The InfoWorld/Forrester Enterprise Architecture Awards recognize excellent EA programs — ones that due to their business focus, and strategic yet pragmatic orientation, provide sustained value to their business. I caught up with two of our 2012 winners to find out what they have been doing in the year since their award submission. I was specifically interested in hearing:

  • Have there been changes to business strategy or IT strategy since one year ago that they’ve had to respond to? 
  • What would they say has been their greatest accomplishment over the past year?
  • The priorities for their EA programs today — changes in the scope, mission, or organization?
  • What would they say is a key learning of their EA program, or the larger IT organization about making EA effective?

The first winner was Sberbank — Russia’s largest bank. Sberbank was recognized for building its EA program from the ground up: after a short 18 months, it had in place business, enterprise application, and integration architectures, and implemented Sberbank’s application and BPM platform architecture.

Sergey Ryabov, head of enterprise architecture and IT innovations, told me this past year has been marked by continuing shifts in the bank’s operating model, supported by a new group-wide strategy and IT strategy.

The biggest change driving EA has been the role of IT in Sberbank radically shifting from “enabler” of innovative business models to “driver” of business innovation. Consequently, EA is now a key element in:

  • Customer experience. Driving the concept of “any time/any place” and seamless multichannel experience giving the same “look and feel,” functionality, and quality of interaction across all channels and services.
  • Product offering. Enabling customer-tailored product bundling, with specific risk-based pricing, banking/non-banking bundled offers, and client “relationship-based” complex propositions.
  • Distribution. Bringing the ability for proactive 360-degree targeted offers with insights on client-specific situation (e.g., behavioral triggers).  

Strategic planning of IT architecture still remains the bank’s main priority. At the current stage of development, the consistent realization and achievement of the strategic objectives at all levels becomes an important task — and consequently, detailed architecture management processes have come to the fore. Sergey called out three lessons:

  • Categorization of information systems by criticality level. Due to the heavy load on enterprise architecture management function in large organizations, prioritization of tasks becomes critical. For this, categorization of systems by criticality level can be of great help and should be applied from early phases of building the organization’s EA functions.
  • Thorough architecture control of IT projects. The foundation must be established in the very beginning of the EA functions’ development, since a substantial amount of time is required in a large organization to build appropriate processes and reach a productive level.
  • Unified architecture repository. Repository of IT architecture objects should be a working tool not only for the EA architects but also for other members of the organization, and it must become an integral part of IT processes. Only with this will it be possible to ensure the required quality level of information in the repository.

The other winner I caught up with was Northwestern Mutual. Karl Gouverneur is the head of Northwestern Mutual’s IT strategy and architecture team — an increasingly common combination. Northwestern Mutual received the EA Award for expanding the scope of enterprise architecture to link together business architecture, a service-oriented architecture for specific IT functionality, a deep investment in creating a big data analytics environment and a mobile computing environment. He told me that a major focus during this past year has been providing research, exploration, and thought leadership in several fast-moving areas of the business:

  • A particular emphasis was on experimenting, designing, and proofing various mobile computing capabilities for their financial representatives to better serve their clients. The EA team developed a mobile strategy to outline what is possible and some guidelines for going forward. Most interestingly, they set expectations that this strategy will change every three months in the forseeable future. 
  • Speed is a critical factor for them. Architects have actively engaged with IT professionals and business partners in connecting strategies and road maps to bring ideas to market faster, leveraging a companywide innovation fund. Agile and lean approaches to projects necessitate the EA team demonstrate excellence in agility and speed to market with new IT strategies and designs. Governance through their architecture review board must exercise flexibility to meet the speed of business in the future while still helping the business understand risks and tradeoffs.
  • A big focus has also been on strong business partnership in advancing new ideas and making innovation investments. An emphasis on teamwork behaviors has been a huge success across the organization and has resulted in greater employee engagement.

The 2013 InfoWorld/Forrester Enterprise Architecture Award is now open for submissions. As described in my blog post, we are looking for EA programs who have taken on the trends of customer centricity, tech consumerization, digital disruption, and business agility, and who have found a way help their business be successful. Does this describe you? Then tell us your story!