ESB Product Selection Process – Steps to Follow

ESB Product Selection Process – Steps to Follow

Since its first published appearance in 2002 by Roy W. Schulte of the Gartner group, the concept of the enterprise service bus has evolved a lot. The success of any modern organization today depends on how it can scale its services without losing control over its technology systems. With the emergence of new technology services and their important role in driving companies’ core services, it becomes vital to have robust communication capabilities among existing and external systems. Enterprise Service Bus implementation can help organizations in all these areas!

As mentioned earlier, ESB has evolved a lot over the years. Many open-source and commercial ESB products are available in the market. Given ESB’s transformational nature, it requires much research and feasibility study to find the right ESB product for the organization.

At Ellicium, we recently helped one of our clients select the right ESB product. This article explains how we took on the product selection process and learned from it.


In the beginning, we devised this six-step process.

  1. Initiation and Stakeholder Interviews

    We started the product selection process with market research on the ESB product vendors. This exercise aimed to get a list of features available in different products. Using this list of ESB tool features, we conducted interviews with functional and technical stakeholders. Each stakeholder had to rate the features based on their desirability to use them. This exercise helped us to understand the pain areas and needs of the end users.

    Must Do
    Do use a different set of feature lists for functional and technical stakeholders. The main reason for doing this is that the level of understanding and pain areas can differ for functional and technical stakeholders. Remember, a single size does not fit everyone!

  2. Prioritizing Requirements

    Based on the scores given by the stakeholders for each feature of the ESB product and by keeping the organizational use case in mind, we prioritized the requirements for the product selection. This step can be tricky as different features carry more weight than others while evaluating the product. For example, the ‘Technical’ or ‘Architectural’ features can carry more weight than the ‘usability’ features.

    Must Do
    It is necessary to define ESB product selection criteria, including functional and non-functional requirements, to provide vendors as part of the process. With this step, we could do that easily!

  3. Vendor Shortlisting

    Utilizing the defined ESB product selection criteria, industry best practices, and market research, we then shortlisted the Vendors to be considered for the evaluation process. We also took inputs from third-party industry analyst firms such as Gartner and publicly available information for each vendor.

    Must Do
    Apart from looking at the features available in every product, it is essential to check the vendor’s credibility, product roadmap, and support model. To put it more boldly about the support Model, the support available online for a product can hugely impact the product implementation in an organization. Make sure the product you select has good support in place!

  4. Proof of Concept

    As a next step, we contacted all the shortlisted vendors and explained our needs and selection process to them. To understand the capabilities of each product, a typical use-case scenario was shared with all the vendors to be performed as a Proof of Concept. This scenario was a small piece of the process of more extensive implementation.

    Must Do
    It is strongly advised to execute the POC by yourself with the help of vendors. This will allow your technical stakeholders/users to try their hands on each product. It will also help you to understand how hard or easy it will be to implement the process in your environment using a product. Know your hurdles before you get face-to-face with them!

  5. Vendor Demos

    After completing POC, every vendor was invited to deliver a demo of all the functional and nonfunctional features shared as ESB product selection criteria in earlier steps. This exercise helped all the functional and technical stakeholders understand each product’s capabilities.

    Must Do 
    Make sure to follow the process of vendor demos thoroughly. The best way to do it is to have a questionnaire that can help a great deal to understand the product better while demonstrating.

  6. Evaluation

    Based on the Vendor demos, each stakeholder scored all the products for the functional and non-functional features. Utilizing the stakeholder’s scores, third-party industry analyst firm feedback, support material availability, and pricing models, the best 2 ESB product vendors were recommended to the management to negotiate and finalize the ESB product.

    Must Do 
    You must create a logical and reality-based score model to arrive at recommendations. This model should inherently have checks in place.

Overall, this process gave us tremendous insights into ESB products. Implementing ESB has benefits like getting visibility across the system, cost savings, better integration, etc. At the same time, before embarking on this journey it is important to have a clear vision of how much ESB will help an organization.

I am sure the above process will help you select the right tool. I will be more than happy to receive your comments and suggestions. Also, I would love to know your ESB implementation journey.