How to Build a Centre of Excellence for Digital Transformation

What is a Citizen Developer?

Citizen development refers to the creation of apps and automation by non-IT employees who see opportunities for digital transformation in their workflow. In the past, creating a technical solution to a problem with an app or workflow automation would require in-depth programming knowledge from an individual with years of experience. 

As organisations scale and evolve, they often have different crucial processes scattered across various business areas. However, these scattered environments can often lead to significant problems, particularly as companies around the world continue to face pressure from volatile market trends, nimble startups, and industry evolutions.

Currently, studies show around 44% of CEOs believe their speed of technological transformation is insufficient for the current landscape. What’s more, 57% of business leaders are concerned they don’t have the innovative processes in place to respond to rapid disruption.

Citizen development could be the solution to this problem, by enabling the rapid deployment of business tools that will streamline your operational workflows. However, ‘Citizen Development’ is often an area of concern for IT Departments as they grapple with the challenge of how to monitor, manage and support disparate Apps.

The answer may lie in a ‘Centres of Excellence’ or “CoE” initiative designed to improve the reach of critical expertise and assets throughout an organisation. They can operate outside of geographical and organisational boundaries, paving the way for rapid innovation.

Today, we’re going to look at how you can build a centre of excellence for low code citizen development.

What is a Centre of Excellence?

Gartner identifies a centre of excellence as a solution that concentrates and synergises existing expertise and resources to boost world-class performance. In recent years, it’s becoming clear many companies are failing to innovate rapidly and respond to changes in their ecosystem because they lack fast access to the correct resources and expertise.

Centre of excellence initiatives form the foundation of many citizen developer strategies built to enable various members of staff to make meaningful changes to the way they operate using low code applications and automation workflows.

By building a centre of excellence, you can ensure you have all the resources and tools you need to thrive when making crucial changes in your business.

The leading tool in this area, particularly for existing Microsoft users, is the Microsoft Power Platform. Building a centre of excellence for citizen development with Power Platform would require a step-by-step process which involves planning your deployment methods, pulling together experts from your community, and accessing the right support.

Through the right strategic development of a centre of excellence, you can create a comprehensive plan which allows for continuous improvement and agile innovation in your workforce, ensuring you can stay ahead of the competition, and adapt to a wider selection of changes.

How to Build Your Centre of Excellence

In order to successfully build a CoE, organisations need to take a multi-level approach to development, implementation, and management. The nature of your centre of excellence may change according to the goal you’re trying to achieve. In the context of building a CoE for Microsoft Power Platform, the steps would include:

Step 1: Assessment:

A strong strategy for transformation starts with an in-depth evaluation of your current environment and your capabilities. For a Microsoft Power Platform initiative, you’ll need to assess your existing environment for Power Platform readiness before you begin implementing new resources. This will involve reviewing your existing licensing, and repairing any shortfalls, to make sure you have the right tools to allow for innovation.

Interview the departments and leaders in your team who will contribute to your circle of “expertise” in your centre of excellence, and record their requirements, objectives, and internal capabilities. During the assessment, you should also ensure your teams all have access to the right devices and tools to contribute to the evolution of the business.

Step 2: Planning

Following your assessment phase, you can create a plan for deploying your new platform and ensuring adoption. Prepare your communications strategy, and work on generating engagement within the internal communities of your team as quickly as possible.

As you’re planning, identify the sponsors within your leadership groups, and nominate and empower Platform owners with the tools they need to contribute. During this stage, you can collaboratively work as a team to set goals for your Power Platform strategy.

With your goals in mind, establish environments and management tools, and establish privileged groups for security, maintenance, governance, and deployment of your toolkit.

Step 3: Governance

During the governance stage, implement guidelines to empower teams and keep businesses and data secure. Governance is extremely important to the development process, and it will require the creation of dedicated security groups committed to ensuring the Power Platform roll-out is simple and controllable.

Define and implement the processes that ensure your makers can learn, build, and implement apps, without impacting business operations negatively, and make sure the right DLP processes are in place to ensure restrictions when necessary. The goal should be to effectively govern your team, without restricting opportunities for innovation.

Step 4: Community

Now it’s time to create and nurture your community of makers. Create champions across your business during the early stages of your project to promote engagement and encourage more makers to get involved. You can also organise regular training initiatives and incentives to help prompt more people to pursue new skills.

During the community-building stage, set up environments and management tools which allow other members of your team to collaborate with their colleagues and inspire further innovation, without compromising on governance.

Step 5: Support

Prepare and enable your business leaders and IT team to support the maintenance and deployment of the platform going forward. Continue nurturing your champions and encouraging them to promote engagement from other members of staff.

At the same time, enable IT to support app deployments, licensing, and user requirements. You can even look into engaging Power Platform and Change & Adoption specialists, to provide additional guidance to your community, strengthening your centre of excellence.

Leveraging an Effective Centre of Excellence

Once the primary steps for creating your centre of excellence are completed, make sure you regularly review the ecosystem and look for opportunities to make improvements and optimisations. An effective centre of excellence is designed to be a tool for agility and growth, which means it should also be able to evolve dynamically according to your business needs.

As companies of all sizes continue to search for ways to innovate and evolve faster, the centre of excellence is rapidly emerging as a valuable tool for sustaining and supporting digital transformation. For companies enabling a new generation of citizen developers and innovators, the centre of excellence will be a must-have investment for the future of work. If you'd like to speak to an expert about how a CoE could work in your organisation, please don't hesitate to get in touch

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