The 2020 Enterprise Architecture Awards

The 2020 Forrester and InfoWorld EA Awards contest winners focus on business architecture, digital transformation, and governance

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Sun Life

InfoWorld Forrester Enterprise Architecture Awards IDG

Sun Life is a leading international financial services organization providing insurance, wealth management, and asset management solutions to individual and corporate clients. The company established a federated EA practice in 2005, and this practice was transformed seamlessly into a unified organization in 2019 to supercharge a major global transformation across the digital enterprise.

The past three years have proven a transformational time for enterprise architecture at Sun Life. A select number of innovative projects that began as small initiatives over the last three years have produced strong sustainable business value. Sun Life EA is now recognized as a critical partner to fuel growth and align with Sun Life’s client obsession. Five major wins for enterprise architecture at Sun Life have transformed the EA team from a service provider role to being a pivotal catalyst driving business results. These five wins include:

  • A major business-outcome driven architecture modernization program for a critical legacy core administration system has been progressively revitalized. A huge success, this program focused on componentization that drove significant business improvements in the new business onboarding process. The program was highly respected by the business executive team, which recognized the EA frameworks as the key building block of this success.
  • API development has been recognized as a strategic business asset. A global digital enterprise business and technology strategy developed over the last eight months identified API development as one of the core foundational enablers for the future. API development is now seen by the senior executive team as a critical pillar to drive businesses agility, foster reuse, and empower an always-on, connected, and change-ready organization.
  • Sun Life’s Covid-19 global pandemic response has led the industry. The strategic employment of cloud technologies over the last two years had transformed the employee experience by increasing agility. Cloud architecture and design decisions had simplified infrastructure complexities while maintaining Sun Life’s security posture and managing network capacity. These decisions made the company ready to seamlessly support a work-from-anywhere environment. Over the weekend following the government workplace restrictions being implemented, the company pivoted to having 95% of their employees working remotely. The EA team checked in directly with their employees through a pulse check survey, to confirm that they found the transition seamless and continue to do so.
  • In line with Sun Life’s cloud first strategy, a critical program to move their enterprise data lake from an on-premises Hadoop model to a PaaS on AWS using a modern object store has been highly successful in driving business growth through advanced analytics and machine learning. This program included the use of several AWS PaaS services such as Glue and SageMaker.
  • A recent Forrester review of Canadian Insurers’ sales websites ranked Sun Life at the top of the industry — a credible confirmation of the business value being realized from the API and cloud-focused strategies of EA underpinning these websites.                       

How did Sun Life achieve these five EA wins and fuel business excitement for EA? They did it by carefully balancing strategy, execution, and governance. The company’s new digital enterprise strategy is at the heart of their EA. This strategy embraces APIs, cloud, agile methodologies, devops, and automation. Their roadmap was carefully planned to ensure business value could be achieved at each step and that they were advancing on their client journey. A test-and-learn approach integrated learnings through six steps:  

  1. Assess the current state and the key gaps seen by business leaders.
  2. Establish a clear mission and vision, tightly aligned to the business gaps.
  3. Establish a clear modernization agenda to consistently deliver on a global scale.
  4. Develop the best organization and operating model to achieve the goals.
  5. Develop a governance framework that is right-sized for the organization.
  6. Communicate, communicate, and communicate.

Tobias Verbist of Antwerp’s Digipolis said, “This is a case of ambitious execution of a clearly defined and mature EA roadmap, positively contributing to the business in every step taken. Being able to achieve business ownership over technology levers shows not only the added value of EA, but also the closed gap between business and IT, which are key advantages for any company’s digital transformation.”

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