The 2015 Enterprise Architecture Awards

This year's five winners, selected by Forrester Research and the Penn State University Center for Enterprise Architecture, show how EA helps businesses roll out initiatives with transformative value

The 2015 Enterprise Architecture Awards

Every year, InfoWorld, Forrester Research, and the Penn State University Center for Enterprise Architecture together present the Enterprise Architecture Awards to recognize organizations whose practice of the EA discipline has resulted in substantial benefit.

This year, one of our five winners happened to epitomize a key issue facing enterprise architecture today. Idaho National Lab segmented its EA practice into two disciplines: Innovation Architecture and Effectiveness Architecture. Those two words -- "innovation" and "effectiveness" -- represent a fundamental opposition within the EA discipline.

The Enterprise Architecture Awards have always sought to uncover programs that impact organizations through the insight and value that only EA can provide. But many EA programs struggle to move beyond innovative ideas -- and the reason for that struggle lies more in the practice of EA itself than in its context. The bottom line is that some architects focus on "doing architecture" or on being smart technical experts. Many talk about being more business-focused, but aren’t willing to change their thinking or how they engage with business.

The five winners of this year’s awards vaulted this perennial obstacle and were able to transform their innovations into effective practice, delivering tangible business impact.

To select our winning entrants this year, we assembled a panel of four expert judges, all of whom were previous Enterprise Architecture Award winners:

  • Doug Safford, Chief Architect, Allstate Insurance Company
  • Tien-Ti Mak, Chief Technology Officer, Australia Post
  • Tom Philbin, Senior Enterprise Architect, Dell
  • Kyla Hunziker, Business Architect, State Farm

We're grateful for the efforts of our judges, who pored over many entries to find the companies whose successful practice of EA offers examples for other organizations to study and emulate. We hope the stories of these five winners encourage enterprise architects and their allies to chart their own paths from inspiration to real-world business gains.

British Gas

At British Gas, new strategic imperatives have emerged to improve customer service across self-service, contact center, and field service channels, enabling greater innovation.

After a successful application rationalization program that reduced their portfolio from 350 to fewer than 100 applications, the company needed to find ways to increase flexibility and reduce costs. To address this, British Gas’s EA program shepherded a multichannel service platform and a cloud program to increase flexibility for operational change.

A key element of the program was a new API Management tier that enabled secure access to 16 million customer records. This innovation allows British Gas to deliver updated customer information to 8,000 field staffers every day, arming field staff to discuss product experiences with customers.

The architecture used for this project is becoming the standard for the organization’s future development. Because of the EA team’s impact and business focus, stakeholders do not see them as different from any other individual in a project. The EA team is seen as having the customers' and company's interests at heart, with a pragmatic focus on delivering solutions.

EA Award judge Doug Safford, chief architect from 2014 award winner Allstate, said, I think EA stepped up here and led and that's what I believe will move the EA practice forward. They adapted and moved the ball forward for the company in a tangible way.”

Capital One

Despite being a top 10 bank as measured by deposits, Capital One approaches many projects as if it were a technology startup.

To be an effective partner with its forward-looking business and technology teams, the EA practice at Capital One dramatically changed how it operates -- with a new operating model, new focus areas, and fresh talent expectations. The EA practice's mission of “accelerating delivery while ensuring systems are highly resilient and extremely secure” is enabled through the following:

  • A focus on technology disrupters, such as microservices, real-time analytics from big data, and a cloud-first principle for application development. The EA practice worked closely with technologists on critical projects to leverage these disrupters.
  • Driving awareness and adoption of modern architectures and advanced engineering practices and culture. EA participated in hackathons, hosted workshops on design-thinking practices, and delivered reference architectures paired with working software.
  • A fit-for-purpose agile operating model fully aligned with enterprise execution. EA utilized agile techniques, such as their own release trains, enabling faster delivery of architecture guidance.
  • An adaptive, well-managed, federated practice attuned to the nuances of each line of business.
  • Transforming talent through elevation of technical competencies and a focus on continuous learning

Our judge Tien-Ti Mak, CTO of EA Award winner Australia Post, said: “Wow, what an excellent submission. EA is driving modern techniques and thinking from cloud adoption to agile and more.”

