In the Forrester/InfoWorld Enterprise Architecture Awards competition, we look for the most dramatic stories of EA’s strategic leadership and concrete business impact. The winners of the 2021 Forrester/InfoWorld Enterprise Architecture Awards show a close focus on business results with a particular eye to enabling innovation across the enterprise plus an agile approach to technology implementation.

In alphabetical order, the winners this year are the EA teams of:

Bank of America
Country Financial
Deutsche Telekom
VTB of Russia

Congrats to all the winners — each has a compelling story of EA best practices. You can read those stories below.

How do we pick the winners? Forrester’s EA analysts performed the first round of vetting, then the 2020 Enterprise Architecture Award winners acted as final judges and voted for the teams they believed had the most impactful EA story.

Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses, and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management, and other financial and risk management products and services.

Enterprise architecture is part of ETASC, Enterprise Technology Architecture & Shared Capabilities — established in 2017. ETASC is a centralized organization. Approximately 20 architects are employed by role centrally; there are hundreds of solution architects throughout the bank’s technology organization. The team’s mission is to make technologists’ jobs easier so they can innovate more. This team’s contributions helped Bank of America meet unforeseen demands and provide unprecedented client support amid the coronavirus pandemic in four significant ways:

Lean agile goes from good to great. ETASC found that most of the bank’s software teams applied agile methodology in unique, informal ways. ETASC was on a mission to get tens of thousands of technologists in eight lines of business to collaborate more closely and moved quickly to upgrade to a more robust, scalable agile methodology. Program champions expanded training, educating 136,000+ participants and launching an agile maturity assessment program. Of the 600 teams and 2,500 individuals who completed the assessment questionnaires in the first cycle, 40% scored a “1” — the lowest end of the 5-point maturity scale. Only 2% scored a “5.”

To drive improvement, the team launched Agile Games, which assigned a series of tasks tied to improvement areas. By late 2020, assessment participation grew to 2,500 teams and 30,000 individuals — and 82% of them scored a “3” out of “5” or higher. Only 1% of teams scored a “1.”

Then the coronavirus required 85% of the bank’s workforce to work remotely. The team quickly developed guidance and tools on remote collaboration. Armed with these, software teams innovated more and patent applications soared. The bank’s inventors filed 722 patent applications with the US Patent Office in 2020, the highest number in the bank’s history. A record 444 patents were granted to Bank of America in 2020, during a period when US patents granted overall were down 1%.

RPA and BPM experts help provide relief in crisis. To offset the COVID-19 economic impact, the US government enacted the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and relied heavily on major banks for implementation. The massive and sudden new workload seemed insurmountable. But the ETASC team had in prior years established a center of excellence (CoE) for robotic process automation (RPA) and business process management (BPM). These proved instrumental to the bank’s ability to meet these challenges, rapidly standing up a platform to automate PPP loan applications. The team’s domain expertise in applying RPA technology and 24/7 support for operations staff made this herculean task feasible.

Tech tools spur digital innovation, strengthening security and reliability. To ensure sustainability of their momentum, the ETASC team delivered numerous software development accelerators, including design patterns, archetypes, and code libraries that apply to commonly occurring software design and implementation challenges. A well-organized portal makes it easy to find all the resources, with tools, instructions, videos, reference code, and even a dedicated infrastructure that developers can use to build solutions. Portal traffic soon topped a million hits per month.

To support the modular aspect of the bank’s solution delivery, the ETASC team made it easier for technologists to reuse their peers’ proven work, enabling developers to find all APIs that have been successfully deployed. In just six months, thousands of bank engineers capitalized on the API catalog. ETASC enabled developers to embrace cloud-native patterns and container platform efforts, and as a result, the bank’s software-defined infrastructure strategy and migration to the cloud have reduced infrastructure spend by $2.1 billion.

Experimental labs/sandboxes drive innovation. ETASC provides software teams with environments where they can experiment and learn — with the ability to create (and tear down) on demand. Usage of ETASC’s experimental sandbox environments has increased tenfold in the last year. ETASC’s software development accelerators and sandbox labs led to innovations that resulted in a record quarter in Q1 2021 for total deposits and digital users. In addition, brand loyalty and customer satisfaction reached new highs. Year to date, the bank has received an influx of industry honors as a leading innovator, including being named number one among national banks in online and mobile banking in the J.D. Power 2021 US Banking and Banking Mobile App Satisfaction Study, as well as Global Finance naming Bank of America an Outstanding Financial Innovator for 2021 and several other industry awards recognizing innovation in banking.

