
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Come back nest week and discuss with us the “Partner Alternatives”.