Who’s in Charge of the Architecture? You Are.

In Replacing Large Applications – Who’s in Charge?, Kathy Harris at Gartner writes:

“Most of the organizations have no real architectural vision for their system. The result is that they are essentially allowing the vendor to establish their architecture. This may be ok in the long run, but for many organizations, it is a de facto decision rather than an active choice.”

While many vendors have the expertise to make the right recommendations for their portion of a solution, things become much more complicated when you start integrating their applications with others. Complexity increases exponentially when you consider the changes being made by other departments, in other locations, and by your partners.

The complete picture can be daunting. Great enterprise architects understand that you don’t need an exact schematic of how infrastructure will evolve over the lifetime of the business. Rather, you need to take proactive steps to incorporate flexibility into your architecture. And the best way to do this is to partner with vendors that adopt Open Integration principles to ensure that your architecture can grow to support the business as it evolves.

If you’re concerned that your vendor is prescribing your architecture for you, consider these three Open Integration requirements:

  1. Make sure your vendor supports open standards. This means that they support de facto standards as well as those specific to your industry. More importantly, they should also be involved in defining emerging standards, to ensure future compatibility. If your vendor supports open standards, you have a better chance of adapting to change.
  2. Develop an open architecture. Look for solutions that are modular in nature and allow you to mix and match functionality to meet your needs, while only paying for what you use.
  3. If possible, leverage open source. By using open source, you reduce your price of admission to mission-critical infrastructure. More importantly, you have direct access to the source code and those who wrote it.

Organizations need to take an active role in defining architecture. All three Open Integration principles allow you to actively choose what’s right for your business, instead of being at the mercy of others and hoping it will all work out in the long run.

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