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Why Enterprise Architecture & Innovation Centers of Excellence Are Beneficial

by Bunny Tharpe       • November 10, 2015

The Center of Excellence (CoE) is a broad set of activities, delivered alongside tooling to embed the use of software tools to support the Governance of future IT project design. The CoE helps achieve a business as usual status use of enterprise architecture and innovation management models.

To achieve this goal, a series of activities must take place to allow the transition from a set of reactive data capture activities to a proactive use of the tool in Governing future IT development and being a trusted component of the delivery lifecycle. The following section outlines the activities, responsibilities and skills required to make the Center of Excellence a reality.

Creating a Center of Excellence (CoE)

The following is a summary of the responsibilities and tasks of the Center of Excellence grouped by skill-set. The CoE is in place to create a point of access to support the embedding of enterprise architecture and/or innovation tools. It is a combination of people, training collateral, discussion groups and support center to allow the wider user group to better use the tools. The CoE will be central to the transition of the product from one of data capture to one of pro-actively supporting the design process.

Center of Excellence Enterprise Architecture & InnovationIt is also best practice to start referring to the model rather than the tool, thus the benefit to an organization is not the tool but the effective use of the data within it and therefore it is the model that must be kept up to date not the tool.

By referring to the model there is generally better buy in from the users as inherently people equate learning how to use tools, even a simplified agile tool, with delay and they fail to see the benefit of the what an up to date model can bring. The CoE should provide all the base materials for new users to learn how to use the tool in the context of how to use the model.


The CoE is responsible for the administration of the software and user access, this is both a technical and business role. Firstly as an administrator to technically maintain the users, contributors and reviewers but also to understand the business needs of the platform to maintain the right mix of license types.

It is essential to align the use of communities on the platform with the structure of the users and so the CoE builds the community structure within the product to represent the business needs of either an innovation management or agile enterprise architecture initiative.


The CoE oversees any modelling exercise and so is responsible for the data within the repository and its structure. This includes management of the meta-model, workspaces and ensuring data quality across the models.

The CoE should be involved early in the data collection process and so the initial modelling exercise including importing of data from existing sources and resolving issues of quality and consistency is an important aspect. However the maintaining data quality is something that must be addressed at all times.

The key areas of modelling responsibility can be broken down to the following:

  • Importing data from different sources and building the initial models.
  • Ensure the integrity of the models including reviewing and removing obsolete definitions and diagrams.
  • Model Quality – especially do the models correspond to the methodology and approach of the business.
  • Data Quality – Is the data complete or correct?
  • Data Consistency – Is there duplicate data? Does a particular data item need resolution if defined in different ways by different parts of the organization.
  • Working with subject matter experts to update the model.


The CoE role also oversees the technical aspects of the products and so there should be a deep knowledge of the functionality available and how it can be best deployed by the users. The CoE should look to attain a help desk level of support for the tooling, which would include the following:

  • Managing Concepts and Associations
  • Pairwise Comparison
  • Kanban
  • Charts and Pivot Tables
  • Roadmaps
  • Working with Diagrams

It is also important to know what maybe in the vendor feature pipeline and to get an early understanding of how new functionality can help the users.

Mentor and training

To ensure adoption of any software product there needs to be documentation. However, although software such as Corso’s is easy to adopt, effective documentation involves real world examples with data that a user readily understands and this is why we need to develop exemplar models that walk through the end-to-end modelling process.

The exemplar models must reflect a specific worked example that can be readily understood by the organization, including all expected meta-type and association examples but not too detailed. The same model can then be presented to different audiences as required in a kick off workshop. The following is an example agenda:

  • Overview of the model and the process (5-10 minutes)
  • Demonstration of the product capabilities (45 Minutes)
  • New User start up – a document based walkthrough of the model incorporating how it can be manipulated in Corso Agile enterprise Architecture, this can double up as training materials and User Guides (3 hours)
  • Training materials with step by step guide to product usage

The CoE will build the above materials and should distribute them through a shared portal with other supporting materials such as white papers and blogs to build an on-line community. The sharing of relevant information in a single location fosters the sense of community and is proven to improve the uptake of the software.

