Why a COE and what roles should be included?

Why a COE and what roles should be included?

What is a Center of Excellence?

A Center of Excellence (COE) is a discipline within an organization established to build out key procedures and expertise around a technology, process or application and to be effective at using them.

From Wikipedia: “Within an organization, a center of excellence may refer to a group of people, a department or a shared facility.  It may also be known as a competency center or a capability center. Stephen Jenner and Craig Kilford, in Management of Portfolios, mention COE as a coordinating function which ensures that change initiatives are delivered consistently and well, through standard processes and competent staff.”

COEs are not new.  They have been used for some time around applications such as SAP or Oracle.  A newer example is digital transformation.  Any large technology effort determined to be critical to the success of an organization is a good candidate for a COE.  The COE is responsible for mapping out how the system(s) will be adopted across the organization.

Initially, these procedures are utilized for early adoption but as the usage matures, so do the requirements for a reliable, consistently utilized process.  In order to be effective, a Center of Excellence must also evolve and support the entire enterprise.  It is an interactive process that demands input from all functional areas and matures to support those areas as things change.

Why a COE?

The creation of a Center of Excellence is designed to benefit all stakeholders as the processes virtually always support a mission-critical function or business requirement. The main drivers for a COE are a desire to provide standardization across the organization, streamline operations and reduce costly overhead.  Management must understand how the business will benefit from the process and commit to assigning resources.

Every COE is unique, but the best ones have common success factors:

  • Critical initiatives such as intelligent automation that will affect the entire organization by solving an enterprise problem.
  • Executive buy-in and funding.
  • Defined ROI and KPIs that can be used to verify benefits.
  • Collaboration in an iterative process capable of evolving over time.
  • Commitment to implement new best practices. 
  • Defined needs – such as a roadmap of workflows throughout the organization.
  • Perception that the work of COE is supported by executive management.

What roles need to be included in my Intelligent Automation COE?

Business and IT stakeholders must work together to drive the strategy and ensure key feedback is provided to the technical team.  Business stakeholders might be involved in first-level support, user testing, as well as change management and user adoption.  The IT stakeholders define the standards and best practices that ensure whatever is put in place is realistic, scalable and supportable over time.  IT also defines organizational data standards, selects tools, manages infrastructure and integration.  When it comes to the specific roles within an Intelligent Automation COE, here are the most common:

  • C-Suite Champion:  Driver within the C-Suite for Intelligent Automation programs.  This will generally be the CFO, COO or CIO.
  • Evangelist:  Someone who evangelizes and drives intelligent automation adoption across the organization. The Evangelist is the guardian of the Intelligent Automation solution overall.  They are responsible for ensuring a healthy automation pipeline while leading the operational management of the virtual workforce.  
  • Change Manager:  Program manager responsible for securing a smooth adoption of Intelligent Automation within the company. They are the ones who create the Change and Communication plan aligned to the deliverables of the project. They are a catalyst in the transition process, making sure each stakeholder is well informed and comfortably tuned to the changes taking place.  
  • Business Analysts:  The Process Subject Matter experts located in business operations. They will oversee creating the process definitions and process maps used for automation.  
  • Solution Architect:  Defines the architecture of the solution and oversee it end-to-end, assisting both in the development and in the implementation phases.  They select the appropriate set of technological tools and features and ensures the alignment of the solution with enterprise guidelines.  
  • Developer: Designs, develops and tests the automation workflows, and supports the implementation of the solution. The Developer works side by side with the Business Analyst for documenting process details and assists the engagement team in implementing & testing the solution as well as during maintenance.  
  • Infrastructure Engineer: This role is a part of both the deployment team and future operations team.  They are mainly in charge of the infrastructure support for server installations and troubleshooting.  The Engineer also contributes to the completion of the solution architecture for the Robotic Process Automation project.  During the implementation phase, they are the ones leading the infrastructure workshops.  
  • Supervisor:  Manages, orchestrates and controls the virtual workforce as part of the operational environment.  Their focus is on continuously improving intelligent automation performance and resource allocation, by exploiting the advanced reporting and analytical tools within the framework.  
  • Service Support:  The Service Support role acts as the first line of assistance for the solution in deployment.  

Summary: 

Not everyone that has a Center of Excellence calls it a “COE” but in order to maximize the probably of success in large endeavors such as Intelligent Automation, companies need to create an organization that includes the functional responsibilities outlined above.