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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Verizon Communications 

InfoWorld Forrester Enterprise Architecture Awards IDG

Headquartered in New York City, Verizon Communications offers voice, data, and video services and solutions. On April 1, 2019, the Verizon 2.0 operating model brought in a new dawn of redoubling efforts around the core network, restructuring customer facing units, and maniacally focusing on 5G and iEN deployment. This underscored the importance of an enterprise-wide architecture team and a well-architected systems landscape.

In 2020, as the Verizon EA team gained maturity and trust across the organization, the team evolved the original framework to focus on four areas: solution architecture capabilities, EA governance and enablement, emerging technologies, and data science. 

  1. Solution architecture capabilities to drive the transition to the North Star. Following numerous mergers and acquisitions throughout Verizon’s history, the current systems landscape found itself supporting a diverse set of customers, products, and features. However, this created multiple system stacks with limited integration. In partnership with the business transformation (BT) teams, the EA team embarked on a massive systems transformation strategy towards the North Star that has customer centricity and process simplification at its core, while keeping business continuity. With finite funding as a constraint, a pragmatic prioritization approach was applied with three lenses:
    • Market, industry, and financial viability
    • Customer, employee, and partner experience 
    • Technology and architecture alignment with best practices and North Star
  2. Governance and enablement. To support and enable the integration of the North Star architecture and to ensure a successful rollout, an “architecture governance and enablement” function was established. The function rolled out several solutions in support of its purpose including:
    • Automated governance: At the foundation of the North Star architecture, there is a set of shared platforms and services that are designed to be leveraged by the entire company instead of duplicating the capabilities across multiple stacks, while serving multiple business units. These platforms and services have a rich set of APIs for easy integration and data retrieval. By integrating with all of the shared platforms and services in the ecosystem, these automated capabilities assess the health of a system or application through static code analysis and dynamic run-time analysis, including detecting patterns and technology anomalies.
    • North Star adoption guidance and support: Verizon EA established small teams proficient with the North Star reference architecture to provide assistance within the scope of development activities in applying the North Star architecture. These teams are deployed on demand based on prioritization in partnership with the delivery teams. They also play a crucial role of providing the needed feedback to the EA organization for reference architecture improvements.
    • Value realization: A value realization framework and methodology were established to measure EA’s value across the strategy-to-execution value stream through OKRs and KPIs. The value realization framework established a “value realization relationship matrix” enabling Verizon EA to align its goals and objectives to the organization’s strategic goals and objectives. A correlation was established between the value realization framework and the EA work management model for value definition, measurements, and reporting.
  3. Emerging technologies. To bring in the newest transformative technologies, while at the same time augmenting mainstream areas of focus like customer experience, 5G, identity and security services, and MLops, Verizon EA created a dedicated cross-organizational Emerging Architecture group that focuses on proof-of-concept and prototyping technologies that serve a two to three year time horizon. This process starts with a standardized intake process that focuses on the partnership between EA and the lines of business to iterate on a set of testable hypotheses and key performance indicators as part of short-term evaluation that lasts 6 to 12 weeks. Results and findings are then documented and shared with the broader organization. Successful evaluations are then incorporated into organizational development roadmaps and used to influence future architectural decisions and assist with future adoption.
    This strategy of short-term evaluations has allowed Verizon EA to remain agile in the face of challenges such as COVID-19. Several existing evaluations were quickly pivoted to adapt to a socially distanced world, such as evaluating various forms of biometrics and AR/VR technology to assist in creating new experiences in “phygital” touchless retail, and driving toward parity between in-store and in-home customer shopping experiences. Additionally, biometric evaluations needed to be adapted due to current situations, such as customers wearing facemasks, so the organization is now considering alternative metrics such as voice fingerprinting and gait analysis. Verizon was then able to take some of these findings and use them to drive additional value in other parts of the experience by working to synthesize an experience that uses both AR/VR and machine learning to assist with 5G at home installations.
  4. North Star architecture for data platforms, data governance, and data-driven decisioning. Data governance and data science took center stage for the organization in 2020 in order to support data-driven decisioning that in turn yielded Net Promoter Score (NPS) improvements. Components of Verizon’s Systems of Insight (SOI) layer have brought to life a critical capability to inform the next best action during customer interactions via digital channels but also assisted channels like the call center, retail store, etc. This allowed for both customer satisfaction and service quality to be improved. Advanced SOI topic and customer DNA modeling facilitated the determination of a customer’s intent, allowing for proactive interactions via real-time decisioning — next best action, next best communication, or next best offer. SOI was also architected to utilize historical and active behavioral data towards identifying actions indicative of fraudulent behavior. The SOI coupled with rich systems of engagement contributed towards Verizon’s improvements in its NPS.

Complementing the work in SOI, and in line with Verizon’s commitment for customer privacy and security, the EA team was tasked with providing an underlying framework for data governance and data management that addressed stringent requirements for regulatory compliance and privacy protection. The team embarked on the design of an end-end data asset lifecycle management reference architecture as well as technology evaluation for a governance and model lifecycle management platform.

Tobias Verbist of Antwerp’s Digipolis said, “Very wide span in bringing value-added EA services by executing a company-wide EA roadmap. Highly structured approach focusing on important technology levers, change, and agility.” Brett Brunk of APS added, “I was impressed with the enterprise architecture governance framework that used automation to assess application health and conformance with strategy. This enables individual application teams to understand their conformance to standards.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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