Design & Technology October 06, 2015
How to create a center of excellence
In my role, I work with many different technologies, teams, structures and skillsets. I work with customers who’ve been with a platform for several years, as well as those who are just beginning on their journey with a new technology stack.
Regardless of a company’s experience, the objective is the same – build technical expertise in the platform, often referred to as a center of excellence.
What is a Center of Excellence (CoE)?
A Center of Excellence (CoE) is a team of people that are knowledgeable, promote, share and collaborate on a specific technical focus area. They follow best practice, and are passionate about the chosen technology. They focus on utilizing the technology to achieve the business objectives efficiently and effectively. Ideally, and depending on the business needs, a CoE should be made up of several professional disciplines, either as full-time or part-time members.
How to start?
Whether you call it a CoE, a Competency Center, a Capability Center or something totally different, the requirements and success factors are common.
The first and most important component of any team is people. This may seem a little obvious but, in my experience, it is often the most overlooked factor. If you can build a team of passionate, motivated individuals who can work well together, many of the other things will naturally fall into place without too much work.
Before moving on from people, there is another important thing to mention. When you have good people working well as a team, keep them happy! An unhappy team won’t work as smoothly; they will lose their motivation and, ultimately, move-on. The cost of re-building a team and replacing key members, is much higher than keeping a team happy! No one is irreplaceable, but good people are hard to find.
Once the people are in place, you need to invest in them. This may be in the form of formal training, personal development plans, innovation time, or allowing them to work closely with external subject matter experts. At Building Blocks, we work closely with our clients’ developers to start the knowledge transfer as early in the project as possible.
To build a team and impart them with the skills and experience required to be an efficient CoE is going to take investment. It won’t happen overnight and it won’t be cheap, but the rewards are plentiful and long lasting.
So you’ve got the people and they are starting hone their skills, what next?
It is important not to rest on your laurels, and continually learn and improve.
Keeping up-to-date with the latest developments in the chosen speciality (and its competitors) is a must, of course.
Less obviously, once the team has matured, it’s time to start looking at the bigger picture.
Look at areas such as your processes across the entire project lifecycle from inception to development, deployment and maintenance.
Also consider tooling, and if investments in software can further optimize your ability to deliver.
Finally, concentrate on delivery. A sure fire way to ensure the team is invested in and given the autonomy to perform, is to deliver.
What value should a CoE provide to your business?
A well-oiled CoE should provide many valuable benefits to your business. To name but a few:
Guidance & Training
By sharing their expertise with everyone else in the business, from new recruits to non-technical business users, everyone can benefit from increased understanding.
The team should be promoting the right way to do things across the business, both technically and from a process perspective.
Updates on what’s new with the platform (and it’s competitors), important public announcements and any business-impacting items, such as bugs and support holidays.
Championing & Advice
New business streams often need advice and/or encouragement when considering a platform change. Streamlining a business onto common platforms has obvious benefits, but can often face resistance from less forward-thinking departments.
Provide the guidance and have the autonomy to freely advise the business on the right way to invest time, money and resources to ensure results. They are the experts you’ve invested in, so listen to their advice!