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Centers of Excellence

More and more Pega customers are formalizing Centers of Excellence (COE) to help them achieve their business transformation goals. There’s no such thing as one size fits all – each customer leverages a unique COE to drive a consistent implementation of the organization’s strategy.

What is a COE?

At its core, a Center of Excellence (COE) is team of knowledgeable and experienced business process management, customer relationship management, and business domain experts equipped with an arsenal of best practices and tools. At its most mature state, it is a highly formalized and self-directing entity that is responsible for supporting business users and shepherding even the most complex projects to successful completion.

The COE promotes the use of business process management as means of linking an organization’s strategy to their day to day operations. The purpose of a Pega COE is to maximize the benefits of the Pega solution via a consistent, enterprise level strategy. It works to increase the success of all project teams while optimizing re-use programmatically across an organization.

The COE enables projects to share practices and assets and improves project quality. It provides best practices, knowledge transfer, expertise, experience, guidance, and re-useable assets to improve the success of project teams and the enterprise as a whole. In addition, the COE supports application development across the lifecycle of each initiative, from evaluating projects to providing guidelines, standards, and best practice for application design and implementation.

COE Panel Discussion and Best Practices

Philips Healthcare and Siemens as present their Center of Excellence best practices and business value.

Defining scope and roadmap

While some COEs' focus is more towards the business process definition and improvement, Pega advocates a balanced focus on three areas – the "three legged stool" – while building a COE. They are the people, the process, and the technology.

  • People and Structure

    You need to create the right mix of people who have the appropriate hard and soft skills, working together in a structure that supports effective communication and collaboration. Adaptability and willingness to change are critical qualities to look for when selecting members of the COE. You can’t expect to drive change in your organization if your team members are resistant to changing the way they work. Roles and responsibilities should be well defined so that members have a clear sense of ownership.

  • Process

    Building the right process is about determining the way you are going to execute and putting the right methodology in place that is effective and repeatable. Pega recommends iterative methodologies that allow you to deliver business value quickly. This also means determining your COE’s terms and definitions, standards, and best practices.

  • Technology

    Technology and architecture are critical to creating your shared infrastructure, the backbone of your BPM initiatives. You need to have the proper technology with a prescriptive set of enterprise best practices and policies around it. When you build your initial COE platform, it must be scalable, available, secure, and sized appropriately to accommodate future demand.

Roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities will vary depending on your COE structure and budget, but you will generally have resources that fall into one of the following four categories: COE Leadership, COE Core Team, COE Extended Team, and Project Team(s). Funding a large COE might not be feasible to start; you can form a small core team to begin with and can grow in tandem with the organization’s investment and the COE’s perceived value.

  • COE Leadership consists of the Chairman, IT Executive Sponsor(s), Business Executive Sponsor(s), an Enterprise Architect, Process Champion(s), and COE Manager. The Leadership team provides the executive support and governance to project teams. Because both are represented in leadership, IT and Business work as partners in project delivery.

  • The COE Core Team is comprised of the COE Manager, LSA, LBA, SA(s), and Enterprise Architect. This team handles demand and intake from project teams. They are tasked with standardizing the delivery process and performing the value-add services of the COE. They own and improve best practices and methodology, enable project team members, deliver R&D projects, and participate in program/project governance.

  • A COE Extended Team is made up of a multitude of roles that are often part time, depending on the size and maturity of the COE. They are the Test Lead, Infrastructure Lead, DBA Lead, Release Engineer, Performance Lead, Governance Manager, Enablement Lead, and Security Liaison. The Extended team develops Pega Platform and application experience and knowledge in their individual domains to support Pega projects. They provide feedback to the Core Team on ways they can improve delivery.

  • Project Team(s) consist of your delivery leadership and resources, the Project Manager, System Architect(s), Business Architect(s), SMEs, and QA. Some of these may be staffed by a Pega or a Delivery Partner. Project Team(s) manage and drive the project on the ground. They are responsible for the day to day deliverables and scope and delivery project outcomes according to the best practices and methodology determined by the COE.

Maturing and evolving a COE

There are five levels of maturity within which most COEs sit. The goal is to progress through Levels 1 through 4 and eventually reach the fifth and most mature state. The maturity level relates to both the internal structure and processes and the impact the COE has on the external organization.

  • Level 1: Organizations without a COE strategy or roadmap in place are in Level 1; they haven’t defined their charter or goals.

  • Level 2: After the strategy and roadmap are put in place, COEs move into the second level of maturity; here is where roles and responsibilities are defined and resources are identified. The implementation methodology incorporates COE touch points and governance steps, and projects are at least loosely coordinated through the COE. At this point the COE starts to have influence; the team is largely leading by example, but it is gaining support thanks to some small, early successes.

  • Level 3: A COE at Level 3 is providing a full complement of expert services to the different project teams. A community is fully active, and there is coordination around shared components that allows for a level of reuse. The COE monitors projects and evaluates and supports new opportunities for business process management.

  • Level 4: At Level 4, the functional areas in the organization are organizing themselves into Competency Centers focused on driving common processes and operating models across the company. Individual lines of business are represented and negotiate between specialization and core framework based processes.

  • Level 5: The most mature COEs sit at Level 5 where a fully federated model of business process oriented Competency Centers drive for common shared processes across business lines. There are process improvement programs continually iterating across the enterprise. At Levels 4 and 5, the COE is not just influencing but directing Pega implementations across the organization. It has a seat at the strategy table and sets the policies that all projects follow.

Communicating the value

In order to secure continued funding and to reach more project teams and functional areas, your COE will need to successfully endorse itself to the greater organization.

The easiest way to market a COE is with measured results, and thankfully, much of the COE’s benefit can be measured. It is best that the COE itself be in charge of tracking and measuring, rather than individual project teams. Leaving metrics in the hands of individual teams runs the risk of it either not getting done or not having consistency in how metrics are measured and reported. The COE should establish consistent KPIs from one project to the next that will clearly communicate progress toward the organization’s larger goals. It is vital that the COE plan in advance how they will measure the success of individual projects so that it is easy to configure KPIs and collect data throughout the projects’ lifecycles.

KPIs should follow the SMART paradigm, meaning they should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Below are some sample KPIs that can be used to measure the success of your COE strategy:

  • Process reuse rate

  • Number of projects/releases deployed

  • Development costs per process set

  • Per process ROI

  • Bug/defect rate

  • Opportunities in the pipeline

  • Solution responsiveness

  • Delivery on time/budget

Digital transformation and the COE's role

In the exciting as well as challenging era of Digital Transformation (DX), the impact of the DX COE is becoming increasingly important. Digital Transformation leverages the pragmatic transformational impact of the Cloud, Social Business, Predictive and Machine Learning Analytics (including Big Data analytics), Mobility and definitely the Internet of Things (IoT).

In addition to these core digital technologies, the most important digitization capabilities include digitization of processes, dynamic cases and, most importantly, the “intelligence” sourced either from people (business rules) or data (increasingly predictive models from Big Data).

Thus, there is a wide range of capabilities and technologies that need to be leveraged and operationalized in digital speed, while guaranteeing best practices, enablement and re-use within teams and across the digital enterprise. It is a tall and challenging order – that is absolutely necessary to ensure success of DX initiatives.

In the digital era the role of the COE is becoming more – not less – important.

Are you disruption-ready?


Creating Centers of Excellence for Digital Transformation

Learn what the scope and business benefits of a mature and robust DX COE will include.

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