In some past Forrester/InfoWorld Enterprise Architecture Awards competitions, we had named themes to align entries and winners to the current needs of modern enterprise architecture (EA) programs. This year, as last year, we went themeless to simply find the most dramatic stories of EA’s strategic leadership. The winners of the 2019 Forrester/InfoWorld Enterprise Architecture Awards show the value of a robust business architecture, a complete vision for digital transformation, a modular approach to technology components, and effective governance practices.

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

  • Arizona Public Service
  • City of Antwerp
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Mars, Incorporated
  • Verizon

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 2018 Enterprise Architecture Award winners acted as final judges and voted for the teams they believed had the most impactful EA story.

Arizona Public Service EA Drives Top-Down Capability-Aligned Investment
Arizona Public Service (APS) is a vertically integrated, investor-owned electric utility serving most of Arizona. In 2018, APS centralized its EA practice with goals to improve planning, drive standardization, and ensure consistent, resilient information technology solutions.

In 2019, the APS enterprise architecture team partnered with applications and finance teams to use business capability-based planning to drive top-down IT investment portfolio alignment. For the first time, APS created a line of sight between its business strategy and the capabilities that will help APS achieve its business goals, resulting in investment road maps. A business-led IT investment board was created to establish top-down investment priorities based on the capability road maps.

Specific outcomes of this road map development included:

  • Executive direction on critical priorities, investment needs, and future capabilities.
  • A more balanced portfolio — instead of allocating most investment funds to grid reliability investments, APS was able to allocate investments across higher priority areas.
  • Greater awareness of critical dependencies between projects and business units.
  • Increased focus on enterprise solutions enabling APS to invest once while improving multiple business areas.

EA’s role was to:

  • Establish a framework for business capability-based planning.
  • Facilitate sessions with business and IT to capture business needs and document 3–5-year IT investment road maps. Road maps were created for 24 different capability areas. Over a three-month period, the team facilitated over 200 hours of road map sessions involving over 100 leaders at APS. More than 200 capabilities were assessed for maturity and importance over the next 3–5 years.
  • Provide executive decision support by evaluating road maps for common trends and considering enterprise implications.
  • Establish a framework for top-down investment prioritization.Use the road maps as a springboard to engage business executives in more effectively leveraging the IT landscape, including technology innovation, application rationalization, and service management.

Executives shifted funding to enable APS to:

  • Increase spending on analytics and process automation as ways to increase efficiency of value chain processes.
  • Achieve fewer investment breaks-ins caused by priority misalignment and/or missed demand.
  • See fewer one-off investments that support only one business unit. The road maps provided leadership visibility into cross-cutting enterprise investments that would benefit multiple groups.
  • Accelerate improvement of performance metrics related to clean and affordability initiatives.
  • Improve long-range budget forecasting and planning.

Sergei Shelchkov, enterprise architect at Sberbank in Russia, said, “This is an excellent case of the EA role in business and IT alignment and program value realization. We liked how they matured their governance approach based on their self-assessment and their management of their EA service catalog.”

City Of Antwerp EA Builds The Antwerp City Platform As A Service
Antwerp, Belgium is a city of over 500,000 inhabitants. Digipolis is the public, nonprofit cooperation commissioned with the IT management of the city and a valuable partner for City of Antwerp in developing and validating innovative urban digital applications on a vast scale. To facilitate this, Digipolis built the Antwerp City Platform as a Service (ACPaaS), a system capable of addressing any new digital initiative or evolution.

The Digipolis EA program started in 2015 as a central EA team augmented with distributed business, security, infrastructure, and application architects. All architects are members of a companywide architect guild tasked with guarding and steering the companywide architecture strategy. The EA team relied upon an API-first, microservice-based platform, standard UI components, a strict separation of front-end components and business logic, and a set of central and local data sets.

ACPaaS engines provide functions such as workflow management, asset management, output generation, identity management, natural language processing, chatbots, internet-of-things data ingestion and processing, and secure document storage. Each engine is developed as a RESTful API, with a central API gateway to manage inter-API communications. An Agile and sprint-based methodology is used for the development of new products and solutions, allowing for an optimal flexibility and adaptability.

Building ACPaaS required a new approach of the Digipolis public procurement strategy, avoiding the lengthy request for information/RFP processes. Digipolis set up a low-threshold and intense and structural collaboration with smaller-scale creative entrepreneurs, allowing for an idea-to-production time of less than four months.

