The 2014 Enterprise Architecture Awards

At a time when Web and mobile technology development have become top priorities, effective enterprise architecture matters more than ever. Here are this year's six winning initiatives

Welcome to the fifth annual Enterprise Architecture Awards, presented by InfoWorld, Forrester Research, and the Penn State University Center for Enterprise Architecture. This year, we have six winning EA programs from the following companies: Allstate Insurance, Australia Post, Dell, Dubai Customs House, Molina Healthcare, and State Farm Insurance Companies.

This group shows how far EA has come in terms of overall business impact and, in particular, in its focus on customer-facing systems that drive engagement and increase revenue. Our winners clearly understand that big data and mobile are more than leading-edge technology areas -- they also represent enormous opportunity to increase customer interaction and prove the value of EA done right.

The winners were selected by a six-person panel of leading EA practitioners:

Gary Vonderhaar, enterprise architecture group executive, and

Vijay Bhuvanagiri, head of business architecture at Mastercard, a 2013 Enterprise Architecture Awards winner

Igor Gershfang, senior director of emerging technology solutions at Walgreens

Jason Graf, IT director at Yum Brands, another 2013 winner

Eric Meredith, vice president of architecture governance and communications at PNC Financial

David Parrott, chief architecture officer at Thomson Reuters

We're grateful for our panel's efforts in selecting finalists and choosing six winners among many worthy entrants. The results speak for themselves. It's difficult to imagine an array of EA practices that could be more successful in helping their organizations achieve strategic business goals.

Allstate Insurance: Enabling business innovation

Property and casualty insurance in the United States is a relatively low-margin business. To compete in this market, the best strategy is to create differentiated products and services for unique customer segments, each with a customized value proposition. This requires both great service and innovative products.

Allstate Insurance realized that in order to grow its business, it needed to transform IT from a "fix and run" organization to a group focused on ways to "run and grow."

To accomplish this, Allstate named a Chief Innovation Officer to build and lead a team creating, evaluating, and developing new products and services for customers. Working closely with each business unit and an Innovation Execution group within Enterprise Architecture Innovation draws on both data-driven analytics and customer insights to create new offerings, enhance existing ones, and coordinate activity across the enterprise.

Prior to the creation of the Innovation Execution group, innovation chiefly derived from the ad-hoc implementation of ideas. Even when prototypes showed promise, they could not easily be integrated back into production environments. Today the EA practice's Innovation Execution activities target both business and IT, enabling innovation through the following methods:

Building "more real, more quickly," by pipelining business ideas through the systems development lifecycle faster

Uncovering potential roadblocks very early to minimize project risks

Providing development teams with working, proven prototypes for reference

Ensuring migration to production is streamlined without sacrificing quality or engineering rigor

The EA practice has adapted in several ways. Key architects with extensive development expertise are tapped to lead innovation projects, while solution architects now work on projects using both waterfall and agile methodologies. They are always part of a cross-functional team for innovation projects.

In addition, EA and the Innovation Execution teams proactively engage the IT operations teams early. This devops-style approach cultivates a collaborative commitment to successful implementation and fosters a much better understanding of nonfunctional requirements and operational needs.

The Innovation Execution team builds on the classic EA deliverables -- including application road maps and architecturally scalable designs -- by providing prototypes, market tests, and the assessment of high-risk portions of large complex systems.

The primary technology challenges come from keeping pace with new trends, including:

Mobile development and architectural changes, such as responsive UI design

Telematics and the connected car -- and their impact on such offering as usage-based insurance

Big data analytics capabilities with open source tools

Going forward, the Innovation Execution practice within EA will expand from its three core functions -- proof-of-concept projects, market tests, and fast business enablement -- to create an advanced R&D team. This team will focus on key capabilities and platforms that are two to three years out. They will also develop partnerships with key businesses and with the technology and innovation departments of leading universities.

Stakeholders see a new partner in EA thanks to the Innovation Execution practice, which not only supports their IT development teams, but can also assist in making their strategic goals and plans a reality by providing actionable solutions in significantly less time.

Australia Post: Focusing on customers

Australia Post is a for-profit, government-owned business enterprise with products and services across many industry verticals. Since 2011, digital disruption has accelerated downturns in the company's traditional letters and retail business, while at the same time creating growth opportunities in areas such as parcels, e-commerce, and government services. In response, Australia Post has undergone a fundamental transformation and created new products and services that are relevant and compelling for customers in the digital age.

The technology organization has shifted its focus from back-office, ERP system consolidation to enabling business growth and innovation through technology by investing in customer, product, and channel platforms. At the same time, Australia Post has increased efficiency and agility by adopting new technologies -- such as big data analytics and cloud infrastructure -- and a new customer-centric operating model. The EA practice, in turn, has reorganized itself around the following strategic objectives:

Drive customer centric-thinking across the technology organization and the enterprise as a whole

Enable business growth by guiding projects toward solutions that better address customers' needs and wants

Set strategic technology goals to maximize the value of technology investments

Australia Post's EA practice champions customer-centric tools and methods across the organization, partnering closely with business units. The EA practice developed leading-edge thinking on how to integrate customer experience management principles with business and technology architecture, and it recently rolled out training on these techniques to several hundred of Australia Post's staff.