2020 EA Award winner and final judge panel member Andy Kopp of Lexmark had this to say about Bank of America’s accomplishments: “A fascinating example of how EA can apply common principles and practices to enable and distribute work at scale. Enterprise-level agile can only hope to achieve consistent results with this type of framework. Well done.”

Country Financial
Country Financial is a group of US insurance and financial services companies with customers in 19 states. The group of companies offers a range of insurance and financial products and services, including auto, home, life, commercial insurance, retirement planning, investment management, and trust services.

Country’s EA team has been in existence for six years, using a federated structure with seven enterprise architects, a program manager, and an analyst, plus about 25 solution architects distributed across delivery teams.

Country’s legacy technology ecosystem, with accumulating technical debt, had introduced complexity and inefficiencies, inhibiting the speed to market and the delivery of modern customer experience improvements to enable business growth. In addition, it lacked foundational plans for some high-priority capabilities such as cloud, CI/CD, and testing automation to embark on a modernization journey.

To tackle the challenge, Country’s EA team dramatically changed its operating model to guide the enterprise through modernization and optimization initiatives. It reinvented the EA function by focusing on the following five areas:

Technology modernization. EA focused on identifying several gaps and opportunities for improvement across the technology landscape. They delivered: 1) a cloud-native and microservices strategy with a plan to modernize monolithic applications into cloud-native and microservices applications; 2) an integration strategy and introduced the MuleSoft platform into the organization to modernize integration and API management capabilities; 3) RPA technology to automate manual business processes across the enterprise; 4) a cloud strategy with guiding principles and drove the adoption for cloud; 5) data and analytics capability improvements, standing up a number of data transformation programs to modernize data warehousing/data lake, data science, data quality, data governance, and MDM capabilities; and 6) adoption of CI/CD and testing automation capabilities to accelerate the solution delivery process.

Technology optimization/simplification. EA focused on opportunities to rationalize and consolidate applications and infrastructure across the technology landscape. EA developed a multiphase technical debt decommission strategy. Phase 1 included core mission-critical applications and resulted in an establishment of multiyear decommission plans to decommission 33 core systems to realize $7.5 to $10.75 million in annual cost savings. Phase 2 included top platform technical debt around operating systems, databases, integration, and messaging infrastructure. Phase 3 included the applications that were not part of Phase 1. Phase 4 included infrastructure and security technology portfolios including telephony, audio/videoconferencing, identity and access management, firewalls, and remote access.

Strategic planning and shaping investment decisions. In 2017, EA and ITS planning co-led the development of an enterprisewide technology strategy and roadmap. This resulted in the formulation of key strategic technology programs covering cloud, data and analytics, platform modernization, data center modernization, DevOps, agile, cybersecurity, and more. EA most recently developed a technology parity dashboard to compare core business solutions with the insurance industry. The dashboard provided insights into whether Country’s technology solutions are on par, lagging, or ahead of the industry, helping shape portfolio priorities and investments.

Enabling innovation. EA partnered with the enterprise innovation team, digital lab, and multiple business and technology teams to explore emerging technologies and deploy the solutions. They introduced an innovation framework to identify opportunities for innovation, plus an auto telematics vendor solution to deliver the telematics solution to customers. They developed a number of cloud PoCs exploring containers, databases, and storage in the cloud, with production workloads likewise running in the cloud. They partnered with a third-party blockchain consortium to explore proof-of-insurance (POI) and first-notice-of-loss use cases with its other member insurance companies. Their partner awarded Country its 2020 innovator award for EA’s work on the POI use case.

Architecture governance. EAs are aligned with the different lines of businesses and are embedded into major initiatives to help guide the technology and architectural decisions. This provided them visibility into major initiatives across the enterprise and allowed them to exploit synergies across those initiatives. They created an architecture community of practice, made up of enterprise architects, solution architects, and technical leads, to develop and approve technology standards, design patterns, and best practices. They are also an active partner in governing and shaping the strategic technology programs around cloud, platform modernization, DevOps, data and analytics, cybersecurity, and ITSM.

