The 2012 InfoWorld/Forrester Enterprise Architecture Awards

We honor five companies whose practice of enterprise architecture has delivered tangible business benefit

The Enterprise Architecture Award, now in its third year, recognizes organizations whose architectural excellence has had major business impact. Presented by InfoWorld, Forrester Research, and the Penn State University Center for Enterprise Architecture, this year's Awards highlight the importance of developing a common framework for business and technology within which enterprise architects and their allies can plan and execute transformational change.

This year, we have five winning organizations: National Grid, the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership, Northwestern Mutual, Sberbank, and Telstra Global.

[ See more of this year's best of the best, including tech leaders who won the Technology Leadership Awards, and the open source software winners of the InfoWorld Bossie Awards. ]

Each of these organizations developed an accurate, top-down view of how their current processes functioned, identifying redundancies, bottlenecks, and arbitrary practices that were constraining greater efficiency and agility. All of them worked collaboratively to develop a way forward, extending best practices and intelligently applying technology to create a more modern and effective business. Congratulations to our five winners!

National GridNational Grid is a multinational electricity and gas utility headquartered in London. In response to dramatic shifts in the global energy and utilities industry, National Grid has undertaken a fundamental transformation of its IS (information services) function, with the intent of becoming more agile and responsive to evolving business needs.

Energy distribution now relies on a two-way flow, thanks to embedded electricity generation and transmission of information across the smart grid and smart meters. This industry shift has made IS a core element of National Grid's business, on par with power-generating plants and transmission facilities.

To strategically align IS to the business, an expanded EA function was created. Historically, National Grid had no expression of the business architecture; IS personnel were regarded as "order takers," implementing solutions that the business dictated. For IS to provide the right strategic support to the business, with shared decision-making for various programs, the culture had to change.

With the vision and goals already provided by the business, National Grid decided that the key product it needed to develop immediately was an ECM (enterprise capability model). The ECM offers an enduring view of the capabilities that the overall business needs to deliver in order to achieve business objectives -- independent of how they were organized or how individual processes operated.

The common language established by the ECM is used in dialogue with business stakeholders to express and agree upon the scope of initiatives and programs, identify opportunities for application reuse, and to create "heat maps" of capabilities -- for example, of those most affected by a new technology or a business divestment. It is now being used to perform maturity assessments with the business.

With the ECM in place, IS has firmly established itself as a co-creator of solutions with the business, and has helped to reposition the perception of EA within IS and to business management. No longer are enterprise architects regarded as "traffic wardens" who enforce technical standards. Instead, they are seen as "travel agents" who help establish strategic direction and plan the journey.

One of the judges of this year's awards, Con Kenney, senior research fellow for National Defense University, said about National Grid's submission: "The team's enterprise capability model has changed the way business and IT staff communicate, a key foundation for improving resource allocation and process performance."

Scottish Widows Investment PartnershipWith more than £140 billion under management, the Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP) is one of the largest asset management companies in Europe. Last year, Jon Gasparini joined SWIP to lead the EA team. He inherited an EA approach that merely reacted to the business and was built around an outdated, disjointed Visio/Excel/PowerPoint tool set.

The team managed projects fantastically well, but lacked a unified view of architecture and did not fully understand the business capabilities. With investment in change due to increase threefold in 2012 and 2013, the EA team needed to transform itself within a very short time frame. Along with overhauling the current EA approach, the head of IT wanted the ability to assess technology risk associated with software applications -- including obsolescence, duplication, the disruptive effect of upgrades, and so on.

The first step was to work with the business side to define a business capability model over a four-week period. This created a common language between EA and business owners and a simple, yet powerful capability model that describes the SWIP business on a single page. The technology risk challenge, combined with various other difficulties, was the catalyst to invest in an EA management suite from a leading vendor.

The result was the creation of STAR (SWIP Transformation Architecture Repository), a common platform made up of five portfolios: business architecture, applications, goals and strategy, technology, and information. Together they provided the means to manage all elements of the SWIP architecture. The portfolios scale easily to meet business needs, and business managers as well as the EA team have access to visualizations and reports in real time that enable value-added decision making. This allows the EA team to focus on strategic direction setting, while at the same time empowering the business owners to make better, more informed decisions.

David Prior, an EA Awards judge who leads GlaxoSmithKine's Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence, noted that SWIP's "EA program is moving in all the right directions for a company of its size."

