Forrester and InfoWorld set the theme for this year’s awards as ‘Speed and Responsiveness – And EA”.  The underlying premise is that business leaders are demanding that their business moves faster – everything from updating digital capabilities to bringing more agility in how firms work with customers and suppliers.  In theory, enterprise architecture is a key capability to moving faster.  But how can EA programs – traditionally policemen of technology –  deliver on this potential? 

This year’s Enterprise Architecture Award winners show how.

The title of this blog post is taken from the submission of one of our winners – Humana.  The exact quote from their submission is:

“Humana believes enterprise architecture is primarily a verb, not a noun.”

But this isn’t just a sentiment unique to Humana. All our winners are delivering business results because they embed insight and guidance into the decisions made by their business and IT  leaders – enabling these leaders to ‘enterprise architect’ how they achieve business results.  The result?  Speed and responsiveness of their enterprise. 

Here is how our five winners of this year’s awards are doing this.  But before I describe them, I must say that every year, it gets harder to select winners due to the range of innovation and impact our judges are seeing. When a judge says of one firm, not selected as a winner “This is a really neat concept, well conceived and executed. This company could do our profession a great service if they published this model!" – then you know there are many outstanding award submissions.

The 2016 Enterprise Architecture Award Winners

HumanaEvolving EA through Architecting for Change. 

How do you move a diverse set of business units in an increasingly customer-driven industry towards a cohesive future state?  Humana’s EA team does this by embedding architecture into the thinking of the organization – from execs to project leads.  They used three key levers to do this – first, they developed and broadly communicated a combined business and technology Future State Architecture and educated teams on how to move towards it incrementally.  Second, they worked to change the decision-making culture to where the Future State Architecture was the backdrop for both strategic and tactical decisions.  Humana’s technology management organization saw so much value in this future state that they organized their operating model around delivering towards it, and the EA team instituted an enterprise integration competency center.   Third, the EA team embraced a federated model for architecture,  involving roles from across the organization with central coordination provided by the EA team.  The combination of this federated model, the integration competency center, and broad awareness enables progress towards Humana’s future state. 

Kishore Sarathy, VP, Architecture, at 2015 winner CapitalOne said this about their entry:   “Their federated model  – driven centrally and with distributed decision making, embodies a strategy of ‘Think Global/Act Local’”

South State Bank – Kaizen EA: The Continuous Improvement of An Enterprise. 

How do you pragmatically transform your business in a rapidly changing market dominated by larger firms?  South State Bank faces this challenge – and their EA team is helping them by using enabling a Kaizen approach to  transformation. They first modeled their current state architecture via a capability model that was easily consumable, which revealed opportunities for improvements that could be traced back to enterprise strategic goals. These discoveries drove the impetus for Kaizen, inspired by Masaki Imai – "Engage in activities that continuously improve all functions".  Instead of charting out a 2-3 year plan for transformation and trying to adhere to it, they worked with business leaders, steering committees and the PMO  to target a business outcome, and then decide on the ‘continuous improvement’ path to achieve it.

Architectures and transitions are designed quickly using EA tools, eliminating the overhead of many EA formalities, to produce collateral that can be consumed by architects and non-architects alike. Working hand in hand with business technology experts they successfully deployed systems – cutting typical time to market in half, and eliminating technical debt because of the depth of knowledge acquired while rapidly modelling the current state.

David Trice, IS Strategy & Architecture Director, at 2015 winner Centrica, said “This is a fascinating example of how EA strengthens IT and Business.  The team applied their knowledge to champion continuous improvement to their landscape and established trust through results.”

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company Leading the transformation with EA

How do you balance efficiency and strong risk management with the ability to innovate and create compelling customer experiences.  MassMutual faces this challenge.  Technology Management team recognized that this dual mandate required changing the way they worked, with multiple teams working on different fundamentals with different ways of working. Keeping all these teams working together requires a strong EA practice.  The EA team had to provide a disciplined, consistent approach to how technology is implemented and used.  And the team had to serve as an agent of innovation.  MassMutual’s EA team solved this by empowering distributed decision-makers inside and outside IT to quickly understand their options, and make data-driven, architecturally sound technology decisions. They also created a digital  Enterprise Reference Architecture to  provide a common model of the business  and the technology services underpinning it, to guide investments and position MassMutual for on-going change and flexibility.   The results from the EA team’s work range from digital transformation of customer journeys, to rapid turn-around of business ideas into working prototypes.

 Kishore Sarathy assessed their entry this way:  “I liked their hands-on, value-focused approach to driving business transformation and innovation. By embedding architects within cross-functional teams, they actively lead the way instead  of passive participants in a purely governance role. ”

Cummins Inc. – Architecture Led, Service Enabled Digital Transformation.

When business leaders identify critical accelerators for success – such as Become Excellent in Customer Service, and Lead in Critical Technologies, what can EA do to make them happen?  The EA team at Cummins did this by building a rock-solid foundation of architectural guidance, and then getting into the trenches with technology initiative teams to ensure this guidance was leveraged.  First, they focused on five goals: 1) ensure successful IT solutions delivery consistently, 2) drive IT operational excellence by simplification, standardization and reuse, 3) enable agile delivery, 4) support continuous innovation, and 5) build emerging technology expertise.  They delivered on these goals with frameworks, processes and practices, and drilled into key enablers such as enterprise information,, technology roadmaps, and Service Excellence Frameworks – combining  both process and technology, for integration,  applications, digital platforms and security. The results of their efforts?  The EA team can point to cost savings, but more tellingly, to revenue and time-to-market benefits.  The value of architecture in terms of successful transformation realization, is very visible to their stakeholders. 

Gary Smylie, Enterprise Architect at 2015 winner Idaho National Laboratory said this: “They showed a good focus on accomplishing business strategy, with solid examples of ROI from their work.”

AetnaEnabling hybrid business platforms. 

How do you stand-up a new business, on a new technology platform, in less than a year?  Aetna had this challenge, and  the EA program stepped up to become a key accelerator.  In early 2015, Aetna decided to create a brand new consumer-centric health plan, with new products, based on a different engagement model, and apply digital-first principles and new business processes across the board—all relying on a new technology platform. The focus of the EA practice needed to shift; we needed to “turn business vision into IT action” and to complete the job before November 1, 2015.   Historically EA had been sitting “outside” delivery projects, but for this transformation, architects needed to become an integral part of delivery scrum teams, while at the same time providing architectural runway to keep the program moving at optimal speed. While great in concept, this deep engagement required many more architects than they had.  They split architecture resources into three distinct roles: Systems architects: engaging at the program level, Solution architects: creating solution sketches and designs, and Integration architects: translating information needs into actual integration designs.  To further promote quick decisions, they established a daily “architecture risk scrum.” The results from their new model are impressive: 

  • Integrated software from 15 different sources through 400 integration points, delivered in 10 months and at less than 25% of the traditional cost of integration
  • Reduced design defects by more than 50%
  • Increased delivery speed more than 2x
  • 99% of architecture risks adjudicated within 1 day, 90% of architecture risks eliminated within 5 days

David Trice commented: “I like how they delivered ‘just enough architecture’, focusing on information flow and risk, to empower decision-making”

I’d like to extend my thanks to our three judges:  David Trice, Kishore Sarathy and Gary Smylie.  I’d also like to thank those firms that submitted entries to this year’s awards, and worked with us through the arduous judging process.  The combination of excellent cases and excellent judges makes these awards as valuable as they are.