Results for the above initiatives included development of an enterprisewide technology strategy and roadmap; the identification of opportunities to modernize the technology portfolio; adoption of technologies that resulted in testing automation speed and stability with self-healing capabilities and zero downtime deployments, scalability, and developer productivity; the establishment of multiyear decommission plans to decommission 33 core systems to realize $7.5 to $10.75M in annual cost savings; and the enablement of innovation that has led to production deployment for several emerging technologies.

Andy Kopp of Lexmark commented: “Well structured; excellent balance of execution, strategy, and innovation. Really interesting approaches to strategic planning and innovation enablement (that I might borrow from). You can really visualize the flow from strategy, through innovation, execution — and into decommissioning. Very comprehensive; great results.”

Deutsche Telekom
Deutsche Telekom (DT) is one of the world’s leading providers of telecommunications and information technology. DT’s European operating segment comprises all fixed-network and mobile operations of the national companies in Greece, Romania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovakia, Austria, North Macedonia, and Montenegro. The EA program launched in 2018 with a small team of architects working in a collaborative but distributed team structure. Now the central team consists of four EAs and six solution architects, and each of the national companies (NatCOs) have their own architecture team. They have formed four different communities: an EU architecture board headed by the central chief architect and represented by NatCO chief architects; a Digital Platform Services (DPS) community focusing on governance and review of DPS as they are introduced and evolve; a digital integration community focusing on best practices, patterns, and maturity assessment; and a data enablement community responsible for driving adoption and evolution of the data strategy.

In 2018, DT’s European CEO prioritized digitalization efforts across Europe to improve customer experience, simplify and digitalize customer interactions, and deliver new innovative solutions. The ambition was to deliver mobile-first, omnichannel, and intelligent interactions across all products and services. The IT landscape across all the countries was heterogenous, and they needed to transform legacy applications, capitalize on digital technologies, and adopt an agile and DevOps model.

DT EAs took this opportunity to create a groupwide EA framework, the European IT Reference Architecture (EIRA), that articulates how to transform legacy IT architecture. The EIRA framework manifesto established principles for focusing on business value over technical strategy, strategic goals over project-specific benefits, and agility over efficiency. The EA program’s main focus areas included:

Business capability viewpoint. DT’s EA team identified core and emerging capabilities to enable delivery of innovative products and services. Each of the NatCOs put together a set of future business capabilities across all the domains.

Business transition planning. Once the future business capabilities roadmap was defined, DT’s EA team defined the transition architecture. They organized each of the capabilities across multiple value streams including sales, delivery, customer management, assurance, revenue assurance, and product lifecycle management.

Enterprise IT architecture. The EIRA framework that DT’s EA team created consists of: application strategy and architecture; harmonized APIs; transition architecture patterns; integration architecture; data enablement capabilities; reference architectures for integrating digital platform ecosystems; technical architecture, including products, solutions, and a DevOps approach; a strategy execution framework that covers maturity assessment and transition steps covering organization, architecture, release management, continuous integration, quality assurance, and incident management; and community-oriented collaboration across countries.

Application architecture. One of the major technical drivers was to transform legacy applications into a set of business-aligned, cloud-native, and agile, reusable services. Business capabilities were also mapped to enabling applications, and DT’s EA team classified them based on technical and business fitness.

Harmonized API approach. It was critical for DT’s EA team to have the benefit of economies of scale, particularly in developing solutions once that can be reused across multiple countries. One of the key enablers for that was harmonization of APIs across the NatCOs to integrate them with centrally developed cloud-native solutions. DT’s EA team built the Harmonised API Layer (HAL) framework/specification. Currently, it’s being used by all the NatCOs, and the EAs have deployed 45 APIs used by multiple products like OneApp, OneShop, TV, sales-force automation, and others.

Digital platform services (DPS). One of the key drivers is to move away from monolithic applications into cloud-native services: DPS. Each service delivers a well-defined business capability​; can be designed, developed, tested, and deployed completely independently of other services; is 100% cloud-native; and can be delivered in an agile manner.