A core set of technologies, the Digipolis Antwerp Application Stack, was identified as preferred technologies. The stack is updated and published by means of a recurrent review process.

Reuse of ACPaaS components prevents the same functionalities to be redeveloped over and over again. Current components have been reused up to 25 times each, progressively lowering the total development cost of new applications. This has led to a significant decrease in average development costs, increasing productivity by 400%.

The ACPaaS platform approach has proven to be successful, with customers being able to leverage work done previously and to benefit from every extension or upgrade. Engines are plug-and-play: They can be replaced by new, more powerful versions without impacting the applications using it. System development times have been reduced from years to months, and license costs have been reduced by over 80% through the use of open source software as a basis for systems and engine creation. The DevOps approach used in developing and deploying engines enables zero-downtime deployment.

Steve Cornish, formerly of EA Award winner Vodafone and now an architect at Waitrose & Partners, said, “I’m impressed by the boldness of the buy-from-startups program and the efficiencies achieved by ACPaaS. It’s clear the architecture team rallied around a strong vision and really supported and drove this process forward.”

Ford Motor Company Drives Off With The Prize: A Strategically Aligned Future
Ford’s IT architecture discipline sprouted to focus on optimizing application solutions and technology management. The scope later increased to include information architecture, and then, in 2012, the scope again increased to include business architecture, providing architects the business acumen to talk to their colleagues about business processes.

Ford’s EA team saw huge potential in the business architecture discipline and thought this would be a game changer for IT to help Ford steer investments. They saw many pockets of success but nothing systemic to make the kind of impact they wanted across the enterprise. Business architecture activities put EA in the position to address the lack of cross-functional integration and to help optimize the project portfolio aimed at addressing the functional and cross-functional needs of the enterprise. EA developed enterprise blueprints aligned to corporate strategies and goals that included the representations of their business capabilities, value streams, and health assessments. The blueprints not only articulated a future-state view of the enterprise but also helped identify opportunities for IT investments.

To balance IT investment across LLCs and business functions to ensure that Ford invested in the right things at the right time and demonstrated the value of its investments, EA then rewrote Ford’s IT demand management process. This process incorporated the use of their enterprise blueprints and shifted IT investment from a business function view to an enterprise view. The process identified the expected value of the proposed investments and developed an evaluation method to prioritize the investments.

EA set targets for the number of IT investments that needed to be aligned to blueprints and scored investments to identify those that provided a strategic advantage for the enterprise. They ensured that business value was clear and easy to demonstrate. They elevated investments for approval with top executives if they scored high through a newly launched demand management governance forum. Also, their CIO was successful in ensuring that business functions could no longer fund IT work through a back door. Everything had to go through the IT demand management process. This changed the conversation with business leaders. It became in their best interest to identify projects that aligned to strategic priorities, and it became clear that EA could guide the business functions to adjust their projects to be more enterprise-focused while still meeting the needs of the individual functional area.

This resulted in:

  • An 85% reduction in the number of projects in the IT portfolio.
  • Clearly identified business value for all IT investments.
  • The discovery of investment gaps for the future.
  • The clarification of enterprise needs and an enterprise focus — as opposed to LLC or business function focus/needs.
  • Strong support for a customer-centric strategy.
  • Strong support for IT’s Agile and product-driven strategy.

Tarun Khandelwal, senior director of architecture at CIBC, said, “Ford’s ability to transform demand management was very impressive. Most impressive was their ability to govern IT projects that align to a business vision, resulting in only strategic projects and capabilities being delivered.”

Mars’ EA Adapts Next-Generation Practices To Drive Digital Business Transformation
Mars, Incorporated is a global leader in confectionery, food, pet nutrition, and veterinary services. Faced with continued marketplace disruption, organizations in Mars’ vertical must use digital-first mindsets to drive its digital transformation, which seeks to enable associates to move much faster through new growth opportunities, efficiency, and risk avoidance. The business embarked on an enterprise digital transformation in 2017 and has instituted EA practices to establish and operationalize the digital transformation road map, including data, analytics, AI, machine learning, automation, IT modernization, and continuous improvement.

Mars has invested in user centricity, Agile, and next-generation technologies to deliver solutions. Its strategy includes a top-down approach, fed from business priorities, as well as a bottom-up approach of rationalizing applications and legacy technology—reducing TCO and IT debt.

