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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Every year, right around this time, a buzz zips through the enterprise architecture community when InfoWorld, Forrester Research and the Penn State University Center for Enterprise Architecture open their collective call for entries for the Enterprise Architecture Awards (a program now in its sixth year). Enterprise architects and business leaders alike snap to attention and reflect on how their organization has leveraged and benefited from EA efforts over the past year. Since we’re about one month out from the deadline for nominations (here’s your heads up that they close on Friday, June 15), we thought it would be instructive and timely to lay out a few baseline tips for what makes up a successful entry, taking into account similarities between past winners that are both Troux customers and unaffiliated role models for the discipline.

1. Focus on Business Impact

And to put a finer point on it, measurable impact. This isn’t always possible if an organization is just getting its EA program structured, off the ground and running, but quantifiable results on both the IT and broader business planes make entries exceptionally more impactful and explicable.

As an example on the IT savings layer, in their entry last year, Troux customer Dell – shifting from hardware to solutions – conservatively estimated resulting IT savings at $152 million. That’s a hard number to ignore. They also supplemented the IT savings with more qualitative business results in the fact that they transformed their business and services offerings to be optimized for global, end-to-end solutions rather than siloed technology products.

An entry recognized from The Australia Post (focusing on customers) boasted impressive diversity in measurable impact: Projected IT savings of A$40 million over five years (with A$5 million already realized), estimated annual carbon emission reduction of 6,030 tons and a predicted increase from 1.4 million to 4 million registered customers over the span of a year. For those keeping count, that’s a 186 percent increase in customer base.

Even if you have to rely on estimates or projections to demonstrate business impact, go for it, provided you have the realistic figures and rationale to back it up.

2. Prove Innovative Thinking

As we’ve mentioned previously, basic transparency into a company’s IT operations, resources and processes is a major victory. Cost-cutting, eliminating redundant technologies and making smarter IT investments based on that transparency are even more admirable results. But what the judges are looking for more and more every year in this program is reaching the next level – doing something truly innovative that hasn’t been seen in the enterprise environment before. How are you connecting EA to digitization, BYOD, the IoT or, cybersecurity or an even more emergent trend or field?

3. Choose a Human Face for Your Story

Even though this isn’t an awards program recognizing individual achievement and you don’t have to mention specific names, it pays to personify your program and broadly give credit where it’s due. The “face” of your story could be your CIO, your enterprise architect or even a diverse team of experts. Whoever it is, they should embody the collaboration, vision, leadership and other traits that provide the foundation for any strategic business project.

Realigning around business outcomes, Molina Healthcare’s (another Troux customer) “face” for their entry last year was an eight-member team of enterprise, information and solution architects that work with senior stakeholders leading business units and strategic projects. These eight conduits between IT and the business are the heroes of Molina’s EA (and award submission) success. (Click here to listen to their story in an on-demand webcast: Molina Healthcare – Re-Chartering Enterprise Architecture to Focus on Business Outcomes.)

4. Use Unique Industry Variables to Your Advantage

To some extent, most IT organizations face similar questions, end goals, trials and tribulations. But the market obstacles that face each business can be very different and exclusive. Take Allstate Insurance’s 2014 entry (enabling business innovation) for example – it brought in references to rapidly-changing trends like telematics and the connected car. The chances of another candidate being able to play off those exact same trends were slim to none. What makes your industry unique and forces your EA team to be more creative, flexible, agile or business savvy?

5. If You Can Bring Your Business Counterparts Along for the Ride, All the Better

We’re going to reach back to 2013 for an example of what we mean here. There’s one key point from the description of Cisco’s entry (leveraging business architecture for corporate agility) that’s uber-impressive: “[The EA practice] has also expanded the use of the model to support other parts of the business, moving everyone toward a shared business outcome. Going forward, Cisco plans to connect the business architecture initiative to other planning functions.”

Believe it or not, EA can apply to integral parts of running a company outside of the IT realm. If you find yourself applying or extending those same principles to achieve success in other business processes and functions, include that in your entry to give it another dimension.

So there you have it – a few pieces of wisdom we’ve picked up over our years of participating in the Enterprise Architecture Awards. Best of luck in your submissions; we’ll see you in the arena!

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