The alternative options are often dependent upon the type of goal an organisation is aiming to reach as well as the situation the decision maker is in. Here perhaps is an important area for evidence either to prove that the original decision is the best choice or show that an alternative is better. Alternative decisions in enterprise architecture often centre around technology choices, which product is the best fit and stands out from the others that have been considered. Product evaluation can be a lengthy process and can primarily be based upon a set of requirements issued to each vendor. The vendor which best meets the requirements and provides a cost within budget is most likely to be the winning contender. Yet does the evidence show that the product and the vendor is the best choice.
The evidence framework to support the decision making process behind this type of decision should depend upon the size and impact of the strategy or goal. If the goal is to introduce a new organisation wide application then the evidence framework needs to be broad enough to enable detailed questioning of key capabilities and situations. Using the example of a important goal of purchasing a new organisation wide application, which will impact a large number of employees and departments, then evidence should be gathered on the following:
- The current situation of the vendor; its financial position; company size and number of clients; expertise of key staff or board members; company locations – nationally and internationally; history of the vendor and its relationships with other organisations, partners, standards bodies and associations.
- The vendor’s product and its position within its product portfolio; history of the product; awards; key clients, case studies and reviews by organisations such as Gartner, Ovum or Forrester.
- How has the product been received by other customers; the trade press and internet forums.
- The development process behind the product; who are the key designers and innovators behind the product; the vendor’s product position at trade conferences – how often and at which conferences does the vendor exhibit and make presentations?
- Product capability and technical requirements; documentation and training programmes
- Product support and service management capability; field staff numbers and support lead times.
This list is just a set of examples of topics that should be gathered as an evidence framework for each vendor and then compared against the enterprise architecture and at each architectural level. This is to determine how each alternative product will fit within the architecture and its impact on existing structure. This may seem like a lot of effort to gather all of this information but this type of evidence gathering my highlight that an alternative vendor to the main contender is a better fit for the organisation even if it means a higher initial cost. A decision based on requirement fit and cost alone may turn out to be a bad decision in the long term.