Enterprise architecture (EA) is a strategic capability for many Forrester clients. It is essential that EA in all of its permutations be results-oriented and pragmatic. In Forrester’s Enterprise Architecture Award, we look for stories of EA excellence resulting in tangible business and customer results. The Forrester Outcome-Driven Architecture Model rests on a base of architecture principles (valuable, influential, continuous, agile, accountable, and pragmatic) that inform the EA capabilities of people, practice, artifacts, and engagement. This foundation provides the platform to drive and influence projects, products, and services for the ultimate outcome of adaptive, creative, and resilient customer value.

The three finalists of the Forrester Enterprise Architecture Award for 2022 show how excellent EA organizations drive both internal and external value.

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

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
  • Target Corporation.
  • U.S. Bank, NA.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The healthcare industry is facing many challenges in the current environment such as rising healthcare costs, equitable healthcare, and the sheer complexity and fragmentation of the system. As with all of this year’s semifinalists, Blue Cross NC’s enterprise architecture organization displays a very clear understanding of its business context and technology strategy; its directions include deepening local advantage via personalized relationships, improving affordability, and developing strategic collaborations. The EA organization has driven change through evaluating technology investments, accelerating the analytics strategy, and focusing on a seamless experience for patients, partners, and providers. To increase the effectiveness of EA and to ensure collaboration across the organization, the EA team has built its own EA planning tool, known as Aardvark.

Specific outcome examples include leading a cost-effective migration to a new, cloud-based analytics platform, maintaining an ongoing partnership with the computer science department at North Carolina State University (enabling a key talent pipeline and bringing in new ways of thinking), and creating a standardized disaster recovery/high-availability architecture framework and automated data quality controls to ensure consistency across systems.

Blue Cross NC provided many examples of results consistent with the EA principles. The team is aligned directly to business leaders, an engagement that led directly to recognition of the need for interaction history and the development of the “touchpoint insights” centralized customer data platform.

In terms of the architecture capabilities, the team maintains EA roadmaps for each business area, updated semiannually and supported by documented architecture decision memos. Solutions architects maintain alignment via direct embedding on multiple teams.

Other key platforms with architecture leadership include Smart Desktop, a complete replacement of customer service applications on Salesforce that is enabled by a new Google-style search engine across major transactional systems and document repositories.

Target Corporation

Target Corporation is well known as one of the largest retailers in the US, with over $100 billion in annual revenue. Its business strategy includes affordable, differentiated, engaging shopping experiences; an operating model where stores also serve as fulfillment hubs; and a commitment to the guests and communities it serves. Target has evolved its IT operating model dramatically in the past eight years, and the EA group has increased in influence. It has driven change through leading an innovative new retail platform, a universal, microservices-based cross-channel architecture, which (among other benefits) helped Target migrate from PC-based point-of-sale terminals to an entirely browser-based solution.

Key initiatives include defining an engineering direction termed “experience-centric engineering,” which emphasizes the centrality of customer experience even for pure technology teams. The team curates the platform pattern playbook, which distills best practices for common problems and sets key standards, such as “data topic owners define their schema to which producers must conform.” It also spearheaded the necessary retrospectives and the establishment of principles, metrics, and norms for system operations.

In terms of principles, Target’s EA team crowdsources the introduction of new technologies, leveraging collaboration in GitHub to facilitate dialog and document decisions and the lifecycle state of technologies. Target EA pros are highly influential, with just 15 for over 4,500 global engineers and 400 product teams; their focus is on complex efforts that span multiple high-level portfolios and stakeholders. EA facilitates quarterly sessions with all technology VPs to debate the most pressing architecture directions and decisions, and architects are heavily involved when new enterprise scale capabilities are created — for example, Target+, a curated online marketplace.

The Target 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. Engagement is high-touch and relationship-based. Artifacts are considered living documents, maintained transparently; the retail platform surface is the major internal framework, communicating the key building blocks.

Key leadership on results includes a rearchitecting of data platforms and enabling new analytics for marketing priorities.

U.S. Bank, NA

U.S. Bank is the fifth largest bank in the U.S., providing a variety of financial services to individuals, businesses, and governmental entities. It is currently implementing a multiyear technology transformation program that is developing a mission-focused, results-driven EA organization. Other priorities include a significant cloud transformation and integration of the EA process with risk and information security.

The EA organization at U.S. Bank is focused on four key pillars: helping CIOs drive tangible outcomes, engaging and inspiring the engineer, automating policy controls, and focusing on application hygiene. Engaging the engineer is particularly important, with approaches including gamification, persona-based learning paths, and encouraging cloud certifications for engineers. Uniquely among this year’s submissions, the EA group coordinates a internal certification program that has trained and certified more than 600 engineers, with 40,000 hours of learning in four months. Application modernization “parties” are held as four-day, quarterly offsites, employing recently certified engineers to modernize a large number of applications. U.S. Bank has used the training and certification program to build architectural competence across IT and the business, to connect core teams, to crowdsource talent from within, to reduce barriers between EA and engineering, and to promote the value of EA across the organization.

In terms of outcomes, U.S. Bank highlights the creative and adaptive benefits of its education and certification program, as well as the resilience benefits of its “AppFit” application health scoring protocols, which include factors such as test coverage, continuous integration/continuous delivery, and vulnerability scanning. Gamified outcomes are a key driver, with higher scores leading to accelerated deployments and reduced governance.

The EA team plays a role in the new operating model, championing a “quad squad” concept (similar to what others call “four in a box”) that calls for an engineer, product owner, scrum master, and user experience/customer experience analyst partnership. The group is also driving the migration to Microsoft Azure via building a foundation and standardizing patterns. EA has exercised its influence in selecting the cloud partner, shaping open source and technology obsolescence policies, and partnering directly with engineers on patterns and practices. Architecture is also helping shape the firm’s core banking and card modernization.

Join us September 29–30, 2022, for Technology & Innovation North America!

What’s next? We will announce the Enterprise Architecture Award winner for North America during Forrester’s Technology & Innovation North America Forum, taking place September 29–30, both in person in Austin and virtually as a digital experience. Stay tuned!