What is a Center of Excellence (CoE) in PMO? - Benefits and How to Create Your Own!

What is a Center of Excellence (CoE) in PMO? - Benefits and How to Create Your Own!

Written By : Bakkah

12 Jun 2024

Table of Content

Projects are everywhere. Some are successful, and some fail. In retrospect, most have had some room for improvement. Even experienced project managers and project teams need assistance from time to time.

A Project Management Center of Excellence is a proven organizational resource that ensures better performance through consistent processes, intellectual capital, tools, and hands-on support.

What is a project management office (PMO)?

PMO stands for Project Management Office, which is a centralized group within an organization responsible for overseeing and improving project management practices. The project management office is the craft guild of master practitioners who lead, mentor and inspire the apprentices and journeymen.

PMO can provide assistance (i.e., training, coaching, and mentoring) in using standard project management practices to achieve results. However, it is the gatekeeper and the steward of project governance.

The PMO provides project governance structures that involve both the project and the functional organizations. ‘Governance’ is a layer of control over the project that is exercised by, or on behalf, of the people who are paying for the project.

It is usually at a higher level in the organization than the level of detailed operational control. It can involve the project sponsor, the project director and/or an advisory board or steering group, in addition to the project manager and core members of the project team.

What is a Center of Excellence ''CoE''?

CoE is the abbreviation of The "Centers of Excellence". CoE consists of units based at research institutions (the vast majority at universities) sharing a common idea or vision and an overall and clearly defined set of research objectives.

There is no fixed formula for creating a CoE. The centers may differ in size and mode of organization, depending on their subject and scope. Some centers become rather large during the grant period, employing more than 60 people divided into several research teams, while others have fewer than 15 members. The center must have a well-defined framework for cooperation.

A PMO Center of Excellence (CoE) is a subset of the PMO that focuses on developing and promoting best practices, standards, and processes related to project management across the organization.

The PMO CoE is typically staffed with experienced project managers and subject matter experts who provide guidance, support, and training to project teams and stakeholders. They also facilitate communication and collaboration among project managers, identify and resolve common challenges, and ensure that project management practices are aligned with the organization's overall strategy and objectives.

The goal of a PMO CoE is to create a culture of excellence in project management throughout the organization, leading to improved project outcomes, increased efficiency, and reduced risk. By leveraging the expertise and resources of the PMO CoE, organizations can standardize their project management practices, increase visibility into project performance, and ultimately deliver more value to stakeholders.

Why Creating Centers Of Excellence?

Creating Centers of Excellence (CoE) has become increasingly popular in organizations because it provides a structured and systematic approach to developing and promoting best practices, standards, and processes.

As a matter of fact, when governance, a support structure, guidance, measurements and shared learning exist across an organization, success is far more likely. Success will support organizational and specific project goals. A need to gain results should be the primary motivation for creating any center of excellence.

Or stated another way, the motivation/need for and expected results from a center of excellence should be well thought out and articulated unambiguously to serve as the foundation for the creation of any center of excellence. Without this, it cannot be successful.

Here are a few reasons why organizations create CoEs:

1. Knowledge sharing:

CoEs facilitate the sharing of knowledge, expertise, and best practices across an organization. By bringing together subject matter experts and other stakeholders, CoEs create a forum for collaboration and knowledge exchange.

2. Improved efficiency:

CoEs can help streamline and standardize processes, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced duplication of effort. By developing best practices and standards, CoEs can also help optimize resource utilization and reduce costs.

3. Increased quality:

By developing and promoting best practices, CoEs can help to ensure that products and services meet or exceed the organization's quality standards. CoEs can also help to identify and address quality issues in a timely and systematic manner.

4. Enhanced innovation:

CoEs can serve as incubators for new ideas and innovations. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and experimentation, CoEs can help to drive innovation and creativity within an organization.

5. Better decision-making:

CoEs can provide valuable insights and data-driven recommendations to decision-makers. By leveraging data and analytics, CoEs can help to inform and support strategic decision-making across the organization.

Overall, CoEs can provide significant benefits to organizations by helping to drive innovation, increase efficiency, and improve quality. They can also help to foster a culture of continuous improvement and knowledge sharing, which can ultimately lead to better outcomes and increased value for stakeholders.

How to build your team and organize PMO CoE?

Briefly, the team needs to avoid becoming residents of an “Ivory Tower.” The team should be built from within the Project Management organization and high-performing Project Managers should rotate onto the team and/or serve on a PM-CoE advisory panel. Additionally, high-performing Project Managers should be called upon to review PM-CoE deliverables and to co-teach PM-related courses.

Team size is an issue. Ideally, the core team should be no more than seven people – I pick this number because it is small enough still to allow everyone to feel ownership and responsibility, small enough for cohesive communication – we can all sit around a lunch table together; yet large enough for a bit of specialization and to bring in varied points of view. In addition to the core team, we need to look at the PM-CoE support functions.

The size of the support component is governed by the size of the overall project management organization, the number of and diversity of projects, etc. Support functions include training and mentoring, a how-to hotline, project status monitoring, managing functional specialists, and the like.

A large or geographically diverse organization may require an accompanying large or dispersed support infrastructure. Nonetheless, the PM-CoE should not be in empire-building mode.

Develop PM-CoE action plans and continuously monitor your performance

Apropos, building the PM-CoE is itself a project. An action-oriented project plan with specific short-term, mid-term, and long-term objectives needs to be built. The PM-CoE’s performance should be managed accordingly.

A most important, must-do action for the PM-CoE is to continuously ask its stakeholders, “How are we doing?” This reflection of customer satisfaction coupled with formal measurement will help keep the PM-CoE on track to addressing real opportunities in the project management space.

It should be clear by now that the PM-CoE focuses on the process. Continuous Process Improvement should be an integral part of the PM-CoE. Hopefully, this is “preaching to the choir.”

Building a team and organizing a PMO CoE involves several key steps. Here are some of the important steps to consider:

1. Define the CoE's mission and objectives:

Before building a team, it is important to clearly define the mission and objectives of the CoE. This will help to ensure that the team is aligned with the organization's strategic goals and priorities.

2. Identify the team members:

The CoE team should be comprised of subject matter experts with experience in project management. Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, the team may include project managers, business analysts, quality assurance experts, and other specialists.

3. Establish roles and responsibilities:

Once the team members have been identified, it is important to define their roles and responsibilities. This will help to ensure that everyone understands their role in supporting the CoE's mission and objectives.

4. Develop a communication plan:

Effective communication is critical for the success of the CoE. A communication plan should be developed to ensure that stakeholders are kept informed of the CoE's activities and progress.

5. Define the CoE's processes and procedures:

To ensure consistency and efficiency, it is important to define the CoE's processes and procedures. This will help to ensure that best practices are followed and that the CoE's activities are aligned with the organization's overall project management framework.

6. Develop training and development plans:

The CoE team should be provided with ongoing training and development opportunities to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge needed to support the organization's project management goals.

7. Establish performance metrics:

To measure the CoE's effectiveness, it is important to establish performance metrics that can be used to evaluate the CoE's impact on the organization's project management practices.

By following these steps, organizations can build a strong PMO CoE team that is aligned with the organization's goals and priorities and is equipped to support and promote best practices in project management.

Centre of Excellence (CoE) functions or services:

1- Development of standard methods and processes.

2- Development consistent working practices.

3- Single source of standards and ensuring they are deployed appropriately and well.

4- Capability support (training and coaching).

Bakkah is a leading company in the field of PMO management. To know more about the importance of PMOs, we advise you to read the following articles:

Bakkah team for training and consulting