Center of Excellence Made Easy

In this post, Scott Os of Synaptix Group will follow-up his recent post on what is a Center of Excellence (CoE), with information on how to establish and staff the CoE, providing you with supporting PDFs to get the process kicked off right.

Let’s say you’ve read about the importance of a Center of Excellence. On the road to your Digital Transformation, you’re now wondering, “what do I do now?” There are many things to consider, the various roles, responsibilities, and use cases that need to be defined, software and personnel costs that need to be reined in and stakeholders that need to be informed.

But where do you even begin?

That’s the premise of this post. I’ll talk about the structure, roles and responsibilities of a newly formed CoE as it relates to your company’s progress through a DTM Maturity Model, with suggestions on a path for how you can, not only create such an organization, but create the foundation to accelerate change while taking full advantage of your company’s Digital Transformation software investments.

General Guidelines

A CoE can be a service organization that provides expertise across projects in a ‘shared services model’. The function of the CoE is to drive standardization of quality products, architecture and governance policies, as well as processes across the enterprise. Leveraging a centralized management and automation platform for processes, consulting, and support services, as well as delivering leadership and advocacy to help the organization improve business outcomes.

The true value of the CoE will be around participation and the broader strategic efforts within the company. To accomplish this, the CoE needs to have strong alignment on business goals/strategy and the CoE mission. Additionally, the CoE must focus spending on the future of the organization, not just on the “squeakiest wheel.”

CoE Roles & Responsibilities

A component of the CoE charter describes the interaction of the CoE and the Steering Committee. CoE Leadership will be driven by Strategic Business Initiatives approved by the Steering Committee, and will either implement the strategic elements, or work with Project Managers & Architects to implement the policies, procedures, best practices at a more tactical level.

The CoE would be staffed with people who bring domain expertise about the business and technology. These should be from the population who run the day to day operation of your company and who are directly affected by the changes to any systems or processes. They are the people who know how changes will affect staff and what value they could deliver.

Keep in mind, this team will create a standard methodology and best practices to bring consistency and leverage to development projects. In other words, what’s learned from the initial implementations will set the precedent on what mistakes to avoid and how to accelerate adoption and change within your organization.

This added experience is the gem for creating a CoE: by creating the lessons learned and best practices, you’ll reduce the chances of wasted effort and investments in software and personnel.

In the larger context of the company’s continued Digital Transformation on the path to higher DTM Maturity, throughout the execution of the plans put in play by the CoE, the organization is creating reusable assets and a playbook that would be leveraged in the future by other departments and project teams.

Does all of this sound too big to take on?

Fret not! One of the key advantages of the CoE is that it can initially be built on a small scale, with minimal incremental expenditure. As its value is delivered to management, the staff, and individual project teams, it can iteratively evolve and scale up its resources, services, and capabilities. The CoE model can also be a critical asset for distributed organizations, providing centralized processes, infrastructure, and reporting.

Roles and responsibilities will vary depending on CoE structure and budget, but you will generally have resources that fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. CoE Leadership
  2. CoE Core Team
  3. Project Team(s)

CoE Leadership

CoE Leadership typically consists of the following:

  1. Executive Sponsor(s)
  2. Champion(s)
  3. CoE Manager

The Leadership team provides the executive support and governance to project teams. Because both are represented in leadership, IT and Business work as partners in project delivery.

CoE Core Team

The CoE Core Team is comprised of the following:

  1. CoE Manager
  2. Program Manager (Optional or could be the CoE Manager)
  3. Enterprise Architect
  4. Solution Architect(s)

This team handles demand and intake from project teams. They are tasked with standardizing the delivery process and performing the value-add services of the CoE. They own and improve best practices and methodology, enable project team members, deliver proofs of concept, and participate in program/project governance.

Project Team

Project Team(s) consist of the following:

  1. Project Manager
  2. System Architect(s)
  3. Business Architect(s)
  4. SMEs
  5. QA/test

Project Team(s) manage and drive the project on the ground. They are responsible for the day to day deliverables and scope and delivery project outcomes according to the best practices and methodology determined by the CoE.

One of the most effective tools that should be employed while constructing the CoE is a responsibility assignment matrix or RACI chart. This is a very useful tool during the formation phase to make certain all is covered and also during the operating phase to make sure nothing “falls through the cracks.”

Download sample CoE Charter and RACI form


About the Author

Scott is the Founder and President of The Synaptix Group and draws on over 30 years of senior level experience managing the design, development, and implementation of document based solutions, with a particular focus on Enterprise deployments in public and private sector.

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