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Editor's note: This article introduces the concept of a BPM center of excellence (CoE), sometimes called a BPM competency center, and offers tips for launching one.

If you could boil one common expert recommendation for business process management initiatives down to a succinct formula for success, it might look something like this: BPM + CoE = A+.

CoE, of course, stands for "center of excellence." (The acronym can also refer to cost of energy, chief of engineers, cash operating expense and "cut out early," but in the BPM universe, it's the first meaning that matters most.)

While it's tough to find a single definition of CoE that meets with universal agreement, such centers are typically designed to set standards, describe methodologies, define best practices, provide BPM tools and templates, offer support and serve as a source of guidance, expertise and skills.

Why bother with a CoE?

Because they work. In fact, Forrester Research calls CoEs "the secret sauce" in the best BPM initiatives. "We have found a correlation between centers of excellence and BPM success," says Connie Moore, vice president and research director for Forrester Research. The reverse is also true, she says: BPM failures often go hand-in-hand with the lack of a CoE.

Specifically, in one Forrester survey, 67 percent of respondents who reported receiving clear and measurable benefits from their BPM initiatives had formal CoEs. Among those reporting BPM failures, only 14 percent had such centers in place.

"It's hard to over-emphasize the importance of putting your core business process improvement skills in a central group," she says. Ultimately, a CoE can help improve and expand an organization's process skills-and that, in turn, can boost the pace of BPM adoption.

Forrester isn't alone in evangelizing about the value of CoEs. Analysts at Gartner Inc. also cite creation of a CoE-and the selection of the right expert to lead it-as a BPM best practice. Asim Akram, senior manager of Accenture's Process Architecture Group, describes the CoE as an important bridge between short-term activity and a strategic, long-term approach to BPM.

"While focusing on tactical needs, organizations tend to overlook areas such as process ownership and governance, roles and responsibilities, service levels and standards that should be associated with any process initiatives," Akram wrote in a recent article for BPMInstitute.org. "A BPM center of excellence can help with all of these areas."


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