Enterprise Architecture Types

Bespoke Architecture

Although prevalent in the early days of enterprise IT systems this is now mainly the domain of technology driven highly specialized businesses (e.g. google, Netflix, etc.). The key driver here is that there is a business scenario where no existing COTS package can offer the functionality that is required.

Commercial advantage here is based on architecting bespoke solutions faster and better than anyone else. Technology is the key differentiator.

Enterprise architecture vision is key in this model as the new components that will be required will have to fit with the overall IT vision and model.

This model is the best fit for organizations that:

  • are technology led
  • have lots of VC funding up front
  • use technology as the key USP

Advantages of a Bespoke Architecture

Description Notes
Free-hand to design and build systems as you like. This excites IT staff typically more than any other model. IT staff tend to be highly motivated as they are doing something completely unique. You can also design the IT architecture to meet the unique business model (which is very often IT driven)
Changes to technology drive business change As the business model is often IT driven, the majority of change in this model tends to be through technological innovation rather than business change.
Works where there is no existing COTS software for that space. This is becoming a more and more restricted space.
Often designed to be massively scalable Many of the problem spaces here involve massive scalability issues, this leads to the requirement for systems that scale more highly than typical enterprise systems need to.
No or little reliance on third party suppliers. Whilst there may be some external development effort employed, the design and IP are held in house. This means there is little reliance on others when changes are required.
If you get it right competitive advantage delivered by the unique architecture is high. This can protect the business as the barriers to entry tend to be high.
Master Data management can be  simplistic as it’s just one system. This means that ensuring data consistency is not an organizational issue.

Disadvantages of Bespoke Architecture

Description Notes
High Cost to implement This can be an advantage as it provides a barrier to entry for other competitors.

The time to live for version 1 of the architecture can be long which makes it unlikely to be used to transition to from an existing architecture.

Reliance on single points These can be key technologies – you often see re-architectures  based on technology preference not business need. Also you are reliant on key staff for maintenance and support, these staff are often ‘superstars’.
Must be designed with a clear vision Cost of significant business change if the design is wrong can be large.
High Risk Strategy Need to understand we hear about successes but there are many failures.
Barriers to entry will not last forever. COTS packages, computing improvements and open source tools will eventually close the gaps meaning your niche will close in time.
Will tend to use COTS packages over time COTS packages are likely to be introduced where in house experience may be lacking in the long run.

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