Idaho National Lab

Idaho National Lab (INL) is the leading energy laboratory for the Department of Energy, with 4,000 employees, including scientists, researchers, and support staff. A fragmented approach to technology procurement and investment was hindering INL's ability to communicate and collaborate electronically. Worse, INL was faced with an unacceptable level of cyber security risk, which, if not addressed, could have had contractual repercussions.

Because a large portion of the IT budget was used to maintain legacy assets, investment in technology innovation was nearly impossible. In response to these challenges and constraints, the EA program adopted a bi-modal approach: addressing the organization’s needs for sustainability and security, while creating and supporting an environment for technology innovation and disciplined investment decisions. The company collapsed its architecture functions -- business, technology, application, and information -- into two EA sets of practices: Effectiveness Architecture and Innovation Architecture:

  • Under the umbrella of Effectiveness Architecture, EA focuses on cost effective operations that manage the risks associated with reliability, sustainability, and security. This is accomplished through processes that enable the organization to conduct orchestrated architectural reviews that consider lifecycle planning, strategic alignment, and identification of risks and mitigation.
  • Innovation Architecture adds the flexibility for the organization to explore solutions that can increase capacity, improve capabilities, and generate greater revenue. The organization follows processes that enable leadership to prioritize IT investments in innovation, as well as develop them using dedicated subject matter experts, where innovation architecture is carried out in an environment that is largely free of the traditional hardware, software, and access control constraints.

Judge Doug Safford of Allstate said INL had a “good approach to taking an industry buzzword and making it more real and seeing benefits that should give them the room to continue forward.”

National Grid

National Grid is an international electricity and gas company based in the United Kingdom and northeastern United States. Energy firms are faced with disruption as they seek to respond to the need for conservation and clean energy. National Grid had a legacy technology estate that was unable to provide business with the agility, insight, and flexibility it needed.

These legacy systems stood in the way of driving a transformative agenda in the face of increasing complexity. To address the challenge, National Grid EA reorganized itself around the business, increasing responsiveness and driving innovation with an architecture-led transformation agenda.  

EA focused on simplifying core business services and associated KPIs by focusing on core sets of technology in the areas of mobility, service-driven architecture, modern data platforms, and hybrid cloud. The delivery of these business services was brought into a modern environment, which is now process-based, insight-rich, and measurable. This transformation has enabled National Grid to become more customer-centric, with business services extending to the field force and network operations.

Judge Kyla Hunziker, a previous award-winner from State Farm, had this to say about National Grid's EA initiative: “I applaud the business-first approach they are taking to address legacy challenges. Through simplification and innovation they are enabling business transformation.”

Tata Communications, Ltd.

Tata Communications, Ltd. (TCL) is a global telecommunications company owned by the Indian business conglomerate Tata Group.

In 2014, TCL CEO Vinod Kumar unveiled Strategy 2.0, which aims to achieve multifold growth in revenue over the next few years, with a greater emphasis on bundling and next-generation services. These targets required both new, disruptive thinking and difficult decisions.

The EA team at TCL rose to the challenge of defining and implementing multiple road maps to build a new architecture, dubbed Architecture 2.0 -- which includes a governance mechanism to ensure that future projects align with the target architecture. The new approach is resulting in better, faster, and more accurate strategic design decisions, as well as cost savings due to systems rationalization. Tangible business results include:

  • 32 percent of systems planned for shutdown have already been shut down
  • 29 percent improvement in sales and support team turnaround time
  • 32 percent improvement in feasibility to customer order acceptance
  • 26 percent improvement in turnaround time for activation

Judge Thomas Philbin, senior enterprise architect of Dell, stated: “This company set a clear architecture goal, then put in clear governance, road maps, and progress measures to achieve it.”

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