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WSO2 Enterprise Integrator 4 minutes

Selecting an Enterprise Service Bus: who calls the shots?

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Luuk Abels
Integration Consultant
selecting right esb
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You’ve made up your mind. Your company needs an integration tool and now is the time. The Enterprise Service Bus concept seems to fit perfectly within your IT infrastructure to connect all the dots. There’s no time to lose: you gotta have this! You go online to make a shortlist and you cannot wait to tell the others about your brilliant plan. Who doesn’t like more integration and better communication between systems, right? Then it suddenly dawns on you: you’re about to spend a lot of company money. Is this really your call?

Don’t do it alone

First, let us tell you this. No matter who you are, you can never (ever) make such a decision alone. It doesn’t matter whether you are the CEO, the Queen or the President of the United States: purchasing an ESB all by yourself equals trouble. It’s not that we don’t trust your expertise on integration tools; it’s a matter of adoption. We know of many ESB implementation projects that failed because of a lack of support. In most cases the ESB worked perfectly fine, but the people that had to use it felt passed over and refused to change their ways. And you can’t blame them. An ESB implementation project done right is always a team effort. Below, we introduce four key figures to include in your decision process.

Key figure 1. IT manager/CIO

The IT manager or CIO of your company usually pitches new ideas on integration, as he’s the one that’s on top of the data infrastructure. If he’s not the one to come up with the idea to purchase an Enterprise Service Bus, then include him as soon as possible. IT managers and CIOs know all there’s to know on your company’s IT history and can probably tell you which pitfalls you can expect and which parameters are important. If you go your own way and involve your IT manager or CIO too late, you not only risk annoying him; you will lack information that is needed to make the right purchase. Our advice? Schedule a meeting as soon as possible and leave the practical details to the IT manager or CIO.

Key figure 2. CFO

Not every ESB is expensive. Especially open source versions are affordable and don’t require binding contracts or long termination periods. This however doesn’t change the fact that your CFO is in charge of the company cash. You probably won’t be the first one to ask for an investment, meaning you’ll you have to have a good story that you can support with thorough research. So, before planning anything, we recommend scheduling a meeting with your CFO to talk money. Share your view on integration, tell him about external developments and the way they (will) affect your internal data infrastructure. Then gently drop the words “Enterprise Service Bus” and “long-term investment” and tell him you managed to find an economical option. Important sidenote: the CFO is also your best way to the CEO, as they closely collaborate on company investments.

Key figure 3. Software architect

As soon as you get the IT manager and CFO on board, you’re well on your way to get the ESB project started. But you’re not there yet. The software architects of your company should be included as soon as possible, as they’ll be the ones turning vague ideas into reality. They can advise you on which requirements to consider, so they can make a solid and future-proof design. Second, software architects stand in close contact with developers, who in turn will be the ones working with the new ESB. We therefore recommend to meet up with your software architects and have them schedule meetings with developers too, so everyone gets involved without the risk of flooding the meeting room. Software architects may not be the decision-makers of the company: they are responsible for what gets decided and should be aware of the added value of the Enterprise Service Bus from the very beginning.

Key figure 4. Everybody else

If everything goes to plan and the CEO has given his blessing, your ESB club has four members: you, the IT manager/CIO, the CFO, and at least one software architect (or maybe three members, when you’re already one of them). At this stage, you can start making shortlists and evaluate different candidates. But don’t wait too long to involve one very important stakeholder group: everybody else in your company. Think about what will happen when the entire IT infrastructure changes without anyone telling them. They won’t know how to handle the new way of exchanging information, which will most definitely lead to frustrations, unwillingness, mistakes, and feelings of being left out. Secretaries, marketers, account managers, and even volunteers: every single person within your organization deals with IT, simply because they all exchange information.

Taking hurdles

So, to answer the question on who calls the shots: probably the CFO together with the IT manager. This however doesn’t mean they’ll be the key figures during the ESB implementation. This is the job of software architectures and developers, meaning they’re just as crucial to the decision phase. If you manage to get them on board and have them spread the word throughout your organization, you already took some hurdles to make the ESB a success.

Want to know about your options? Then read our ESB selection guide and find the integration tool that fits your company profile. Just don’t wait too long sharing it with your ESB club members!