Key to Success: To ESB or not ESB that is the question...

In this installment of "Keys to Success" I probe a somewhat controversial topic and that is the implementation of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) in parallel with a Guidewire core system. 

So, here we go...

If you are performing a core system replacement it is highly likely that you are also in the midst of an overall technology refresh within your enterprise. This technology refresh covers not just your core systems but also the supporting systems and technology backbones that connect them. The topic of this post is often part of this technology refresh, the Enterprise Service Bus. The intent of this post is not to discuss the merits of the technology but rather the questions I am asked by customers and likewise questions I pose back to them when considering this topic.This should provide a set of items you can ask yourself and the project team when you are evaluating whether implementing an ESB makes sense as part of your core system replacement project.  

Does Guidewire InsuranceSuite™ require an ESB?
This is often a question posed to me by our customers. Guidewire InsuranceSuite is pre-integrated therefore there is no middleware necessary to allow for Guidewire applications to talk to one another. They communicate with each other via industry standard Web Services. Additionally there are no restrictions posed by the Guidewire platform that necessitate an ESB implementation for a Guidewire application to be conversant with other systems. However there are occasions in which other systems may require middleware of some sort in order to be integrated with the rest of the enterprise.  

Is there value being added?
This question is not really specific to the implementation of an ESB and really should be applied to all implementation scope. However it is especially true with an ESB. Are there certain connectors that the ESB provides that drastically lowers integration efforts to a legacy system?  Are there IT/operational efficiencies gained by the ESB that results in tangible benefits? Or, is the ESB a hammer looking for a nail and more likely a new toy for someone who sneaked it in to the project rather than as a necessity for the technology refresh

What is your risk appetite? 
Introducing any new system or platform brings with it inherent implementation and operational risks. As mentioned previously, if you are embarking on a core system replacement it is highly likely that there are other systems being replaced in parallel. Each of these additional replacements brings their own risks. Do you have a risk profile/appetite that would allow additional risk through the implementation of yet another system/platform, especially one designed to be the connection hub between your systems whether new or old?

Can you manage the dependencies?
When integrating two systems there is always deliverable orchestration and dependency management necessary to ensure that work or lack thereof does not impede the progress necessary in the other. This orchestration and dependency management is most often between two parties, that being the two teams performing the work in each system. With the introduction of an ESB you potentially introduce a third constituent which you now have to orchestrate deliverables and manage dependencies with.  Is the project and program management team prepared to manage an additional set of dependencies?  Will you be able to orchestrate the deliverables of the three constituents in a fashion that will reduce the chance that any one of them will not have their work impeded?

Are your staff ready?
This one sounds so simple, but it is often overlooked.  Have the staff responsible with developing on the ESB platform been trained as to how to install, configure and administer it? Do they have a full understanding of the protocols, message formats and technology standards that the ESB supports?  It is a bit anti-climatic if you are able to address all the points above to only realize you do not have the proper staff.

Hopefully the honest answers to the questions above will help to ensure you make the decision(s) that best increases your chance for success and adds the most value to your implementation. I hope you find this a helpful mental exercise to go through when considering this path.

Note: you can read my original post in this series here.