With strong traceability to both business and customer outcomes, the EA group created architectural blueprints for key domains. Its iterative approach to enterprise architecture recognizes both "intentional" and "emergent" architectures, while considering various future-state scenarios. Long blueprinting cycles are avoided in favor of quick response and practical solutions that enable rapid progress. To ensure customer perspectives were represented, the EA group partnered with the sales organization to engage directly with customers, particularly e-commerce merchants, to better understand their needs -- which directly influenced technology strategy and solutions.

With a deliberate communications plan, the EA group engaged all levels of the business with tailored messages and deliverables. These included an interactive demonstration of technology strategy to the board, top-level summaries of key blueprints and road maps for business executives, and reference architectures/patterns for software engineering teams. Many of these artifacts are regularly referred to today.

Many initiatives have been developed, scoped, and sequenced as a result of the EA group's blueprints and road maps, which have informed the spending of approximately A$2 billion ($1.8 billion U.S. equivalent) in capital investments. At the same time, the benefits in terms of technology cost, speed, and sustainability have been substantial:

A projected cost avoidance of A$40 million over five years (with A$5 million already realized) through a new data/analytics platform, hosting, and IT network services

A$1.8 million in projected annual cost savings and simplification through technology decommissioning

A projected 34 days' reduction in project duration through accelerated infrastructure provisioning

A projected annual carbon emission reduction of 6,030 tons

The impact has been even more impressive in terms of business growth. Thanks to a human-centric re-architecting of the digital experience, adoption of customer self-service solutions has increased, as has revenue from digital channels. Digital platforms have been scaled to support a year-over-year increase in mobile and Web visits of 200% and 30%, respectively. Leading-edge in-memory systems have been deployed to handle the massive volumes of data associated with routing and tracking parcels, providing customers with greater convenience and choice.

Today, the value of EA is well recognized. Thanks in part to customer and digital channel blueprints, Australia Post boasts more than 1.4 million registered customers with single sign-on across five products/services. In 12 months, it is estimated that this will rise to 4 million customers across 12 products/services.

Dell: Shifting from hardware to solutions

Over the past several years, Dell has undergone a transformation from transaction-based PC vendor to end-to-end solution provider. Customers asked Dell to become much more than a vendor. The company responded with a commitment to deliver innovative new solutions to customers in four key areas:

The adoption of virtualization, convergence, and cloud technologies

Access to powerful, integrated applications

The ability to turn masses of data into insights

Overcoming evolving security threats and ensuring regulatory compliance

To meet this challenge, Dell formed the Business Architecture Team (BAT), which includes senior business unit and functional leaders, and reports directly to members of the founder's leadership team. BAT is responsible for understanding the strategy, transformation planning, and strategic realization of the entire Dell business. The EA group partners closely with BAT to recommend architecture strategy and create solutions across the company. EA is represented at the executive table with other cross-functional business teams, giving it a strong voice in strategic decisions.

Most difficult was the scope of change. Nothing in the Dell value chain was left untouched. Under the new model, Dell may combine software with servers, cloud services, and professional services for installation. Consequently, almost every aspect of Dell's key IT systems needed to change to support the new business strategy.

Faced with this new direction, the EA group adopted a phased approach to strategic planning:

Strategy rationalization: The EA group reviewed Dell's nine functional and four business-unit strategic plans to identify where IT could provide enablement. In addition, the group was charged with identifying strategic contradictions and overlaps, such as two business units proposing different solutions to the same problem.

Enablers and prioritization: Enablers are defined as independently valuable changes to business capabilities. EA and BAT identified the key enablers for each strategy. For example, "solution validation" is an enabler for Dell's strategy to build out its solutions portfolio.

Enabler rationalization: EA identified where multiple strategies required the same enabler. Ultimately, EA created a one-page visualization that presented the rationalized enablers in an easy-to-understand format. The visualization resembles a subway map, where the subway stations are the enablers and the strategies are subway lines -- which often share subway stations.

Architecture and road map planning: Lead architects created an architecture strategy document for each strategy. These describe the architecture transition states for each enabler -- such as the annual changes to the business, application, information, and infrastructure architecture. This approach resulted in a set of funded programs, which amounted to the discretionary portion of Dell's annual IT budget of approximately $1 billion.

Dell's reuse-oriented strategy has several benefits. First, it results in a simpler enterprise architecture and lower implementation cost; IT savings alone are conservatively estimated at $152 million. Second, Dell is optimizing for global, end-to-end solutions rather than disconnected or siloed solutions.

Above all, the EA group has brought architectural clarity, earning the respect and confidence of other internal Dell stakeholders in the planning process. By following through on outcomes, EA provides a clear implementation plan to close all gaps associated with each enabler.

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