A combination of a physical CoE and an on-line portal ensure that there will be a place for current and potential users to go and find information as and when they need it.


As Innovation Management or Agile Enterprise Architecture implementations become more mature they must also evolve. It is the CoE’s responsibility to manage this evolution in a structured manner. The CoE must:

Manage user requirements. New requirements will always come from users. These could be modified attributes, relationships, reports, Kanban, charts or Pivot Tables. Care must be taken to manage the changes strategically to keep the environment agile.

Agile EA must be embedded within the wider change process. The CoE must ensure that the Agile EA tool be embedded in the design process and PMO otherwise our models will remain isolated. The Roadmapping capability and use of Communities within a tool is key to supporting this.

Coordinate with Solution Architects to transition into using the tool for design. As part of incorporating the tools into the wider design phase solution Architects should be involved. The use of the workspace and Kanban capability to manage change around a particular context is key to supporting this.

Work with the vendor to understand how to phase these changes in and develop an internal roadmap for the tool roll out.


One last key but often-overlooked responsibility of the Center of Excellence is to internally evangelize the use of the tools and approach with current and future stakeholders. It is essential to build the CoE ‘brand’ within your organization.

Visibility will need to be earned by a strategic approach to getting the message across to the multiple stakeholders involved in the Innovation or Agile EA process. This can sometimes be a long process but with the right level of management commitment, a range of highly relevant materials and the enthusiasm to push things forward the CoE can flourish and provide a platform for a successful product implementation that provides tangible benefit.

The individuals responsible for the CoE should have multiple skills. These skills must include technical knowledge to understand the models themselves and to build technical teaching documents but there should also be an element of sales and project management.

Center of Excellence Return On Investment

The following started out as an exercise in understanding the value of building Architecture models and embedding these within the IT delivery process at a Dutch bank for a Portfolio Management project.

The following 5 measures were highlighted as potential cost savings, importantly each saving was small (2-5%) but when multiplied by the overall IT spend provided a strong case for the investment of resources and tools to build and maintain the model.

Improving The Architecture Process

  • Using a central, repository based, multi-user enterprise architecture modelling solution (Agile Enterprise Architecture) enables clearer and controlled collaboration between different teams. This has shown improved project delivery times, with the added benefit of improved quality of information. Note the improvements and benefits will increase over time as ‘the organization’ becomes familiar with the new process and discipline.
  • This is especially useful at the beginning of each project during the discovery of information stage.
  • Direct benefit for ‘the organization’ is a 5% improvement on the costs of the architectural function in Design Authorities costs.

Project Governance

  • In addition to using enterprise Architecture to govern the delivery of projects within ‘the organization’, there are additional benefits from the software delivery function working together with the Project Management Office in reusing across program architecture to derive shared technologies, solutions and processes across future projects.
  • Benefit for ‘the organization’ is a 5% direct saving in investments made through the ability of making consistent technology buying decisions across total project spend across each ‘the organization’ business vertical/unit.

Mitigating Risk of Post Rework

  • One of the common failings of project-by-project delivery is delivering in isolation and then having to rework changes.
  • Having a single enterprise Architecture modelling tooling solution could deliver 3-5% improvement on project overspend by getting the full impact of changes understood prior to project initiation. In addition, money set aside to mitigate the risk of poor project delivery can be reassigned to money generating activities.

Removing Cost From The IT Landscape

  • The core deliverables of a Portfolio Management project are still relevant over and above the broad cost savings from deploying an Agile Enterprise Architecture approach.
  • With the ability of removing cost from the IT Landscape via a well developed and delivered enterprise Architecture program, as a by-process of better understanding the functionality of the IT Applications and associated annual Maintenance, ‘the organization’ will be able to remove overlapping applications, retire legacy systems, reduce maintenance and help implement a more service driven environment.
  • Anticipated cost reductions across ‘the organization ‘would be 10% savings year in year IT support/maintenance costs.

Retention of Information

  • Individuals who leave the organization or move to other roles take their knowledge with them which reduces the quality of the information. Maintaining a central repository of agreed and qualified artefacts will keep some of this information in the public domain and can be reused when delivering future projects.
  • There is a potential 5% increase in the cost of architecture function.

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