Are you looking to understand how to implement a Center of Excellence (CoE)? Perhaps your organization has reached a critical point and you need stronger governance and best practice guidance. Maybe you’re migrating or integrating a number of business units and/or regions into Eloqua and your organizational structure/accountability needs to change. Or maybe you’ve read my last blog post, and you’re intrigued to know more. Either way, you know what a Center of Excellence is and why it’s important, and now you are asking: how on earth do you implement one? In my previous post, I highlighted that success is contingent on the sponsorship of your executive team, and a plan. In this one, we begin the process to address both.
CoEs have a common structure and similar functions (phew!), but the real challenge is managing change. It’s critical that we’ve identified the right path to fulfill the unique requirements of your business and solve for the problems that highlighted the need for a CoE in the first place. Our first step in building a CoE is to build your business case for needing one. We need to communicate to key stakeholders what problems the CoE will solve and how the organization will benefit. So let’s begin this discovery and set the foundation for your planning.
Step 1: Assessment
First, in order to make change, you have to understand where you’re at. And you might be surprised (okay, maybe not) with the lack of visibility in what the organizational structure and current processes look like today. Start with the following questions; these can be in the form of stakeholder interviews, surveys, workshops, etc.
- How is the business structured at a high-level?
- Is there a product owner or team of administrators?
- Do you have a centralized or decentralized model?
- Do you leverage a demand center?
- Do you partner with agencies?
- What’s the regional variability of your teams (number of headcount, overlap of roles, use of agencies)?
- What’s the chain of command, or how are the teams dependent on one another?
- What are the common processes that occur?
- Are they defined and known across these teams?
You’ll likely need to reach out to several types of team members to gather the above information. Some places to start are your executive team, steering committees, central marketing (demand creation and ops), your regional leads, and heads of other functional departments, such as sales, IT, or field marketing.
Once you do this, you may balk at what you “didn’t know that you didn’t know.“ You’re not alone. In dealing with the pace of our industry and the resulting changes to keep up with it, this can often result in individuals wearing 12 different hats, a mixed bag of agencies, inconsistent or unknown processes, or an assortment of missing roles or people in the wrong ones. All are incredibly common, but also what we aim to fix.
Step 2: Vision
Now that you understand where you are (and have it fully documented out, right?), let’s look at where you’re going. What is the known roadmap for your:
- Marketing strategy – Those annual marketing plans, what was defined? How about go-to-market strategy and planned campaigns? Or maybe you’re tackling Account-Based Marketing (ABM)? Essentially, what is the roadmap in the coming year, or years, ahead? This will impact your marketing teams and how the CoE can sufficiently support them.
- Technology stack – There is always technology being added, removed, changed, or migrated. What does that look like for you? Often this will align to the above strategies such as a predictive or intent monitoring vendor for ABM or a data management platform (DMP) to aggregate, analyze, and support your other technologies, but this could also be a migration to a unified CRM, for example. Knowing these changes will help determine where resources will be needed for these technologies, as well as the process and change management efforts to ensure their success.
- Organizational changes – We’ve spent a fair amount of time understanding how everyone is structured today, but if there has been a recent acquisition or an upcoming reorganization, we’ll need to account for them.
You don’t want to create a CoE just to address the current state and problems of today, but to align and support where you’re going as a company.
Step 3: Analysis
You just gathered a lot of data, so now it’s time to do some digging to determine:
- What’s working well today? Who can you potentially model? This not only gives you a template or place to start, but supplies proof of success when you begin presenting your findings and proposing a recommended approach.
- What’s not [working well]? This will be lengthy, but don’t shy away from it. The problems are there regardless if they’ve been identified, but in doing so, they can finally be addressed.
- Where are the gaps? Based upon where you are and where you’re headed, what are the issues, risks, and limitations that you need to account for?
This process has several other benefits as well: when presented, you show people they’ve been heard and understand both their wins and the problem(s) they’ve been dealing with; you’re amassing evidence for the need to change; and when implementing this eventual plan, you’ll know you’re on track when it begins to address the issues, one after another.
Step 4: Build Your Case
It’s time to build your case by summarizing where you’re at, acknowledge where the company is heading, identify what’s in your way, and outline how the functions of a Center of Excellence can solve, or serve as the catalyst for solving them. This then becomes a critical component in building out the plan.
Congratulations! You’ve now done the homework to overcome one of the greatest barriers to success, one that would stop you before you start: communicating the need and getting buy-in from senior leadership. Implementing a CoE requires substantial change, to both people and the processes they effect, and therefore requires a top-down approach. By communicating the business case, you’re better equipped to get the sign-off, advocacy, and support from your executive team to move it forward.
And stay tuned. There are other common barriers that can impede a CoE implementation that I’ll be sharing with you.