Center of Excellence Made Easy

In this post, Scott Os of Synaptix Group will follow-up his recent post on what is a Center of Excellence (CoE), with information on how to establish and staff the CoE, providing you with supporting PDFs to get the process kicked off right.

Let’s say you’ve read about the importance of a Center of Excellence. On the road to your Digital Transformation, you’re now wondering, “what do I do now?” There are many things to consider, the various roles, responsibilities, and use cases that need to be defined, software and personnel costs that need to be reined in and stakeholders that need to be informed.

But where do you even begin?

That’s the premise of this post. I’ll talk about the structure, roles and responsibilities of a newly formed CoE as it relates to your company’s progress through a DTM Maturity Model, with suggestions on a path for how you can, not only create such an organization, but create the foundation to accelerate change while taking full advantage of your company’s Digital Transformation software investments.

General Guidelines

A CoE can be a service organization that provides expertise across projects in a ‘shared services model’. The function of the CoE is to drive standardization of quality products, architecture and governance policies, as well as processes across the enterprise. Leveraging a centralized management and automation platform for processes, consulting, and support services, as well as delivering leadership and advocacy to help the organization improve business outcomes.

The true value of the CoE will be around participation and the broader strategic efforts within the company. To accomplish this, the CoE needs to have strong alignment on business goals/strategy and the CoE mission. Additionally, the CoE must focus spending on the future of the organization, not just on the “squeakiest wheel.”

CoE Roles & Responsibilities

A component of the CoE charter describes the interaction of the CoE and the Steering Committee. CoE Leadership will be driven by Strategic Business Initiatives approved by the Steering Committee, and will either implement the strategic elements, or work with Project Managers & Architects to implement the policies, procedures, best practices at a more tactical level.

The CoE would be staffed with people who bring domain expertise about the business and technology. These should be from the population who run the day to day operation of your company and who are directly affected by the changes to any systems or processes. They are the people who know how changes will affect staff and what value they could deliver.

Keep in mind, this team will create a standard methodology and best practices to bring consistency and leverage to development projects. In other words, what’s learned from the initial implementations will set the precedent on what mistakes to avoid and how to accelerate adoption and change within your organization.

This added experience is the gem for creating a CoE: by creating the lessons learned and best practices, you’ll reduce the chances of wasted effort and investments in software and personnel.

In the larger context of the company’s continued Digital Transformation on the path to higher DTM Maturity, throughout the execution of the plans put in play by the CoE, the organization is creating reusable assets and a playbook that would be leveraged in the future by other departments and project teams.

Does all of this sound too big to take on?

Fret not! One of the key advantages of the CoE is that it can initially be built on a small scale, with minimal incremental expenditure. As its value is delivered to management, the staff, and individual project teams, it can iteratively evolve and scale up its resources, services, and capabilities. The CoE model can also be a critical asset for distributed organizations, providing centralized processes, infrastructure, and reporting.

Roles and responsibilities will vary depending on CoE structure and budget, but you will generally have resources that fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. CoE Leadership
  2. CoE Core Team
  3. Project Team(s)

CoE Leadership

CoE Leadership typically consists of the following:

  1. Executive Sponsor(s)
  2. Champion(s)
  3. CoE Manager

The Leadership team provides the executive support and governance to project teams. Because both are represented in leadership, IT and Business work as partners in project delivery.

CoE Core Team

The CoE Core Team is comprised of the following:

  1. CoE Manager
  2. Program Manager (Optional or could be the CoE Manager)
  3. Enterprise Architect
  4. Solution Architect(s)

This team handles demand and intake from project teams. They are tasked with standardizing the delivery process and performing the value-add services of the CoE. They own and improve best practices and methodology, enable project team members, deliver proofs of concept, and participate in program/project governance.

Project Team

Project Team(s) consist of the following:

  1. Project Manager
  2. System Architect(s)
  3. Business Architect(s)
  4. SMEs
  5. QA/test

Project Team(s) manage and drive the project on the ground. They are responsible for the day to day deliverables and scope and delivery project outcomes according to the best practices and methodology determined by the CoE.

One of the most effective tools that should be employed while constructing the CoE is a responsibility assignment matrix or RACI chart. This is a very useful tool during the formation phase to make certain all is covered and also during the operating phase to make sure nothing “falls through the cracks.”

Let’s assume you’ve realized that in order to stay ahead of the competition and help scale your organization, you need to take your company through a Digital Transformation. In other words, you not only want to digitize your communication and transactions with your customers, but you also aim to automate much of the process with the goal of increasing customer satisfaction and gaining a larger market share.

You also know what is Digital Transaction Management (DTM), what role it plays in your organization’s transformation and how it differs from Paperless process initiatives of days past. Now you’re planning the transformation, how you’ll manage the change, and demonstrate success.

