In 2010, Gene Leganza announced the inaugural winners of Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture (EA) Awards with these words:

“Readers of this blog are all likely to agree that EA is important, but it’s also true that EA teams struggle for influence, laboring mightily in the shadows, out of the limelight … Well, OK, we may not be able to do a lot about the struggling and laboring mightily, but we can certainly do something about the limelight … ”

Toward that end, over the past 14 years, we’ve recognized 66 EA Award winners, showcasing how accountable, agile, continuous, influential, pragmatic, and valuable EA practices drive organizational adaptivity, creativity, and resilience.

You can see the full year-by-year list of award winners at the end of this blog, but here’s three stories from past years that illustrate the type of outcome-driven architecture that we are seeking. And if you think your practice fits the bill, submit an entry to the 2023 EA Awards, which will be co-judged by Forrester and The Open Group (the author of the TOGAF® Standard). The deadline for entries is Monday, June 19, 2023. To view complete award nomination criteria and submit your entry, visit here (NA), here (EMEA), or here (APAC).

USAA (2011):

“Sometimes, a company simply outgrows its architecture. That’s what happened at USAA, which has provided a full range of financial services including banking, insurance, retirement planning, investment services, and advice to military professionals since 1922.

The EA team at USAA quickly recognized that the required changes could not be handled with a single architectural discipline, so it formed a cross-discipline, cross-organization team responsible for enabling the business to change processes, methods, and structure to align with broader member needs and newly available technologies.

USAA branded this architectural approach Unified Architecture, a customer-centric approach solely focused on meeting the needs of its members. It provides a single road map, bringing together people, processes, technology, and information, rather than stand-alone process design and IT roadmaps. The approach represents all architectural disciplines, including business architecture, information architecture, IT architecture, change management, and organizational design. The focus is on delivering business design processes and methods as opposed to models and standards.

The most difficult challenge has been helping the organization, particularly its business partners, to recognize the value of the approach. As one member said, ‘Few organizations are ready to accept a unified architecture. It’s a long road to educate the players, and it needs to be done through grassroots efforts, finding champions, and showing success through pilot projects that deliver value.’

The value of Unified Architecture is realized in cost savings, cost avoidance, reduction in enterprise risk, increased capabilities, reduced complexity of the business model, and increased confidence in business designs — and it has already yielded success. Early identification of common business functions enabled project sponsors to see potential redundancies across organizational units. In one recent engagement, the UA team helped reduce program labor costs by more than a quarter of a million dollars.”

South State Bank (2016):

“The largest bank headquartered in South Carolina, South State Bank is an $8 billion financial institution focused on retail banking, commercial banking, loans, and wealth management. Like most banks, it has experienced changing customer behavior and faced increasing competition, including from fintech startups.

To address the changing landscape — and to keep up with larger banks and their larger budgets — an EA program was established to help South State Bank adapt. The goal of the EA group was not only to help the bank prepare for digital transformation but to also act as a catalyst for change.

‘Agile’ EA would seem counterintuitive, given that EA typically sets standards and follows a ritualistic approach derived from EA frameworks. South State Bank, however, has tailored the TOGAF framework to fit its Kaizen approach. This has enabled continuous architectural improvements to drive specific business outcomes while eliminating the overhead of many EA formalities.

The architecture team serves the bank as a whole — as a part of project teams or in engaging with leaders of business divisions. Architectures and transitions are designed quickly using EA tools to produce various collateral that can be consumed by architects and nonarchitects alike. Working hand in hand with business technology experts, the bank has successfully cut typical time to market in half.

Ultimately, the success of EA is defined by expected business outcomes across a variety of initiatives. At South State Bank, these included the successful launch of online mortgage applications, which took only three months; a four-month overhaul of the bank’s enterprise imaging system, which involved a redesign of the architecture and external interfaces from the ground up; and a newly designed platform for the bank’s loan processing system.

The EA team considers its biggest success to be a buy-in from IT and non-IT folks alike, thanks to a successful track record of delivering change. The architecture portal is used extensively across various lines, from strategic decision-makers to application support specialists. The EA team is now a trusted resource for the majority of initiatives at the bank.”

A.S. Watson (2022, APAC):

“A.S. Watson Group is the world’s largest international health and beauty retailer, with presence in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, serving over 5.3 billion customers every year. In 2021, the company announced an ambitious, customer-obsessed O+O (offline plus online) platform strategy, with the goal of delivering seamless customer experience (CX) across 16,300-plus physical touchpoints, a 130,000-strong customer service workforce, 120-plus e-commerce platforms, and a base of 142 million loyalty members.

Key EA initiatives include developing a group IT people strategy, called 6T (trust, talent, training, teamwork, transparency, and thanksgiving); performing gap analysis for tech talents and IT capabilities; and breaking down the value levers and mapping them into actionable workstreams. The team’s effective delivery manners linked up deliveries with business KPIs, such as the impact of average basket value (ABV), conversion rate, or perfect order percentage. The successful completion of these initiatives entailed the IT team charter changing from positioning as business enablers to strategic business drivers.

A.S. Watson’s EA team showed adaptivity with technology teams close to business stakeholders and the ability to evangelize self-service as a core operating principle. A composable architecture built upon APIs, reflecting the firm’s business capabilities, encourages developers to be creative when optimizing CX, while a global architecture board ensures that IT initiatives align with the architectural goals.

The A.S. Watson EA team as professionals are trusted partners who influence and align business and technology to long-term solutions while allowing teams the autonomy to decide implementation details. ‘Just enough’ EA practice identifies boundaries, determines solution readiness, and evaluates maintenance overhead.

Specific outcome examples include the reduction of failed orders due to incorrect inventory. Following the architecture transformation, an inventory business service available via API replaced legacy siloed systems and point-to-point batch file integration leading to inaccurate stock information. E-commerce sites and store digital touchpoints now use this API for stock queries to ensure data consistency.”

If you want to learn more about A.S. Watson’s story, check out this report: Case Study: A.S. Watson Leads With An Outcomes-Driven Enterprise Architecture Practice (client access only).

Enterprise Architecture Award Winners:

2010: Aetna, Barclays Bank, Discover Financial Services, Skandia UK & International, Wells Fargo

2011: American Express, Bayer Healthcare, First Data, Procter & Gamble, Singapore Ministry of Education, USAA

2012: National Grid, Northwestern Mutual, Sberbank, Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, Telstra Global

2013: Cisco, Mastercard, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Verizon, Yum Brands

2014: Allstate Insurance, Australia Post, Dell, Dubai Customs House, Molina Healthcare, State Farm Insurance Companies

2015: British Gas, Capital One, Idaho National Lab, National Grid, Tata Communications Ltd.

2016: Aetna, Cummins, Humana, MassMutual, South State Bank

2017: ABN AMRO, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, RasGas, World Bank Group, XL Catlin

2018: Asurion, CIBC, Sberbank Group, Verizon, Vodafone

2019: Arizona Public Service, City of Antwerp, Ford Motor Company, Mars, Verizon

2020: CSL Behring, Lexmark, Sunlife, Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, Verizon Communications

2021: Bank of America, Country Financial, Deutsche Telekom, Vale, VTB of Russia

2022: Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina (NA), Michelin (EMEA), Standard Bank (EMEA), A.S. Watson (APAC)