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

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For example, one of Dell's key enablers is to offer customers a simple, consistent quoting and purchasing experience for complex solutions. Last year, the quoting process for complex solution orders involved creating up to three separate quotes and interacting with up to nine separate systems. The process took as many as 100 clicks and more than nine minutes. By the middle of 2014, the same process required one quote and one system, and it took roughly 3.5 minutes. This is the kind of process efficiency required for Dell to make the transition to an end-to-end solution provider.

Going forward, the EA practice will focus on quantifying benefits, with an emphasis on the impact enablers will have on revenue growth. In addition, the decision-making capability of the EA framework will be enhanced, through modeling customer needs and prioritizing strategically important enablers.

Dubai Customs House: Managing business capabilities

Dubai Customs House has set a goal to transform the organization from a traditional customs house to a world-class customs organization -- in the shortest possible period of time. Attaining such an aggressive goal required a new mechanism to help the organization increase its delivery capability and uncover profitable business opportunities.

That mechanism, business capability management, focuses on four aspects of the business: people, process, technology, and information. The intent is to create a more flexible business by planning capability development in advance, with a key emphasis on stakeholders being able to make better-informed decisions. Ultimately, this initiative has helped Dubai Customs House establish itself as the leading customs administration in the region and a leader across the globe.

The EA practice assists the organization in determining business and architectural strategy, including the development of a road map for business transformation and practice modernization. This road map helps determine the scope, focus, and incremental steps necessary to meet new business goals.

The main stages of capability assessment include business "visioning," current state analysis, future state development, gap analysis, and implementation planning. The EA team developed the following deliverables to aid in producing value to the business:

Capability management framework: The framework defines the method, processes, and tools to enable the organization to assess its capabilities.

Capability maturity model: This model helps develop the road map needed to improve quality and increase efficiency of the organization, including improvement strategies and higher service quality.

Capability map: The business capability map is a tool for developing enterprise architecture. The objective is to depict the customs business model in a one-page snapshot that clarifies relationships among different elements of the customs business.

Capability profiles: These documents identify and organize capabilities, describing them in detail through a common set of attributes that provide a high-level view of how the capability operates.

Capability assessment questionnaire: Based on the capability maturity model, this document contains questions to validate the quality of services in the organization.

Capability assessment report: This document contains the formalized findings of the assessment process and includes recommendations for the transformation of business capabilities.

Thanks to this fresh approach, Dubai Customs House has improved service-level maturity by 70% and decreased manual activities by 50%. The accuracy of reporting has also been vastly improved. Cross-departmental collaboration has nearly doubled, while system efficiency has increased by 30% and staff effectiveness has risen by 50%. Standards adoption has risen as well.

Identification of process overlap has resulted in substantial cost savings. Dubai Customs merged its inspection function with its declaration management function at its centers, as well as its special tasks function with its intelligence function. The inspection capability was unified across multiple functional areas.

Finally, stakeholders can now access a "single source of truth" for all organizational information through an innovative system dubbed Enterprise Connected View.

Dubai Customs House expects continued, substantial increase in the volume of trade activities. The capability management practice has optimized customs clearance capability, enabling Dubai Customs House to handle the ever-increasing load and sustain itself as a world-class customs administration.

Molina Healthcare: Realigning around business outcomes

Molina Healthcare is a Fortune 500 company that must meet stringent regulatory health care requirements. The EA group at Molina Healthcare is a lean business unit within the office of the CTO. Established in 2011, EA is an eight-member team of enterprise, information, and solution architects that works with senior stakeholders that lead business units and strategic projects across the organization.

Rechartering EA for business outcomes involved sweeping changes. The primary driver was the need to evolve the EA unit from a technology-centric, top-down, "policing" type of operation to one focused on business goals -- and the ability to collaborate with internal partners to ensure strategic goals are realized.

A key requirement was the need to support an overarching governance initiative that stressed the importance of technology reuse, while providing greater assurance that Molina Healthcare would make the best decisions based on sound business information drawn from across the enterprise. EA responded with a strategy that simplified its own service offering, narrowed its focus, and fundamentally redefined how it needed to fit within the organization. This strategy has enabled EA to provide strategic direction and support executive decision in four key areas:

Business planning: Describing the business and how IT aligns with it to reduce project risk

Project portfolio management: Knowing when and how to engage EA in projects to improve quality

Operational management: Reigning in costs by assessing proposed new technologies earlier in the procurement cycle and increasing portfolio/asset reuse

Solution development: Controlling distributed technology to improve service delivery

As a result, EA now enjoys a dramatically different role within Molina Healthcare. By fine-tuning and simplifying its service offering -- and organizing the EA team around deliverables that benefit the organization rather than simply meeting IT objectives -- EA has become a strategic partner that enables better decisions and greater reuse across the enterprise.

