Interest in centers of excellence is soaring. The trend has taken hold in at least one high-profile area of marketing: analytics. In Gartner’s Data-Driven Marketing Survey last year, 36% of the marketers surveyed said their organizations already had an analytics center of excellence (CoE) and 33% had plans to form one in coming two years—revealing one way that marketers have responded to a talent shortage for highly-sought after skills.

Centers of excellence are also being deployed in other areas of marketing, such as search engine optimization, email, social and mobile marketing, to evangelize best practices across the organization.

Just as there are good reasons for establishing a Center of Excellence, there are bad reasons too. Gartner Research Director Ewan McInytre warns against falling into these traps when establishing a center of excellence:

Empire building: Using the center of excellence to advance personal career ambitions rather than support best practices. Misapplications of CoE’s driven by a desire to amass accountability for capabilities rather than strategic fit may harm the very capabilities that need to be nurtured. Think longer term. While gaining accountability may look good on your resume short-term, failure to drive excellence will not.

Shuffling the deck: Shifting resources that result only in superficial change. Unfortunately, it’s common practice when a new leader joins the organization. Resist the temptation to adopt a new structure to establish your credibility without fully assessing organizational suitability.

Disempowering talent: Failing to manage change such as overlooking the contributions of incumbent team members. Shifting accountability can be painful. Fully plan and manage the change. Your success will come from the CoE working in harmony with the wider marketing organization.

In Gartner’s research report, “How and When to Use a Center of Excellence,” (subscription required), Gartner Research Director Ewan McIntyre and Kirsten Newbold-Knipp examine the pros and cons of establishing a CoE and describe some misapplications. They also explore alternate approaches that encourage agility and develop marketing maturity. 

  1. August 27, 2016 at 2:41 pm
    David H Deans says:

    Anna, in addition to those key points, I believe that practitioner mentoring must be a component of every CoE action plan. It’s one of the most effective ways to address the digital marketing talent shortage, particularly in the B2B space where limited ‘talent puddles’ makes it very difficult to recruit the people with proven skills and experience.

    • August 27, 2016 at 7:03 pm
      Anna Maria Virzi says:

      Good point about incorporating a practitioner mentoring program into a CoE action plan.
      Both the mentor and mentee could benefit from the exchange of ideas.
      Thank you!

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