We get a lot of calls from EA leaders that find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place: They need a tool to help them through a specific initiative such as application rationalization or transformation management, but don’t have the time, maturity, approach, and financial justification for the EA management suite (EAMS) that would get the job done. As I mention in my recent report, "Select A Right-Fit Toolset For EA," this uncertainty and urgency has fueled the proliferation of new vendors addressing specific challenges. What I did not mention is that these new choices don’t just signal more competition in the usual market – they actually signal a new market entirely. One that is probably bigger than many might first think.

I’m referring to the mid-market. Not just in the obvious sense of smaller, less mature EA practices, but also including the myriad situations where the initiative is being carried out by a role that has no idea that they’re acting as an “EA,” or by consultants hired to get the job done and get out. There’s a big market out there of temporary EA “initiatives” (as opposed to permanent EA groups or practices) and consultants that would leverage a tool if it were cheap enough, easy enough, and straight-forward enough for these short-term use cases.

What got me thinking about this was SoftwareAG’s announcement of their “Portfolios Live”offering at Innovation World today in San Francisco. Simply put, it’s a set of pre-configured functionality for a very specific initiative. This means reports, metrics, and step-by-step instructions on the approach and data needed to accomplish a specific initiative, such as an application portfolio health assessment or alignment effort, without the need for a vendor or consultant present. At the risk of sounding biased, I’m going to admit that I like where this is headed. Delivered quickly and cheaply through an on-demand model, it plays into the trends and precisely targets this market as a temporary but immediate solution to a common set of challenges, circumventing the EAMS’s usual image as a big, hairy, and scary long-term investment.

Why does this matter? Well, quite frankly, the usual EAMS market isn’t exactly enormous, and one might question how much is left, given the rarity of mature EA organizations. If this endeavor is successful, it should send a nasty shock to the competition, who will have to take their mid-market focus to new heights. In the past, EAMS vendors have only been dipping their toes into this market, but not really taking the plunge. SaaS models, quick-start programs, and pre-configured solutions for things like business architecture and application portfolio management have provided value to this market, but this move takes it the extra step (and shortens the sales cycle, as well). Not to mention the market potential it has a consultant’s tool. I expect to see a few other vendors take this approach in the near future, using their experiences in implementation to tap the market, swinging the pendulum away from a focus on breadth and depth of functionality, to simplicity built on methodology. My hope is that this will help EA efforts deliver faster results to their stakeholders and that more will go on to survive and mature.

The trick to a vendor’s success, however, will be selling and perfecting the methodology built in to the tool. Unless it's consumable, believable, and valuable enough, the plan fails. Once the vendor has to get involved, the value proposition and margins shrink away, making this one tough nut to crack.

But I want to know what you think. Are the approaches to initiatives like portfolio health assessments, alignment assessments, or dependency assessments commoditized enough that you would buy one off the shelf? Or is it critical to define your own approach?