Northwestern MutualFounded in 1857, the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company is among the world's leading life insurance firms, with more than $190 billion in assets, $23.6 billion total annual revenue, 5,000-plus employees, and more than 7,000 financial representatives.

Recently, IT leadership began to recognize that internal growth, coupled with dramatic technology changes, was limiting the effectiveness of its management approach. Leaders envisioned transforming the cultural mindset of IT, and aspired to run IT more like a business.

Northwestern Mutual's EA practice began its transformation in 2007, with the goal of achieving a higher level of integration with internal partners and business strategy. Foundational strategies for success emerged, yielding excellence in solution design, measurement of fiscal responsibility, reductions in solution cycle time, and improvements in project predictability.

The initiative expanded the scope of enterprise architecture at Northwestern Mutual to include business architecture and a service-oriented architecture for specific IT functionality. In addition, there was deep EA investment in creating a big data analytics environment and establishing a mobile computing environment. The solution design process, once described as "design by consensus," was re-engineered and is now governed by a new "applied architecture process." It works in concert with other project delivery disciplines and integrates with the company's corporate project portfolio by establishing accountability for designs, managed by a solution lead.

An architecture review board was established with diverse membership to provide governance and visibility for all architecturally significant design decisions. Managing cultural change was both the biggest challenge and the biggest reward -- fostering behavior to accept accountability and positioning the right people with the skill sets to meet those demands. In addition to time savings, the company is realizing substantial bottom-line benefits from the improved technology innovation process. In 2011, cost avoidance benefits amounted to $5.6 million.

Eric Meredith, an EA Awards judge who is vice president of enterprise architecture governance at PNC Bank, offered this assessment of Northwestern Mutual's transformation: "I rate them highly for running IT like a business, their increase in project predictability, measured cost savings, and leveraging their technology portfolio as managed assets."

SberbankSberbank is the largest bank in Russia. It has expanded its business both inside Russia and to countries in Central and Eastern Europe (such as Ukraine and Belarus) and south of the Russian border in Kazakhstan, China, and India. This expansion has been accompanied by an increasing number of new developments, including new products, centralized data processing, and various organizational changes.

With the banking environment in Europe and Asia in flux, Sberbank has had to adjust its procedures and decision making on the fly. At the same time, it has raised net profit 2.5 to 3 percent while increasing retail deposits more than 45 percent and target shares in Russian banking assets between 25 and 30 percent.

Sberbank began its EA practice in the third quarter of 2009 and has a core EA team that includes business, enterprise application, and integration architects. Sberbank clearly defined its focus and targeted application and BPM platform architecture, as well as created a bankwide risk management system. A concerted effort was also applied to developing remote service channels (from ATMs to mobile and Internet banking), along with a new processing system architecture.

Looking forward, Sberbank has set a number of IT goals. Sberbank wants to develop its information architecture (big data, social network analysis) and enhance and integrate its CRM systems and social networking. Plans to implement an ECM (enterprise content management) system for unified storage and information management are also under way.

David Prior of GlaxoSmithKine said this about Sberbank's EA initiative: "They have done huge amounts in a short time and present a maturity that larger companies haven't achieved after decades."

Telstra GlobalTelstra Global is a leading provider of managed networked solutions around the world. The company has operations in Asia, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with assets it acquired through the integration of REACH in 2011.

These operations each ran their own individual IT systems, resulting in inefficient business operations. Telstra needed to define areas of improvement in its IT capabilities and develop a realistic three-year blueprint for the entire company, including an IT architecture that would support future Telstra products without customization. One of the biggest challenges was convincing stakeholders who were comfortable with their regional systems and processes to buy into the plan.

Telstra improved business processes by introducing service-oriented architecture and a common information model into the company's overall enterprise architecture. This helped facilitate on-demand analytics and streamline usage-to-cash and order-to-case processes, as well as ordering and achieving zero-touch provisioning and activation. In addition, Telstra replaced two main CRM systems and more than 10 auxiliary systems with one integrated CRM system to improve customer experience.

Telstra introduced a common online channel called C Cubed (meaning "customer contact center") for all kinds of online interactions. The company also consolidated multiple billing and assurance systems into two streamlined, global systems.

EA Awards judge Con Kenney commented: "The EA approach here combines strong governance over resource allocation, significant business and IT process improvement, and engagement with business leaders on desired capabilities across a geographically distributed, decentralized organization."

Read more about enterprise architecture in InfoWorld's Enterprise Architecture Channel.

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