But how do you plan for this? What tools do you use to ensure success?

Starting with this post, we’ll begin to cover how you can bring about this change starting with building a Business Acceleration Adoption Plan (BAAP), the combined technology and change management plan, and how to execute on it. Here are the steps at a high level:

  1. What Success Metrics to Select
  2. How to Determine Your Organization’s DTM Maturity Index
  3. How to Use the DTM Maturity Index to Define Your Plan
  4. How to Prioritize Your Use Cases
  5. How to Deploy Your Solutions to Ensure Success
  6. Why Iterate & How to Refine Your Deployments

Today, we’ll take up the first of these topics, the metrics to use. Before that though, we first need to answer why you should build out a plan to begin with.

Why Build a Plan

It may be a foregone conclusion for some that you should build a plan for deploying any solution that changes your business processes, but the plan I’m referring to is not just another project plan. This isn’t a plan with a Work Breakdown Structure, in Project Management parlance, or a Product Backlog, borrowing from SCRUM Agile processes. Taking a step higher, this isn’t a Project Charter either.

What I’m referring to as a plan is something quite utilitarian and down to the brass tacks of data you’ll use to crystalize what goals you want to accomplish by pursuing the business process changes, why it’s important to make the change, what are the areas or use cases you’ll improve, which of those areas are of highest priority, and what business gains you’ll get from making the changes.

The intent is to develop something that you’ll continuously use to monitor success and correct, where necessary.

So, why is this important?

Far too often, we set out to change processes in our organization with little to no real results, aside from showing that we changed something. Is it enough that we no longer print paper? Not unless we demonstrate that the paper reduction cut company costs by $1M annually, which, in turn, allowed us to fund more research and development for our new products.

Is it enough that we can now track who made what changes when or when they signed an agreement? Not unless we can demonstrate that our sales staff previously closed 10 deals a month because each deal took that long to get approvals on the terms and conditions, but after only a short week-long training on the new processes and systems, they’re able to close 15 deals a month , a 50% increase in sales volume delivered “overnight”!

In general, what we’ve learned is that often the lack of success on various business process changes is associated with a lack of direction on how to prepare and promote such changes benefiting the workforce and customers. That means, we have to not only define what we’ll change, but also how we’ll prepare everyone for the changes ahead.

Then, after we make the change, we can always come back and see whether we were successful and, where we weren’t fully, we can then assess why and incorporate the lessons on better measurements, better maneuvering of the politics, better training, or any other steps to improve adoption and change management into the next set of use cases we wish to tackle.

So, why make a plan?

Because you need to know what would define success, how you can get there, whether you achieved it, and how you’ll apply the lessons to future changes.

What Success Metrics to Select

The selection of success metrics is completely dependent on what the business believes are of highest priority and value at any point in the company’s growth. Do you wish to reduce company expenditures to use funds for other purposes, or to increase profitability? Are you having trouble scaling your sales process and need to automate and better track their mundane activities? Is your customer satisfaction suffering, thus leading to losing sales and reducing your company valuation?

Here are some common metrics to consider:

1. Turn-Around Time (TAT) or Time To Close (TtC)

Turn-Around Time is, quite simply, how long it takes to complete something. It’s a phrase borrowed from computing, but can be applied to many activities. For example, how long does it take to create a new contract, send it out for review by a customer, capture corrections, make revisions, get approvals and signatures?

Your goal may be to reduce a TAT of 30 days on sales contracts by 75%. Why is this important?

It’s because the axiom of Time Value of Money tells us money has value today than the same amount in the future, given money can earn interest or it can be used for other projects or activities of value to a business.

Let’s demonstrate the importance of this measure with an example. Let’s say that our company has 5 sales staff. They close an average of 5 deals each month with an Average Deal Size (ADS) of $100k. Each deal takes about 30 days to close from the time the customer decides to buy to when we have a signed contract. That means we have an annual sales booking of $30M.

Now, with our new systems and automated processes rolled out that cost us $25k, we’re able to reduce our TAT from 30 days to 8 days. That’s a saving of 22 days. How much more value does that equate to?

Let’s calculate our Present Value of each contract. Assuming an average of 3% inflation, for the 30-day closing period under our legacy process, we get a present value of $99,754 for a $100k deal. Once we reduce our TAT from 30-days down to 8 days, we get a present value of $99,934 per deal, equal to a net gain of $180 per deal. Across the sales staff, that’s an increase in annual value of $54k or about half of a head count.

So, TAT may be a good measure.

2. Return on Investment (ROI)

What about ROI, one of management’s favorite measures of profitability? This could certainly be a part of the metrics to track, especially if we’re talking about cost savings in a process.

In our previous example, let’s add the note that our new digital process also equates to an average reduction in printing and overnight FedEx package savings of $28.94 per transaction. We now have an annual paper and printing cost savings of $8,682 with our new process. Coupled with our value gain of $54k earlier, that’s a total value gain of $62,682.

