Do your Vendors have Enterprise Architecture Efforts?

The short answer is… Yes. But why do they? Aren’t they just supplying shrink wrapped applications. Why should they care about EA?

Over the course of the past six or so months I have hosted or have been hosted at events that relate to the practice of EA. What I found surprising is that there is a great deal of EA activity in the vendor space. I knew it was happening but not at this rate. I talked to a large financial services ISV that hired a chief architect from an enterprise. They wanted him to lead there re-architecture of the entire product line over the course of the next five years. He has built a mini EA-ish practice within the ISV. This is the case with one but there are many that are doing similar things with EA.


So why do they have EA practices? Simply, they want to manage complexity in the growing number of systems they have built. Not too different than others in the corporate space. Vendors often face challenges that contrast the issues enterprises faces. Even though there are similar challenges it is not to say they are the same nor can you use the same approaches to the problem. 

How do we differentiate between the two? Below is a chart contrasting enterprises with the vendor space.





What does this mean?

Business Alignment

Less of a concern for vendors. Market and Roadmap alignment is the primary concern in this space

Obviously this is a high priority for most enterprises

Vendors will spend more time on forward conditions rather than current and previous. Whereas enterprise must take into account these challenges as they as based on the fabric of their business.


Vendors must be able to support compliance

Enterprise have to implement compliance

Even though these are very different activities there is still a great deal of similarities and work to be had be the vendors. Not only does an individual product need to be complaint but the whole integrated suite of products.

Risk Management

Vendors have very different risk management controls. Usually less intrusive.

Risk management in enterprises usually has several functions to support operational risk and reputational risk.

Enterprises have much more activities when it comes to risk functions, but as you can see vendors have the same concerns but on a much smaller scale.

Cost Control

Usually vendors are more sensitive to this as their business is the technology they build

Still a concern to enterprises, however operational management functions often impact costs

Both vendors and enterprises share the same aspirations of lower the cost of ownership of their technologies and have similar processes.


Agility to a vendor is often looked at from purely a technology perspective

Agility in the enterprise  is often looked at from the business perspective

Perspectives of are different however they are both concerned with agility


This is the core to the vendors business

Most enterprises rely on
technology innovations from the vendors

Vendors have a stronger emphasis on innovation and structure their business and technology processes around this aspect.  This is one of the largest differentiation between the two.


Mergers are lighter weight and encompass merging of technologies

Mergers are on a much larger scale and include integration of business processes and technologies

Mergers will happen in both and will have similar pre and post processes even though efforts may be different.


Very light weight to encourage and foster innovation.

Heavier weight to regulate compliance and risk management within the enterprise

Vendors will have a much lighter governance model since innovation and time to delivery of products is key.

Portfolio Mgmt

Technology roadmaps and refreshes

Enterprise standardization and cost control.

Both will have portfolio management concerns.


In summary, even though there are some big differences between vendors and enterprises there is a great deal of similarities in the process of EA. Here at Microsoft, EA is not immune to the same challenges enterprises face. The processes around aspects such as governance and portfolio management have to be seriously modified to work within vendors. Does this mean vendors shouldn’t have an EA practice because there is loose governance? Absolutely not, governance is just one aspect of EA.

There is a great amount of EA practices among top software companies around the world. Some of the larger ones include; Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, Oracle and IBM. But this isn’t limited to large vendors. I’ve talked to three Financial Services vendors over the past year that have EA practices.

Enterprise Architecture means something different to every organization. It is important to understand that there isn’t a prescriptive model for approaching EA practices. It is about following a key set of EA principles instead of following a checklist.




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