Digital integration platform. The integration strategy identified key integration capabilities and defined 12 different integration patterns to address the most common integration needs. A community of integration experts was formed to define best practices, share implementation challenges, and track progress.

Data enablement platform. The digital enablement platform (DEP) is one of the key components of EIRA. The DEP plays an important role in personalizing digital interactions, simplifying operations, and optimizing cost. The main focus areas are adoption of open source, enterprise-grade commodity hardware, increased use of analytics and data-driven decision-making, and the use of analytics for customer experience, service operations, automation, campaigns, and operational excellence. The EA team established data architecture principles for the data architecture environments across NatCOs.

Digital ecosystems and platforms. Partnering with third-party products and services to enable new business models is one of the key elements of DT’s digitalization strategy. Over the last two years, DT’s EA team has implemented a variety of software-as-service solutions that decouple NatCO APIs from SaaS-provider APIs to benefit from the agility of innovation.

Transition architecture framework. It was very important to have a well-defined strategy for transition that ensured that the transition architecture was driven by business ambitions and goals and that it clearly laid down the path toward the target in an adaptive fashion. Each NatCO owned its transition architecture and was prepared as a joint business and IT exercise.

Software automation framework. As part of the EIRA framework, the EAs also delivered an automation framework addressing all major concerns such as organization, architecture, release management, continuous integration, quality assurance, and incident management. Each of the NatCOs has prepared its KPIs for time-to-market and number of releases, along with detailed plans to deliver required capabilities to achieve those KPIs.

Business and IT governance. The EA team classified the application landscape using future business fitness and technology fitness and prioritized those applications that most contribute to business outcomes.

Business outcomes and KPIs. Over the last three years, the DT EA team launched various products based on EIRA: 1) OneApp, a mobile app delivered across all 10 different NatCOs with a single code base, covering multiple sales and self-care capabilities; 2) OneShop, a multi-instance, cloud-native, open source e-commerce solution delivered across five NatCOs; 3) OneTV, an implementation of SaaS TV platforms across multiple NatCOs using harmonized APIs and EIRA-based architecture; 4) OneBroadband, improving customer experience by providing capabilities such as router management, parental controls, and device management; and 5) OneMind, a central data lake to provide personalized experiences, automated operations, and data analytics across all products and services.

Overall, 140 digital platform services are in production, out of which 15 are developed centrally and others by different NatCOs. DT’s EA team has created a marketplace where digital platform services are available for different NatCOs to reuse. They have delivered 48 harmonized APIs. Each of the NatCOs has a well-maintained transition architecture, plus data enablement and a digital integration strategy with well-defined business outcomes.

2020 EA Award winner and final judge panel member Movi Banerjee of CSL Behring summed up DT’s entry thus: “A well-functioning EA team that has established a robust methodology and utilizes a solid framework (EIRA) and KPIs to produce business outcomes such as OneApp, OneShop, OneTV, etc.”

Vale is one of the world’s largest multinational mining companies, a Brazilian company leading in the production of iron ore and nickel with supporting operations in the areas of logistics, energy, and steel-making. With locations in 50 countries, the Vale EA team set out to create a framework that would unite the global organization, streamline workflows, enable innovation, and build a solid and secure technology foundation in an inherently dangerous industry.

The Digital Enterprise Architecture Framework provides everyone at Vale visibility into the solutions and technologies used as well as products in development with a focus on lean portfolio planning. First implemented in 2019, the framework has reaped tangible benefits and continues to provide organizationwide improvements from a technology and cultural perspective.

Before introducing the Digital Enterprise Architecture Framework, Vale’s widespread teams were managed in silos, with teams managing projects and application deployments, integrations, hosting, and network foundations and maintenance and support services separately. The adoption of a common framework and information taxonomy provides transparency into the lifecycle of business capabilities, processes, applications, and the technology behind Vale’s solutions as well as problems, opportunities, and projects.

Vale’s digital architecture operating model was launched in 2019, based on promoting data-driven mechanisms to manage the lifecycle of its portfolio of capabilities, applications, interfaces, projects, and technology standards.

