When to Setup a Center of Excellence?

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Center of influence

A good time for a business to set up a Center of Excellence or CoE is when the company wants to start down the path of digital transformation.  A CoE can be internal to an organization, or a digital center for hire in the form of a consulting firm or a managed service provider (MSP).  When hiring an outside service provider, it is important to integrate and engage with them much like you would an internal center of excellence, and as opposed to thinking of them as a one-off service.   A digital CoE can be used to bring best practices, project discipline and capability in a variety of digital transformation areas including RPA, Conversational AI, Cognitive AI, Machine Learning and so much more.

When starting down the path of digital transformation, it is best to take both a top down and bottom-up approach to the choice of projects.  In larger Fortune 1,000 organizations, a Center of Excellence is created with specialized staff knowledgeable in all aspects of digital transformation solutions.  Creating an in-house CoE is not always possible in smaller and mid-sized companies. This is where a consultant and managed service provider like Valenta can help.  To best answer the question of “when should I set up a Center of Excellence or CoE?”, let us first answer the questions of what a CoE is?  What does a successful CoE achieve? Who is in a CoE?

What is a CoE?

A digital center of excellence is made up of RPA experts that will seek advisement from each department and each type of stakeholder in an organization.  In this way, a CoE will be able to find what projects need to be prioritized and can develop a list of RPA projects and automation improvements to rollout on a schedule and roadmap.  A digital center of excellence is typically separate from other functional areas of a company and is solely dedicated to digital transformation.  Other names for CoEs also include Competency Center or Capability Center.  Whatever the name, the role of this team is to help companies explore new technology like RPA, new techniques to digitally transform, and to explore new digital best practices.  By interacting with executives and workers in the organization a CoE will be able to identify all the short tail and long tail projects to tackle.  The short tail projects have the impact for the greatest number of workers and the long tail projects have significant impact for a few, or even individual workers.

What is a Successful CoE?

A successful digital center of excellence will bring considerable value to an organization and will also help ensure successful digital transformation projects.  A successful CoE will bring standardization to projects, consistent measurement of performance and tracking, guidance and governance and be the subject matter experts to guide business leaders and stakeholders through projects.

Finding and prioritizing which projects have the most value and which should be attacked first can be a tricky process.  Every member of an organization will have their own perspectives, biases and sometimes agendas.  A CoE can also use Process Mining software tools to analyze the workflow, process flow and tasks within an organization.  The benefit of Process Mining tools is that they have none of the bias or potential blind spots that an employee may have.  A Process Mining tool will simply read data related to an organizations process, convert this data to a log file or files, and then analyze the logs to define, map and visualize the end-to-end process that may be an automation candidate.  In this way, a CoE can look for even more ways to automate processes.

One significant benefit of a digital center of excellence is standardization.  By having the same subject matter experts (SME) involved in all projects and automations there will be consistency across an entire organization.  Furthermore, a CoE will employ good project management practices to ensure that all factors are considered, and timelines are met.  An added benefit of CoE’s is consistent measurement and metrics across an organization.  A CoE will want to gage success for each project and do so in the same way so that all projects will have the same metrics and be evaluated efficiently.  A final benefit is the steady, consistent and knowledgeable counsel that a CoE made up of SME can bring.  That knowledge work force is difficult to assemble in the largest of companies and in small/medium businesses (SMB) it can be particularly challenging.

Who is in a CoE?

In a nutshell, the following roles are a must for any digital center of excellence:

  • Business Analyst / Project Manager
  • RPA Developers – Mid Level and Senior
  • Solution Architects
  • Infrastructure Engineers

All the members of a CoE should have center of excellence accreditation.  The number of roles for each position will vary based on the organization size and the number of processes they wish to automate.  However even for an SMB, the above 4 roles are an absolute must.

  • Business Analysts should ideally have 5+ years of experience. This resource is needed to prepare the project plan based on the “as is” and the “to be”.
  • Mid-Level RPA Developers should have at least 2-3 years of experience and have Dot Net experience.
  • Senior RPA Developers should have 4-6+ years of experience and have Dot Net experience.
  • Solution Architects need to have 6-8 years of experience and have Dot Net experience with additional prior experience in solutioning. These architects also manage code review and quality before deployment sign off.
  • Infrastructure Engineers need to have 4-6 years of experience.

Of the above, Infrastructure Engineers are extremely critical to the CoE as they manage the servers (on-prem or in the cloud) and monitor the BOTs on the Orchestrator, manage maintenance activity and downtime etc.  To manage all these roles, a Project Manager with 7-10 years’ experience is required, and center of excellence accreditation a necessity.

When should I set up a CoE?

To revisit our opening question of, “when a business wants to set up a Center of Excellence or CoE”, it simply is when a company wants to start down the path of digital transformation.  A CoE can be internal, although this is mostly only achievable for larger organizations.  It can also be external as 1) paid consultants, 2) virtual staff or 3) in the form of a managed service provider / MSP that takes a consultative approach.  At Valenta we supply services in all 3 modes.

It is only by using a CoE that organizations, large and small, will be able to guarantee success.  It is only by having a digital center of excellence (either in house or external) that organizations will be able to find all the projects (short and long tail) which can fully digitally transform a business.  When everyone in an organization is buying into automating processes, when everyone is contributing ideas, when tools and CoEs are used to find automation opportunities, the “Automation Flywheel” is created.  This is our goal at Valenta, and this is the goal of all companies looking to digitally transform.

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