Purely looking at a single year’s return, we have an ROI of 151%. If we use the traditional calculation of technologies having a 3-year lifecycle, that’s a 452% ROI over 3 years.

ROI is certainly a good metric so long as we can measure and attribute the benefits gained as part of the new solution rollout.

3. Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) or Net Promoter Score (NPS)

All of the above have been the tangible metrics for a solution. But what about how satisfied are your customers? How much is that worth?

Even though the value here is a bit tougher to calculate, most folks inherently understand how satisfied customers have a multiplier effect in the market by not only increasing the odds of that customer providing with repeat business, but also for acting as a reference as well as recommending your products or services. The intangible aspects of customer satisfaction are what affect your company reputation and its valuation.

What we typically see are goals to increase CSI by 10 to 20% points or to turn an acceptable NPS Of 10 or 20 to a 60 or 70. These are significant gains when you consider companies such as Apple are notorious for having NPS of mid 70’s.
So, which metric should you use? The answer may very well be more than one if not all of the above. As you can see, they work hand-in-hand and can have significant consequences on one another, as well as your bottom line.

What’s more, there are other tangential metrics that may be of interest. What should be the new ADS goal? Given it’s easier to do business with you, will the sales staff be able to negotiate higher prices or offer more products and services that increase your ADS?

What should be your new total sales volume since your sales staff can now close faster? After all, it used to take 30 days to close each deal, giving each sales rep a velocity of 5 deals per month. Can they now double that amount? It depends whether the previous process had an affect on the volume. If nothing else, it may mean that they will have more time for prospecting. In that case, what should be the new number of open deals per sales rep, their pipeline value, or their win rate?

The importance to grasp here is that no matter which metric you choose, you should choose something that you can measure, baseline and aim to improve with direct calculations of what benefits the whole organization gains once your solution is fully deployed.

Stay tuned as we continue with our posts on how to build and execute on your Business Acceleration Adoption Plan.

I recently received a very simple and good question from a customer, “What’s the difference between the Paperless Office and Digital Transaction Management? Aren’t they both about using digital for paper-based document or processes?” In fact, there’s a distinct and important set of differences, though it could be somewhat subtle.

Let’s start with some definitions. Wikipedia defines Digital Transaction Management as follows:

Digital Transaction Management (DTM) is a category of cloud services designed to digitally manage document-based transactions […that] goes beyond content and document management to include e-signatures, authentication and nonrepudiation; document transfer and certification; secure archiving that goes beyond records management; and a variety of meta-processes around managing electronic transactions and the documents associated with them.

It’s worth noting, this appears very similar to the Wikipedia-provided definition of a Paperless Office:

A paperless office is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. This is done by converting documents and other papers into digital form.

How DTM and Paperless Are Similar

Aside from the obvious observation that DTM has a longer definition, it may still appear that both are describing the same concept: using digital media in place of paper, right?


In fact, Digital Transaction Management does encompass going digital with all documents, but the focus is on elements of the process that go far beyond just digitizing paper. Before taking apart the distinctions to fully grasp the differences, let’s see what else they have in common.

DTM platforms are cloud or SaaS-based (Software as a service) solutions. This could encompass everything from email (G Suite, Office 365) to document management and collaboration tools (box, GDrive, OneDrive). To this end, both DTM and the Paperless Office using modern SaaS services can fit under the same definition.

How They Are Different

The key distinction appears in the latter half definition of DTM. Namely, the inclusion of eSignatures, Authentication, Nonrepudiation, as well as Document Transfer, Certification, and Secure Archiving differentiates DTM.

ESignature, distinct from a digital signature, is a means of using a mark and supporting data to depict a physical signature.

Authentication, in the context of DTM, is a method, process or technology used to validate that a person should have access to the provided document or process. Nonrepudiation is a legal term signifying that an individual can not deny their eSignature or sent message / document. Both Authentication and Nonrepudiation are key elements that work hand-in-hand to ensure the security of the whole transaction. However, in and of themselves, they would simply be referring to authentication services that many platforms provide for allowing access to particular individuals with the right credentials.

Document Transfer refers to the ability to know how documents are not only accessed by various participants in a process, but also that they can easily and legally change hands. This is especially important in scenarios where a document can act as chattel and have inherent value. A great example of this is a loan document that can be sold by a lending institution to a loan servicing company. In such scenarios, who owns the electronic “original” copy of documents, what was the chain of custody as it was transferred from one owner to another, the audit trail associated with such transfers, becomes quite important for a DTM system.

The Certification requirement is interesting as it refers to a few factors that tie back into Security. Certification is a reference to compliance with particular standards, such as ISO27001, that ensure customer data visibility is limited to and owned by the customer, as well that the data and documents are encrypted and securely stored where such data or documents storage, even if compromised, would not reveal their content.