The Vale EA model is hybrid. There is a core centralized team comprised of five enterprise architects and 40 domain architects by business areas and main technology foundations. Forty solution/product architects are distributed along product category teams and vendors but federated to cross domain architects to guarantee consistency and alignment. Vale’s EA efforts realized several benefits:

Managing interdependencies. With the help of digital platforms like LeanIX, Vale was able to provide full visibility into its complex technical landscape. Vale currently operates with 700 business capabilities, 2,000 processes, 3,000 applications, 2,000 integrations, and 2,500 IT components and cloud services. Vale relies on LeanIX to also register the business impact analysis (BIA) to define the program and project portfolio. The inherent benefit of its EA effort is having a lean and focused project portfolio. Projects are now managed in one central digital platform so that everybody has visibility into what is being created. The projects are more focused on improving current capabilities, not just deploying brand-new technology. With this new level of visibility, Vale can now see if projects are duplicated or if multiple projects are pointing to the same capability.

Decreasing costs. Full transparency helped Vale avoid duplications in solutions and products. The Digital Enterprise Architecture Framework allowed it to streamline its portfolio, with a 30% portfolio reduction across lines of business.

Managing risk. Over the past three years, Vale has focused on a solid risk management framework. In an industry like mining, managing technology risk is important downstream to preventing outages that could cause serious physical harm. As an example, Vale has operations in underground mines with systems controlling the ventilation in the mines, with critical impact to people working on the ground. In another example, about 50% of mining trucks globally are remote-controlled or autonomous; the net is that technology is critical for managing security risks. For Vale, this is all integrated in LeanIX, so if a security breach does happen, the appropriate teams will be able to easily find and solve the problem.

Innovation. The Digital Enterprise Architecture Framework is helping Vale provide visibility of interdependencies, enabling innovation. Vale currently runs about 200 experiments per year, with global teams tasked with creating a PoC. Vale now has a network of 500+ “startups” globally focused on technologies such as the internet of things, augmented reality, drones, and more.

The companywide adoption of this new framework put forth by the EA team at Vale is still ramping up, but there are a few key areas of the business that are realizing its benefits:

Energy management program. Vale has started an energy program to rationalize the energy consumption at Vale. This program uses the framework to gain full visibility into business capabilities and process solutions to help reduce the consumption of energy. Another objective is to reduce Vale’s global carbon footprint. Vale is putting all process and capability indicators into LeanIX to see where it has opportunities to reduce its footprint. This helps Vale qualify technology vendors downstream. If one cloud provider can demonstrate that its cloud is really based on using carbon-footprint reduction approaches, Vale will make the decision to go with that vendor over others.

Asset maintenance management. Asset maintenance encompasses all the capabilities, processes, and solutions that Vale requires to maintain all of its assets globally. The Digital Enterprise Architecture Framework has helped provide a better user experience, inspections, and better use of SAP. Maintenance in a mining company is the main cost component, and utilizing this framework has had significant impacts on the bottom line.

The EA team led by Chris Freas of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, one of our 2020 winners, commented: “The Vale EA team provides the roadmap necessary to develop data and process transparency, extensive system integration, and centralization of project resources. The submission establishes a defined, supportable framework to support lifecycle management, automation, and workspace collaboration. The adoption of an innovation startup model coupled with business buy-in and adoption of LeanIX improved and strengthened their EA vision and strategy. Vale’s experience may inspire the Jefferson EA team to consider adopting LeanIX.”

VTB of Russia
VTB is the second-largest financial institution in Russia. It has a presence in 18 countries, including Germany, the UK, China, India, Italy, Vietnam, and Singapore. In Russia, VTB serves more than 14 million retail clients and about 500,000 corporate entities.

VTB’s 2022 strategy is to accomplish a digital leap and become a first-choice bank and an industry leader in service quality and convenience of customer interactions. VTB will transform the branch network and other traditional infrastructure to create a truly omnichannel customer access environment. An important objective is building a cutting-edge technology and operational platform based on a new-generation microservices IT architecture. Investments in tech solutions will focus on the rollout of biometric identification platforms, robotics, advanced analytics, and AI-powered virtualization of processes, creating open interfaces for prompt partner integration and cloud infrastructure automation for accelerating and scaling capabilities.

