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A Decision Management Center of Excellence

The concept of a Center of Excellence, or CoE, is not specific to Decision Management. Organizations can and should have a CoE for any strategic technology they are leveraging across the enterprise, whether it is BPM, analytics, business rule management, SOA, or Master Data Management. Whether you call them Centers of Excellence, Centers of Expertise, Competency Centers, or Communities of Practice, CoEs are a way to gather, harvest, formalize, and deploy best practices. They can help you to maximize the likelihood that a new approach or technology will be successfully adopted at scale while minimizing the costs involved in learning anything new.

Digital Decisioning uses a broad range of techniques, and the systems themselves often need to cut across organization silos to be effective. A central focal point to discuss and learn from is particularly important as a result. Decision Management is a multi-domain field that requires the effective coordination of several historically distinct areas of expertise.

One kind of Decision Management CoE will not fit all companies and their needs. The shape of a CoE will also vary over time as Decision Management adoption progresses. An initial focus may be on providing early adopters with help getting their skills up-to-speed to ensure the rapid success of the first Decision Management Systems. A later goal may be on auditing numerous projects to ensure consistency and maximize the reuse of assets and best practice—which is something not worth pursuing when you only have two or three projects. Organizations should, therefore, establish a short-term and long-term target profile for a Decision Management CoE.

There are many potential dimensions of a CoE that are worth considering. For each of the dimensions defined in the table, you should decide where, on a one to five scale, you want to start (your short-term objective) and where you want to be in the next 12 to 18 months (your long-term objective). This kind of profiling or assessment exercise produces a chart similar to that shown below. It’s a good idea if several stakeholders provide their own appreciation of each attribute in order to build a consensus. Indeed, such a profile basically defines the shape of the targeted CoE and greatly contributes to the refinement of the definition of its scope and mission statement.

TABLE

Short and Long Term CoE Shapes

Here are a few tips and best practices about the profiling assessment:

  • Just as there is no one-size-fits all COE, there is no perfect or optimal profile or shape either. Profiles will vary depending on organization context, culture, and level of adoption maturity.
  • There is no right or wrong objective value for each dimension. Five is not necessarily better than 1 or 3.
  • Having too many dimensions valued at 3 (half way) will often require more implementation work, as this corresponds to a dual objective. At least initially, it is better to agree on which side of the scale you’d rather focus as an organization. The long-term profile can be used to show areas of development and improvement.

Return on Investment

The CoE is often the group responsible for leading and managing the return on investment or ROI for  Digital Decisioning projects. An essential part of a CoE, at least initially, is making sure the data is collected about the current state, ensuring that this data is not being “spun” to make people look good, tracking improvements due to the new system, and making sure that all this is honestly reported It’s also important to ensure that an ROI evaluation is built into project guidelines and that CoE staff assigned to projects work on collecting this data. These practices will go a long way toward ensuring that ROI can be shown from these systems.

A Decision Management CoE needs to establish an organization, staffing, processes, and mission to support the unique characteristics of Digital Decisioning:

  • Analytic
  • Adaptive
  • Agile