If you have a Center of Excellence (CoE) within your company much of what will be talked about in this blog will resonate. If you don’t, hopefully, you might pick up some ideas on how a CoE could benefit you. While the term Center of Excellence can mean different things, it is typically a sign of a forward-thinking company that recognizes the value of non-static tech and organizational management. As an independent ERP and digital transformation consultancy, we have found that companies with a CoE are better positioned for new ERP and software changes. It’s a sign that an organization it is taking its service-oriented architecture seriously and dedicating internal talent to continuous improvement as well as understanding how to grow within their industry.

Why have a CoE?

More than anything a CoE is a cross-functional team that helps steer a company’s ongoing dedication in all areas that touch service and technology. It’s not your IT department, but certainly includes representatives that understand tech as well as numerous other customer-centric and knowledgeable contributors.

Commonly a CoE is formed before or following a major ERP project or digital transformation. The most progressive companies maintain a permanent CoE, although the goals, challenges, and team will morph over time to address evolving company needs. The goal is to form a team representing leadership from an organizational, shared services, and tech perspective. This typically means internal experience and competency from different areas of your company– a storehouse of knowledge of sorts. The team will develop standards, do research, provided supplemental training, etc.

One of the team’s most important duties is to ensure the new tech is adopted, implemented, and working as intended(well after implementation). During software implementation typically 60 percent or less of the purchased modules are implemented at go-live. This is not necessarily a bad plan and usually means some prioritization has taken place. However, it becomes problematic when there is no accountability (or plan) to utilize or evaluate more modules or enhancements down the road. Other attributes of a CoE can include:

  • An ongoing focus and dedication to continuous improvement in technology and processes that benefit a company’s vision (supporting business growth and changes). In every digital transformation, we observe project team burnout, and it’s smart that the baton can be passed to a CoE with the original team than becoming SMEs at the appropriate time
  • Becoming a key resource to your C-level executives (think of a bank of knowledgeable individuals that can do research and make recommendations). In a recent example, Third Stage Consulting worked as an independent guide/partner with a CoE that had been asked to explore expanding their e-commerce business globally. This type of evaluation can be complex – ranging from how to handle different currencies to understanding how technology can be used to lower barriers
  • Providing continuous feedback and measurement of ROI related to tech initiatives and training. How successful were those dollars spent on your digital transformation, and is your ROI increasing or decreasing?

An effective CoE also pays for itself as a repository of knowledge and people that can shepherd projects that help grow and steer a business. It should be their only job and they are accountable and in touch with all levels of the organization. This means your company recognizes the value and financially commits to budgeting for a CoE. Covid has put the spotlight on the need for timely tech enhancements, and many companies are smartly putting together (or bolstering) their Centers of Excellence.

Your Vision, Your Center of Excellence

New technology is a big investment of time and money. And as alluded to above, the true payback may not be at go-live but as your company learns, lives, and becomes comfortable with new technology and revamped processes. Whether your CoE is researching technology, modifying training, or exploring new product enhancements their services will be in high demand. This means you’ll need to define the scope, purpose, and design of the center. When you think about building internal competencies, a CoE attracts talent – whether it be from inside your organization or from the outside. Some of the considerations for a CoE to “thrive” could include:

  • Choosing your champions of change with care. You want a network of ambitious talent that brings diversity of experience and don’t rule out integrating external talent. Above all, they must be relationship-oriented and comfortable managing and promoting innovation
  • Demonstrated analytical ability to see the big picture and to work well with others (both internal and external) is also important. They should be good leaders as well as good followers
  • Understanding that a CoE will need unique and dedicated leadership. Putting a focus on a transformational leadership style is usually a step in the right direction. The CoE is all about improvement and vision. Be sure to get this right, because the team needs someone who can promote synergy during ongoing transformational change. This leader will also be also help prioritize the goals of the CoE and become a guiding focal point for the team to get direction from
  • Not allowing individuals to do double duty. If they are part of your CoE that should be their primary responsibility. That doesn’t mean you can’t solicit input or participation from existing employees, but your CoE team should have a “future state” mindset. If you split their duties (say they are a transactional contributor in their everyday jobs) there could be priority challenges as well as unintended biases
  • Willingness to keep apprised and educated about changing technology. The technology ecosystem is broadening at an amazing pace. A leading-edge CoEbest practice is educating C-level execs on what the competition is doing and what technologies are available. While the team doesn’t need to be “experts” they should be informed about enabling technologies and how tech could positively impact the customer experience or sales

Hopefully, this blog gives you some food for thought about your CoE, or perhaps an incentive to start one. A CoE can also be very specific. For example, we know of testing centers of excellence or business intelligence. With the number of ERP failures still on the rise, we thought it timely to share our knowledge about the positive impact a CoE can have on a digital transformation initiative- before, during, and after implementation.

As independent consultants, our services include supporting CoE initiatives and software research while helping build internal competencies at the companies we partner with. Every successful initiative must begin with an overarching strategy, and yes, we can help you define that too. We are Third Stage Consulting, and our value proposition is independent and unique. Please feel free to reach out to me regarding any questions or to collaborate on your strategies.

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