VTB’s EA function is incorporated into all the company’s processes and is part of all strategic decision-making. EAs work closely with business leaders and cover all functional areas and R&D labs, while solution architects work in agile teams. As a part of the 2022 architecture vision, a new cloud-native technology platform was introduced based on microservices and a wide range of cutting-edge and emerging technologies, such as real-time decision-making, in-memory computing, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and open source solutions. A technical debt management discipline was set up to bring balance between investments into target and legacy architecture. Architectural KPIs were introduced on stream (tribe) level to measure the progress toward target architecture and decommission legacy applications, reducing the complexity of the legacy landscape. Three case studies highlight VTB’s EA function’s progress:

The EA function enables digital transformation. VTB started its major technology transformation in the second half of 2019 to achieve a significant shift in several focus areas: a reliable and flexible platform, high-quality internal IT services, process automation, consolidation and unification of the core banking platform, and decommissioning more than 200 legacy applications by the end of 2022, as well as an agile transformation.

In order to accomplish these ambitious goals, the EA function was rebuilt. It incorporated functional (business) architecture, corporate architecture, data architecture, technology standards, UX/UI design standards, infrastructure architecture, fault tolerance architecture, and cloud architecture.

In order to support agile, a transformation matrix structure was put in place. A chief stream (tribe) architect role was introduced that has a reporting line to the enterprise architect of the correspondent business line as well as to the stream/tribe lead. Stream architects in their turn supervise detailed design (solution architecture), which is built by team architects.

The new EA organization consists of about 200 architects and 160 stream architects working in streams but having matrix reporting lines to the enterprise architects of the correspondent business lines. Solution architects usually are nominated from the dev, and the current community consists of 500+ specialists. This new EA structure allows for running architecture and development processes for over 1,200 teams or over 10,000 developers.

For the last two years, the architecture landscape of VTB was significantly changed and a modernized technology stack was introduced. A new governance process for the technology standards and technology stack was rolled out. New instruments for development and tracking of enterprise and solution architecture were deployed, and the architecture of the DevSecOps pipeline was significantly improved. A significant shift was made toward usage of open source technologies in a number of important areas, such as virtualization, integration, orchestration, databases, big data, AI, and others. For each open source product, VTB’s EA team created the internal center of competency.

Cloud-native transformation. EA is a key driver of transforming the legacy landscape into a cloud-native microservices architecture. In 2020, VTB began the transformation of the legacy applications portfolio. The core of this transformation lies in the creation of a new omnichannel banking platform. From the EA perspective, this new platform meant a new UI/UX design ops approach, new architecture standards, a new technology stack, new cybersecurity standards, and new microservices architecture principles and patterns.

To provide a single client experience across all the channels, VTB created a UI/UX center of excellence, which engages the collaboration of all UI/UX experts across different business lines and develops and maintains a bankwide design system and a library of common visual components. It also drives the principles and standards for the best, effortless UI/UX experience for external and internal users of VTB applications and A/B testing of the client paths.

As a result, the new cloud-native architecture of VTB helped make a 10x improvement for time-to-market for the new product and significantly reduced the cost of releasing the new product into the market. In this architecture in 2020 and the first half of 2021, VTB successfully launched into production a new omnichannel platform for retail and SMB clients, digital credit for corporates, a credit conveyor for retail, mobile banking for retail, and an online bank for corporates.

EA is a key enabler in building a data-driven organization. At VTB, data governance (DG) and data architecture are a part of the EA function. Implementation of the DG initiative was accompanied by both organizational changes and technological innovation. The EA team defined new roles (data owner, data steward, data quality manager, etc.) and two levels of DG committees: one for operational monitoring of data issues and a second for tactical and strategic decisions concerning data standards, policies, and monitoring of DG roadmap execution.

The EA function implemented a DG tool consisting of three modules: a business glossary, metadata catalog, and data quality monitoring. The team created a gate in the solution architecture that ensures a transparent and up-to-date data flow map for all the objects the business glossary tracks. It also put an incident management process in place for data quality incidents.

2020 EA Award winner Movi Banerjee had this comment on VTB’s efforts: “A success story from an organization with many architects working across tribes to deliver solid business outcomes such as cloud-native transformation, data-driven organization, and a modern microservices architecture creating better UX.”