Why You Need a Center of Excellence

center of excellence

In our experiences working with teams around the world, in different industries, with different goals, we’ve found one thing to be true: A Center of Excellence, or “CoE”, is essential for the sustainable adoption of not only our product, but of a continuously maturing Kanban practice.

This isn’t a new concept; you might have played the role of “Center of Excellence” in your team or department without realizing it. Often, the CoE will form organically, out of a desire to sustainably implement and practice Lean and Kanban consistently across a team, department, or organization. If you’re new to the concept, keep reading to learn why we strongly advocate for Centers of Excellence as part of an effective Lean and Kanban implementation.

What is a Center of Excellence?

A Center of Excellence is a person or small group of people who act as administrators for your LeanKit system; this team is responsible for creating and organizing boards, and making decisions regarding the training of new users.

The first step toward creating this CoE is to identify and organize the group members, communicate expectations, and begin establishing processes for how this group will best support your users.

Who Should Make the Team?

When your team is first getting started, it might be difficult to determine who would be best suited to be in your Center of Excellence. Luckily, practicing Lean and Kanban with LeanKit is intuitive by design, so no technical expertise is required to be part of a Center of Excellence. All that’s required is a commitment to learning, growing, and sharing knowledge across your team in a clear, organized way. To determine who should be included, use these questions:

  • Who on your team is responsible for work flowing in and out?
  • Do you have a systems person who manages the different tools your team uses?
  • Do you have a project lead who oversees the prioritization of work for a team?

If you said yes to any of these roles, congratulations! You’re a perfect candidate for your team’s CoE.

Responsibilities of the Center of Excellence

Now that you know who should make up this group of super users, it’s important to understand the responsibilities that come with membership. As a member of this super group, you’ll need to be an administrator, board creator or manager in order to have the flexibility to control and manage boards and users. You can find more information on those user settings here: user access roles.

Outside of the type of access you’ll have, some of the most important responsibilities of a Center of Excellence include educating new users about the system, creating and implementing procedures for using the product, and creating an internal support system. By internal support system, we mean some place users know they can go to to get simple questions answered, such as:

  • How do I change my password?
  • How do I get access to a board?
  • How do I create a card?
  • How can I edit the board layout?

Of course, LeanKit Support is still here to assist when needed To get in touch with LeanKit Support, send an email to support@leankit.com or through the Help feature within the LeanKit application.

Training Opportunities

If you’re interested in becoming part of a Center of Excellence, we highly recommend attending LeanKit and Lean/Kanban training. Learn more about the benefits of training in this post.

We recommend the following training opportunities to teams who are just getting started:

  • LeanKit User Training: This interactive course will provide a basic training on how to use our tool.
  • Board Analytics Training: This course covers all of the reports available in the LeanKit application.
  • Kanban Essentials Training: This private course provides an introduction to the Kanban Method and how it can be used to improve the flow of value delivery in an organization.
  • Office Hours: In these free weekly sessions, our experts are available to answer questions, teach and reinforce Lean and Kanban concepts, and guide you through any challenges your team may be facing. Learn more about Office Hours here.

Learn more about training opportunities on our Training page.

Commitment and Payoff

Creating a Center of Excellence, and being a resource for your team, may sound like quite the time commitment. In general, this depends on the complexity of your overall LeanKit environment (number of boards as an example), the number of users, deployment of advanced features and functionality.

There will be some time and maintenance involved, especially on the front end.  We recommend to start small and start simple! Also, keep your end goal in mind: By doing the “leg work” in the beginning, the overall time spent educating new teams/users will be less and less as you become more organized in how you manage this system.

Remember the Goal: Continuous Improvement

Keep in mind why you started using LeanKit: You had goals you wanted to achieve and challenges you wanted to overcome. You heard stories about how LeanKit helped teams just like yours to save time, money, and energy while gaining visibility and transparency that they’d never imagined.

Creating a Center of Excellence will allow your team to practice continuous improvement in a methodical, sustainable way. It will also give you the structure and consistency to not only tackle your current challenges, but any future challenges you may face in a healthy, productive way.

Recommended Reading

To learn more about how to grow in your team’s Lean and Kanban practice, we recommend these resources:

Katie Keller

Katie Keller is a Customer Success Manager who is dedicated to helping customers become LeanKit experts. She's devoted to process, and loves the flexibility Kanban provides, which allows her to continuously improve everyday. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.

2 thoughts on “Why You Need a Center of Excellence

  1. Hi Katie

    I agree with the premise that COE is necessary at the start, but this needs to be a group or team with a limited shelf life and designed with a planned obsolescence. We have seen over time COE’s become like the PMO’s that proceeded them. They become roadblocks to CI, blocks to new ideas, and consolidate power in the hands of a few. They become mini empires that can wield power way beyond titles. If you can influence and control hundreds of people across many teams one can have more power than very senior leadership.

    Rather I would suggest that any COE look at becoming a Community of Practice over time. Less than 2 years. Migrate to a less formal structure that can still be used as a go to group but one that encompass all of the practitioners. One that has sponsors not leaders, one that embraces all of the good and works to share learning’s and ideas across the wider organization. One that embraces the servant leadership principals and avoids becoming a tin pot dictator.

    A COE can be a good thing but can morph over time into something much less desirable. With proper planning and vision from the start this can be avoided.

  2. Doug,

    We completely agree — we recommend a Center of Excellence within teams as a way to get started, with the goal of eventually becoming a Community of Practice. Thanks for reading!


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