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center of excellence (CoE)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

A center of excellence (CoE, also known as a competency center or a capability center) is a corporate group or team that leads other employees and the organization as a whole in some particular area of focus such as a technology, skill or discipline.

To that end, a business CoE may provide research, support, guidance, training and oversight for other employees. The area of focus can be anything that's important enough to the business to devote the necessary resources to. A CoE may be ongoing or temporary; group members may work in another capacity or be full-time in the CoE. 

A center of excellence is frequently used when an organization needs to take on a new technology or skill and manage its adoption. Major trends like BYOD   (bring your own device) and big data analytics often drive the adoption of CoEs as enterprises attempt to deal effectively with a rapidly evolving business environment.

Here are a few examples of how various entities use centers of excellence:

A business intelligence center of excellence (BI CoE) helps a business gain deep insight into its products, services, customers and market initiatives, and consequently tweak its strategies for maximum effectiveness and business benefit. 

An ERP (enterprise resource planning) CoE focuses on ensuring alignment between evolving business requirements and ERP system configuration, training of employees, managing upgrades and improvements to the ERP system, and building internal competencies related to the ERP system and business processes.

A mobile CoE helps an organization deal with an increasingly mobile workforce and the challenges of the BYOD environment within the enterprise. Among other things, the CoE typically provides resources and guidance around issues of device selection, mobility policies and support. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains multiple CoEs, some of which are relatively permanent and others temporary. Current DHS CoEs include the Center for Visualization and Data Analytics (CVADA), the National Center for Border Security and Immigration (NCBSI) and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Universities develop CoEs with many different focuses, including specific research areas as well as pedalogical methodology.

This was last updated in August 2015

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I discourage the use of the term because it is pretentious, creating resistance and ridicule, and easily backfires when the center is less than excellent. How ironic to cite “gang that can’t shoot straight” Homeland Security supposed CoE examples.
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