The 2019 Enterprise Architecture Awards

Winners of the 2019 Forrester and InfoWorld EA Awards show strengths in business architecture and architecture governance, realizing a vision for digital transformation

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City of Antwerp: EA builds the Antwerp City Platform-as-a-Service 

InfoWorld forrester enterprise architecture awards 2019 IDG

Antwerp, Belgium is a city of over 500.000 inhabitants. Digipolis is the public, non-profit co-operation commissioned with the IT management of the City and a valuable partner for City of Antwerp in developing and validating innovative urban digital applications on a vast scale. To facilitate this, Digipolis built the Antwerp City Platform-as-a-Service (APaaS), a system capable of addressing any new digital initiative or evolution.

The Digipolis EA program started in 2015 as a central EA team augmented with distributed business, security, infrastructure, and application architects. All architects are members of a companywide architect guild tasked with guarding and steering the companywide architecture strategy. The EA team relied upon an API-first, microservice-based platform, standard UI components, a strict separation of front-end components and business logic, and a set of central and local data sets.  

ACPaaS engines provide functions such as workflow management, asset management, output generation, identity management, natural language processing, chatbots, IoT data ingestion and processing, and secure document storage. Each engine is developed as a RESTful API, with a central API gateway to manage inter-API communications. An agile and sprint-based methodology is used for the development of new products and solutions, allowing for optimal flexibility and adaptability.

Building ACPaaS required a new approach of the Digipolis public procurement strategy, avoiding the lengthy RFI/RFP processes. Digipolis set up an intense, low-threshold, structural collaboration with smaller-scale creative entrepreneurs, allowing for an idea-to-production time of less than four months.

A core set of technologies, the Digipolis Antwerp Application Stack (“DAAS”), was identified as preferred technologies. The stack is updated and published by means of a recurrent review process.

Re-use of ACPaaS components prevents the same functionalities to be re-developed over and over again. Current components have been re-used up to 25 times each, progressively lowering the total development cost of new applications. This has led to a significant decrease in average development costs, increasing productivity by 400 percent.

The ACPaaS platform approach has proven to be successful, with customers being able to leverage work done previously and to benefit from every extension or upgrade. Engines are plug-and-play: They can be replaced by new, more powerful versions without impacting the applications using them. Systems development times have been reduced from years to months. License costs have been reduced by over 80 percent through the use of open-source software as a basis for systems and engine creation. The devops approach used in developing and deploying engines enables zero-downtime deployment.

Steve Cornish, formerly of EA Award winner Vodafone and now an architect at Waitrose & Partners, said: “I’m impressed by the boldness of the buy-from-startups program and the efficiencies achieved by ACPaaS. It’s clear the architecture team rallied around a strong vision and really supported and drove this process forward.”

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