The EA practices that Mars established to deliver continuous success were:

  • Speed and agility. Mars’ EA team established fast-track EA workouts with well-defined minimum viable architecture guidelines, target state architecture, and standards for self-service. Mars introduced a three-mode architecture to deliver fit-for-purpose services and to increase speed, leverage accelerators, drive simplicity, and improve customer value. Their workshops developed strategic plans, transformation road maps, future state architectures, and solutions.
  • A collaboration culture. Digital transformations need collaboration between traditional IT services and new digital resources. Aligning these teams behind a common purpose and business outcome led to better decision making and higher associate engagement. Mars’ architecture workouts brought these teams, vendors, and integration partners together to foster collaborative decision making.
  • An outward-facing approach to knowledge and experience. Mars partners with industry peers, integration partners, and vendors to broaden the perspective of its digital business and IT leadership teams. The outside-in approach to industry knowledge equips stakeholders with external experience to develop better solutions, increase operational efficiency, and work with agility. By benchmarking its strengths and gaps against industry peers, Mars was better prepared to differentiate and innovate.
  • Aligning digital transformation to IT modernization. Core technology lays the foundation for Mars’ digital transformation. The EA team created a blueprint for success that employed a digital reference model and connected to capability priorities, trends, and goals. This blueprint for digital further aligns transformation and rationalization road maps to modernization opportunities.
  • Continuous iteration cycles. Mars’ EA team established continuous cycles to rationalize IT applications and technologies aimed at deriving operational efficiencies, eliminating cost, reducing risk, and simplifying core and legacy systems.

Today, Mars has operationalized enterprise architecture as a key transformation enabler to support digital transformation. Global IT modernization has been an integral part toward driving simplification, standardization, and transformation initiatives.

Sergei Shelchkov, enterprise architect at Sberbank, said: “This is a sound case where EA has been driving business and IT alignment as well as moving transformation forward. The EA team defined scope and created new levels of EA services. They show the importance of collaboration and communication as key weapons of enterprise architects, especially within an Agile culture.”

Verizon Meets The Future With A Transformed EA Function, An Agile Framework, And A North Star Architecture
When Verizon decided to reorganize its wireline and wireless businesses under a customer-oriented organization supported by three business units, it created an opportunity for significant systems modernization to drive efficiencies and scale. Verizon’s EA team tackled this challenge by reinventing the architecture function through the following four pillars:

  1. A modular North Star architecture embracing domain-driven design & API-first principles, low-code/no-code, and portability — all approaches were based on data-driven insights. The team identified the directional systems for each functional domain together with the directional technologies supporting each domain. EA defined four tiers in which all applications/capabilities would reside: systems of engagement, customer experience layer (AKA, domain layer), systems of record, and systems of insight. With the architecture layers defined, the entire organization was restructured in support of this architecture.
  2. A scaled Agile framework to position the EA function closer to business needs and delivery cycles, through a collaborative architecture runway jointly developed with the business partners and dev teams. The framework started two years ago in the network systems portfolio that comprises most of the systems interfacing with Verizon’s wireless and wireline networks.
  3. Systems consolidation and modernization leveraging a modern cloud-native tech stack and public cloud migrations. The EA team analyzed the opportunities to consolidate systems with similar functional scope that were previously in different business units, as well as the need to modernize legacy systems still supporting significant or critical parts of the business; they also analyzed the opportunity to leverage public cloud offerings.
  4. A standard operating environment enabling a common tech stack, renewed focus on development practices driving repeatable and consistent delivery across the organization through communities of practice, DevSecOps adoption, automation that enhances the developer experience, and site reliability engineering principles. EA analyzed the emerging technologies’ applicability to business needs and defined a standard stack and playbook for implementation. The publication of a road map of future technologies enabled the dev teams to become proficient in advance.

The new Verizon EA function has rapidly evolved to support significant transformations to position the business for the future and enable the launch of major initiatives such as the launch of the world’s first 5G network. The team achieved this by being closer to the business, providing both strategic insights on the tech stack and shared platform directions as well as day-to-day support to resolve tactical issues. These are the key elements of a modern enterprise architecture 2.0 group.

Tarun Khandelwal, senior director of architecture at CIBC, said, “Verizon demonstrated that it has a thoughtful approach to modern enterprise architecture based on its four-pillar model. We like how they were able to achieve the creation of shared platforms, reducing duplication for key services.”