How (and Why) to Establish a Digital Center of Excellence

Implementing a new technology solution within your organization can be transformative and extremely beneficial. However, any new tool or process will have a learning curve that looks different for everyone. A Center of Excellence can help facilitate and expedite enablement and knowledge sharing, which will help bridge gaps and ensure meaningful implementation across your organization.

What is a center of excellence (COE)?

A Center of Excellence (COE) is a designated team within an organization built around a new technology, process, or various other systems. This team is in charge of being the go-to experts on the system, as well as managing the implementation and ongoing staff support for it.

When establishing a COE, it is a good idea to follow some best practices based on five fundamental pillars:

  1. Governance. This sets up the rules to guide the organization and structure of the COE through implementation and decision making. 
  2. Resource allocation. Assigning roles and specializations ensures the load is evenly spread and each pillar is owned by an SME. 
  3. Communication plan. Avoid gaps in dissemination for improved understanding of the COE. 
  4. Enablement strategy. Determine how to train users and admins to ensure everyone in the organization can effectively use the new technology. 
  5. Support framework. This is the go-to team for new release implementation and ongoing help.

A COE designates a group of people to streamline implementation and adoption of a new technology. But not every organization has the resources to implement a full COE. In these cases, a digital Center of Excellence is a great start for any size organization.

What is a digital center of excellence?

A digital COE is based on the same basic principles as a traditional COE, but the team of people is replaced by a self-service internal site. The central repository can be customized to your organization’s needs and can generally be rolled out using your organization's intranet or other internal communication infrastructure.

Benefits of a digital COE

  • Scale sustainably. Users are able to learn what they want when they want without having to navigate a new organizational structure or coordinate schedules with COE representatives.
  • Streamline processes. Users are able to request a new account and access instructional materials independently through the COE without needing to contact organization staff. This frees up capacity within the organization and allows teams to focus on big picture strategy and goals.
  • Foster collaboration. Breaking down information silos set by departmental or geographical boundaries removes impediments to knowledge sharing and cultivates in-house expertise.
  • Increase visibility. By leveraging your company’s enterprise social network (ESN) and/or internal communication tools (such as Slack or Salesforce Chatter), you are able to quickly and directly promote adoption and visibility of the new technology solution.
  • Mitigate risk. Implementing a digital solution reduces initial investment and ongoing costs while also reducing or eliminating misunderstanding and miscommunication by acting as a single source of truth across the organization.
  • Move faster. While a traditional COE requires an organization to train the trainers, a digital COE brings together prebuilt materials that plug right into the repository. This dramatically reduces the time from implementation to adoption and allows your organization to tailor the training materials to your specific needs.

How to build a digital center of excellence

The specifics of building a digital Center of Excellence will depend on the process, system, or technology you are implementing. But no matter what type of COE you are setting out to build, start with these best practices:

Identify key stakeholders

A digital COE will potentially impact every person in your organization. This can be very empowering and have a positive, organization-wide impact, but this scope requires executive buy-in. Before you start, identify your executive sponsor or sponsors and get them on board.

Identify the objectives 

A new system is useless if it doesn’t make a business process more efficient or effective. Clearly lay out specific business use cases the COE will impact and what it will improve.

Define administration 

As with any business process, an owner or group of owners should be identified to shepherd the project from proposal to initial implementation to expansion.

For a detailed guide on how to build your own Docusign digital COE, you can consult our whitepaper.

With a foundation built on these best practices, you will have everything in place to quickly and effectively bring a digital Center of Excellence to your organization. 

Case study: pivoting to electronic signature

In January 2020, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey was looking to begin a gradual transition to using electronic signatures by implementing Docusign eSignature. But when COVID-19 restrictions were put in place just a few months later, the Port Authority needed to shift their entire workforce to a digital-first environment immediately.

To ensure their entire staff was trained and comfortable with this new technology, the Port Authority created what they call the Docusign Resource Center on their Sharepoint site. Within this Resource Center, they host pre-made learning materials from Docusign University, YouTube, and the Docusign Blog.

Over the last two years, the Resource Center has grown dramatically. With this growth it has begun to feature more traditional COE elements such as a support framework, where power users are sharing information laterally and helping each other.

“People are coming up with things that are surprising to us,” says Luis Andres, Manager, Enterprise Information Management at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. “We hear, ‘You want to do what? That’s doable! There’s a power form for that.’ This has been the genesis for a lot of great thinking and a lot of great ideas.”

Watch our Digital Center of Excellence webinar

To hear more from Luis about the Port Authority’s experience with building their Docusign Resource Center, and for a practical guide for how to implement your own digital COE, check out our webinar Do More with Docusign: Digital Center of Excellence.

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