Evolving from an operationally focused unit that primarily drove IT projects to a strategic resource was a significant organizational challenge. There was ambiguity around the specific role of enterprise architects versus other architects in the organization. This, along with a tactical focus, contributed to suboptimal utilization of enterprise architects. For example, EA would typically conduct architectural reviews for projects too late in the procurement cycle to provide adequate assessment, leading to costly technology duplication.

To address these challenges, EA opted for a "partnership" approach with the project management office in particular, a key entry point for new technologies. EA also simplified its own business processes to make the EA practice more approachable. For example, instead of administering a daunting 20-question "technology-focused" project review form, EA now asks six simple business-focused questions.

In addition, the EA team trimmed services and became much more specific about what it could do to facilitate better decisions. These capabilities included: business direction through the use of capability maps, architectural direction using road maps, and structured direction using road maps that show an alignment of technologies that support capabilities. The team also promoted the adoption of enterprise-wide standards. An account manager role was introduced for core business capability areas, to ensure an in-depth understanding of each business unit and its needs.

As part of its rechartering efforts, EA also reorganized services around two primary clusters of enterprise architecture offerings: strategic services (focused on future-state planning, road-mapping, governance, and standard-setting) and tactical services (focused on new technology evaluation, solution design, and facilitation).

More important, all of EA's services now directly support a global governance initiative:

Architecture governance: EA evaluates architectural quality against several criteria, including business alignment, compliance, and interoperability.

Data governance: EA ensures new technologies are identified and all handoffs support data governance initiatives.

Project governance: EA participates in project intake sessions, facilitates discussions around strategic projects, and ensures EA involvement in strategic projects at different levels as required.

Standards governance: EA supports routine application portfolio reviews, reviews newly procured software, simplifies IT investment decisions, and accelerates system implementation.

Technology portfolio governance: EA evaluates new technology against several criteria, including cost management, reuse, and standards adherence.

Collectively, these efforts have resulted in a streamlined, collaborative approach that has enabled EA to evaluate projects sooner and determine where EA architects need to step in to identify new technologies. By partnering with stakeholders in each business area, EA now ensures that the company no longer invests in one-off, parochial technology solutions that favor a particular business unit or project. All initiatives, including ad-hoc IT efforts, have clearly stated objectives, be they new capabilities or new business functions that improve quality or remove barriers to health care services.

State Farm Insurance Companies: Improving customer experience

State Farm is a leader in insurance and an emerging player in banking and financial services in the United States. The company's business strategy is straightforward: To be more customer-centric and drive growth by providing a remarkable customer experience.

Customer needs and preferences have evolved, in many cases fueled by mobile technology and social media. Customers want to interact with State Farm at their convenience, using the method of their choice; providing remarkable customer service was seen as a key way to differentiate the business. In addition, State Farm needed to manage its digital business more effectively, minimizing variation and optimizing costs.

EA's role was to help craft, clarify, plan, architect, and execute on this business strategy and help deliver practical business outcomes. EA is jointly led by business and IT executives and operates in a hub-and-spoke model to engage with stakeholders more effectively. The EA hub team takes primary responsibility for direction-setting activities, such as strategic architecture, blueprints, standards, and tooling. EA spoke teams are directly embedded in business capability areas that blend business and IT personnel.

The business provides leadership for business architecture, along with the relatively new discipline of experience architecture. IT leads application, data/information, and technology architecture practices. EA is charged with improving business and IT clarity, providing input into strategic planning and direction, and offering insight into execution issues.

EA adds value to the enterprise by focusing on strategic planning, with a top-down vision that includes "customer journeys" -- the key interactions customers have with State Farm, such as shopping and filing claims. Techniques to improve the customer experience include journey mapping, experience visualizations, customer segmentation/personas, focusing on "mobile first," and customer scenarios/jobs.

By focusing on the customer-driven experience, State Farm's EA practice has:

Helped the organization execute on business strategies that result in tangible business outcomes

Integrated a systematic and holistic approach for addressing customer needs and preferences

Effectively aligned strategic vision, direction, and execution by fully integrating with strategic business capability planning across channels and products

Integrated architectural blueprints for vision and transitional architectural planning across all customer journeys

Become an important partner in changing the organization's culture to be more customer-centric

Going forward, State Farm will continue to leverage, refine, and innovate within its EA practice to engage with business and IT partners as well as customers. The practice will drive strategic excellence by furthering practical business outcomes focusing on the customer first.

In addition, the EA practice plans to sustain operational excellence by strengthening collaboration, integration, and partnerships among business and IT architecture disciplines. With such user experience approaches as "lean UX," increased business agility and decreased time to market should follow. Also, a common enterprise reference and repository of architecture content will ensure a holistic, integrated set of blueprints is available for current-state analysis, aspirational-state views and decisions, and the creation of transitional state views.

At State Farm, EA is leading the way with an unwavering focus on customer-centric solutions, while adhering to fundamental architectural principles. Add to that a commitment to collecting and acting on feedback from internal stakeholders, and the EA practice should continue to accelerate the delivery of successful solutions.

This story, "The 2014 Enterprise Architecture Awards" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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