Lastly, Secure Archiving is a means of storage and retrieval of electronic documents that allows for ease of finding and tracking the intended document using meta data (who signed what, what was in the documents, who provided which data, etc.) as well as all associated historical and certification data intact.

An Example

An example may help clarify the distinction between DTM and other paperless process or systems.

Let’s take a sales contract where you use to store your customer data, including what they purchased, then utilize Conga for document generation to create your sales contract in a Microsoft Word format and send via an email to your customer’s known corporate email address which uses email encryption. Your customer then types in their purchase order number in Word. For the sake of keeping it paperless, and since you have a savvy customer who loves being paperless, the customer grabs in image of their wet signature (previously photographed) and places it on the signature location as an embedded image in Word, saves the document locally, then emails the contract back to you on your corporate email address. You then email the fully executed document to your fulfillment team who places the document in box for future reference.

Arguably, this process meets a paperless office initiative. There are no papers printed, and everything appears to be electronic or digital.

But does this process meet the DTM definition?

No. Here’s why. We’ve certainly tracked all of our data electronically on various platforms. In fact, we can argue that we’ve properly conducted Document Transfer to the customer using a secure and encrypted means of tracking their data, creating the contract and delivering emails and attachments to our customer. The use of Box could also meet the Secure Archiving of the document. Unfortunately, though, the transfers don’t track whether the document was, in fact, RECEIVED by the customer, only that it was sent TO the customer.

The customer likely had to use their corporate authentication to access their email. So, we may meet the Authenticated access to the document requirement…may be! Unfortunately, the authentication audit trail is not accessible nor known by a single system for the full lifetime of the transaction, So, you have no way of being able to validate that your users properly authenticated before sending the documents nor that only your customer properly gained access to the document.

Lastly, the signature may be an electronic mark used by the customer, but there’s, once again, no method of ensuring the specific intended customer adopted that mark as their signature. Nor does the document inherently track whether the intended customer placed that signature on the document. This means that the customer could challenge whether it was them who signed the document. Hence the process fails the nonrepudiation requirement as well. Additionally, since the meta data for the whole transaction is not inherently tracked in the document or a central system, the Secure Archiving requirements is not fully met either.

What’s Next

As you’ve now seen, there’s a distinct set of differences between going paperless on your processes and implementing a Digital Transaction Management solution in your Digital Transformation journey.

In our future posts, we’ll focus on how to develop a DTM strategy, what value DTM delivers and how to measure it, as well as how to implement your DTM strategy. Look for new posts on the first Tuesday of each month.

Today we kick off our first blog post for ValTeo Tech.

Our intent is to inform, educate and help our readers and customers, preparing you for your Digital Transformation and Digital Transaction Management Implementations.

Assuming you are new to the topic of Digital Transformation, we’ll start by defining it and providing an example from our experience.

In the posts ahead, we’ll continue exploring this topic by reviewing how companies develop their transformative roadmap, what is Digital Transaction Management (DTM) and how to implement one, as well as the importance of a Business Adoption Acceleration Plan to ensure a smooth transition for your organization as it continues its journey.

Digital Transformation Definition

Digital Transformation refers to the digitizing of various business processes, activities, services and models within an organization. This activity is meant to be a part of an organization’s longer-term strategy to better compete in the market by freeing the departments to worry less about the mundane and instead focus on creative solutions for their customers.

As an example, a financial services / wealth management company we’ve worked with in the past, converted their paper based new account opening process to use a custom web-based portal in conjunction with DocuSign’s Digital Transaction Management platform.

Certainly, there was value in converting all processes to be digital and auditable under a single unifying system. The automation of all associated processes for data collection, validation by the Advisor, customer signature, headquarter review / validation and signing, as well as mailing could take 30 to 45 days. With the revised processes, they took less than 7! Of course, there were also hard costs associated with the printing of all documents and their mailing. In fact, the printing and mail costs savings alone were over a million dollars on an annual basis!

These tactical and hard dollar gains were certainly key and part of the success metrics we’d set out to achieve. However, the effect on the overall company strategy, what would be considered the ultimate goal of their Digital Transformation, was something else altogether.

The Transformation came when, freed from unnecessary training, validation, and manual steps, the Advisors were able to spend more time developing relationships with existing and new customers, and the wealth management company team members were able to focus on coming up with new creative financial instruments to offer the market.

In other words, their Digital Transformation focused the people on the organization’s main goals, how to creatively meet their market’s needs, instead of wasting time on the manual or paper-based steps that detract from such activities.

What’s Next

In our next post, we’ll explore how companies develop their transformation roadmap leading to their selection of various Digital Transaction Management (DTM) platforms. In the meantime, feel free to share your questions and comments, or requests for any other topics.

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