Estimated reading time: 6 mins
A Virtual Center of Excellence (VCoE) is a fairly new organizational concept. Its aim is to bring the capabilities, knowledge and expertise together from diverse teams across geographical and organization boundaries to create something exemplary and distinguishable within its domain.
Said another way, a Virtual Center of Excellence creates a kick-ass team of experts brought together from across your whole organization, and beyond, enabled by the Internet. VCoEs have been created for all sorts of industries and applications where capabilities are spread over several geographies, such as in medicine, mobile communication and IT.
Especially in today’s climate of outsourcing and multinational organizations, its important for a leader of IT to make the best use of her resources by ensuring they collaborate. The capability of the whole organization is better than the sum of the capabilities of individual teams. If an IT leader can bring together all her capabilities into one place, surely it can be the most optimal way of delivering services to clients, as well as encouraging innovation through diversity.
Leadership and Technology
It’s vital that you get the leadership right to initiate and develop your Virtual Center of Excellence. You’ll be bringing people together from different countries, organizations, cultures and timezones so it will be a challenge to get them to collaborate. However, leadership is the key ingredient and the key enabler, everything else is secondary.
Your leadership must set out the vision of what is to be achieved, as well as, the way it is to be achieved. It’s the know-how and know-why. Your vision and your methodology must be compelling, obviously, but it’s really about getting engaged early with everyone involved. Your leadership is a team effort – it won’t work otherwise – so it’s important to establish evangelists in each location and make sure they’re empowered to give incentives to their colleagues and also have the character to bang the drum.
One of the first platforms to enable VCoEs were applications such as Microsoft Sharepoint, where live business information can be shared, documents created and managed, intranet applications hosted and accessed from anywhere, and people thought it was top banana. There are also free software solutions available – do a Google search for ‘sharepoint competitor‘. BPMS solutions are also being deployed into a Virtual Center of Excellence so that a whole business process and workflow can be engineered around your chosen methodology. Whatever you choose, your implementation is most important. Don’t just throw in some collaborative apps and expect them to work – you’ll need to configure them so that it fits with how you’ve chosen to work.
Starting your Virtual Center of Excellence from the Ground Up
I think the trick is to start small and work your way up. First get everyone on a list and have them grouped both by locale and by role/team – represent the community. Then build in information sharing capabilities – let the team see how to access resources. Then apply your processes – use workflow or processes to control the flow of information. Then apply your management reporting – lastly build your reporting mechanisms – I put this last as up until this point you should expect loads of change and you’ll be continually rewriting reports if you apply them too early. Some investment upfront will be well-placed to do a ‘model-office’ on the technology – i.e. run an example through the system and check it works for you.
Important point: You should place a representative in each locale to provide training and support – don’t try and do this centrally. You need people locally who speak the language, know the people and can build relationships. Another important point is to place a representative who can gather and receive feedback about the technology and the leadership and feed it through, both ways. Collaboration is about engagement and teamwork, so you can’t afford any issues to fester. Respond quickly to the feedback and a must – share this feedback with everyone to trigger any similar feedback from other locales. This is probably best done using the technology itself – most platform support this kind of thing.
Building a Virtual Center of Excellence: Step-by-Step
Creating a Virtual Center of Excellence is a strategic initiative that harnesses the power of digital platforms and collaborative tools to enhance organizational capabilities and knowledge sharing. Below is a detailed guide to building a VCoE, with practical advice and implementation strategies:
1. Establish Your Vision and Delivery Method
Vision Development: Begin by defining the core purpose of your VCoE. This vision should align with your organization’s overall goals and address specific challenges or opportunities. For example, if the goal is to enhance product development, your vision might focus on fostering innovation and collaboration across geographically dispersed teams.
Delivery Strategy: Determine how this vision will be delivered. Consider the technology you’ll need, the people involved, and the processes to be implemented. This includes choosing the right digital platform, setting up communication channels, and defining how information will be shared and accessed.
2. Appoint Representatives in Each Location
Roles and Responsibilities:
- Evangelist/Advocate: These individuals will champion the VCoE in their respective locations, promoting its benefits and encouraging engagement.
- Training and Support: Appoint team members responsible for training others on using the platform and providing ongoing support.
- Communications: Designate individuals to manage internal communications, ensuring consistent and clear messaging about the VCoE’s activities and achievements.
3. Communicate the Vision and Methodology
Know-How and Know-Why:
- Know-How: Educate your team on how to use the VCoE platform and participate in its initiatives. This might involve training sessions, user manuals, and Q&A sessions.
- Know-Why: Explain the purpose behind the VCoE. Help team members understand the benefits, such as improved collaboration, knowledge sharing, and innovation.
4. Deploy Your Virtual Center of Excellence Platform
Platform Selection and Deployment:
- Choose a platform that meets your needs (e.g., Microsoft SharePoint). It should support collaboration, information sharing, and integration with other tools.
- Ensure the platform is user-friendly and accessible to all team members.
- Consider the security aspects of the platform, particularly for sensitive information.
5. Represent the Whole Team as a Community
- Encourage every team member to create a profile and share their expertise and interests.
- Foster a sense of community by promoting open communication and collaboration.
- Organize virtual events or discussions to engage team members.
6. Integrate Messaging and Establish Feedback Mechanisms
- Integrate existing communication tools (like email) with the VCoE platform.
- Set up feedback channels where team members can share their thoughts on the VCoE’s effectiveness and suggest improvements.
7. Enable Information Sharing
- Ensure that key documents, resources, and best practices are easily accessible to all team members.
- Encourage a culture of knowledge sharing where team members regularly contribute insights and learnings.
8. Deploy Your Processes/Workflow
- Define clear workflows for common tasks within the VCoE.
- Automate processes where possible to increase efficiency.
- Regularly review and optimize these workflows based on feedback and evolving needs.
9. Build Your Management Reports
- Develop a reporting system to track the performance and impact of the VCoE.
- Include metrics such as user engagement, project outcomes, and knowledge sharing.
10. Evangelize, Advocate, and Encourage Adoption
- Through your leadership team, constantly promote the benefits of the VCoE.
- Encourage adoption by highlighting success stories and recognizing active contributors.
- Facilitate ongoing feedback and collaboration to continuously improve the VCoE.
Building a Virtual Center of Excellence is a dynamic process that requires careful planning, effective communication, and ongoing management. By following these steps and continually adapting to the needs of your team, you can create a vibrant, productive environment that leverages the full potential of digital collaboration and knowledge sharing. Good luck on your journey to establishing a successful VCoE!
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