5 min read

Scale with a Center of Excellence

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Whether it's investing in a new technology or revamping an outdated business process, more often than not success of these initiatives depends on an organization's ability to learn from past mistakes. It's all too common that a specific technology takes the fall for an organization's lack of execution or preparedness. And instead of evaluating themselves as the cause of the failure, they simply pick a new tool and repeat the same mistakes once again. 

Albert Einstein said it best: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

So how do we stop this insanity?
Launch a Center of Excellence.

What is a Center of Excellence?
A Center of Excellence (CoE) is designed to establish, manage and monitor the patterns and practices associated with a particular area of focus. Those focus areas can be anything of meaning to an organization, but it’s most commonly formed for new technologies or business processes, which is the main focus below. 

A CoE will normally consist of a small team comprised of individuals from key departments or competencies like marketing, human resources, finance and IT to name a few. While their responsibilities can vary widely, typical they will include:

  • Evangelizing implementation successes to drive adoption and breakdown organization silos
  • Providing thought leadership and direction
  • Establishing and promoting best practices and company-wide standards that incorporate learnings from past failures
  • Supporting and educating peers and leaders
  • Reporting on key success metrics
  • Aiding the organization in selecting and prioritizing projects that could benefit from the CoE's area of focus

Before launching your CoE, there are five guiding principles to help get you there. 

  1. Start Early, But Not Too Early 
    A lot of organizations build the plane while flying it. We are big believers in this approach as it tends to reinforce a fail-fast mindset. But with that, we encourage you to establish your CoE at the point where you feel like you've demonstrated there is long-term value to the organization. In fact, it's important to select your initial projects specifically with that goal in mind. Otherwise, you run the risk of organizational silos and inconsistent results at scale.

    For example, many of our clients have started to invest in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a way of reducing the overhead associated with manual tasks. We've observed that organizations who are the most successful with RPA are those that first establish prototypes to prove the technology and then use those learnings to subsequently build a runway to launch their CoE. The CoE can then ensure the proper dissemination of RPA throughout the organization.

  2. Define Success Metrics and Performance Measurements

    The CoE defines goals and objectives as well as defines success metrics to help executives and other key leaders know if the return is worth the investment. For example, as one of Veracity’s hyperautomation experts, I encourage those investing in RPA to measure the level of effort in time and money it takes employees to complete a task vs the savings in money and time from using a bot.

    In fact, one of my favorite mantras is: “If you can’t measure it, it’s not worth doing.” Measurement allows the CoE to set expectations and can inform how other similar tasks or projects are prioritized. For example, if a bot saves significant hours for your workforce to complete tasks, then they have more time to work on projects or initiatives that create value and generate revenue—both of which are quantifiable.

    This gives the CoE the opportunity to expand the bot into other areas of the business that would benefit from something similar. And you also have a solid use case or proof point to market and promote internally, once again driving adoption and scale.

  3. Set Standards

    Standards provide consistency, both in terms of how things are built and in expectations as it relates to support/maintenance costs once deployed.

    Define and develop standards and best practices for how the CoE prioritizes work for the current initiative or technology implementation. For example, when we advise clients on their RPA initiatives, we encourage the CoE to keep the work centralized, well-organized and visible to avoid duplicate efforts. This keeps both hands in sync, ensuring consistency in tools and processes across departments and teams.

    4. Guide and Govern

    Governance is key for a CoE to thrive. Beyond the need to be aware about all the significant work efforts in the organization, the CoE determines where it can add value to ensure success and drive enterprise-wide adoption, if needed. It is not intended to add "red tape," but to ensure success and drive adoption and ROI.

    From my experience, technology initiatives like RPA require active monitoring—you can’t just “set it and forget it.” The CoE keeps sustainable momentum with a constant push toward bettering your ROI. This is instrumental to keep the project alive and move it closer to the goals and objectives vs just completing one-off tasks.

    The CoE can't be successful on its own. As a part of their charter, the CoE should establish processes for all employees to provide their input about which certain tools or innovations they believe can make them more efficient. The CoE will have a pulse about most areas, but this helps shed light into areas they may not be as familiar with or lets them identify similar needs across departments. You never know when a need from HR aligns to a request from marketing, which will better help the CoE research, evaluate and prioritize all incoming requests.

    5. Communicate Early and Often

    As our marketing team says, “You have to say the same message seven different ways in order to have it stick.” This approach is also true when it comes to technology and tools. If you want to ensure success from the beginning, develop a strategy about how and when you will communicate milestones, success metrics and more. 

While the CoE may not be able to completely stop insanity in the enterprise, it’s designed to make the chaos more manageable. And worst case scenario, we’ve got your back if you need help. View more about how we help businesses streamline processes and make work productive again.

About Scott Thompson
Scott Thompson is our director of solution architecture, senior management consultant, leading Veracity’s hyperautomation and data strategy efforts. In this role, he works with business leaders and technical teams in the industries of banking and financial service, insurance and risk management, healthcare, engineering, utilities, and manufacturing to advance their internal data infrastructure and bring business intelligence to the forefront of strategy. With over 25 years of experience in technology and IT leadership, Scott has a wealth of knowledge in system migrations, integrations, data management and custom application development. He’s received several awards from major industry outlets like Information Week and NetworkWorld.