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What is an Agile Centre of Excellence?

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Centre of Excellence explained

First up, let’s understand what we mean by a Centre of Excellence (CoE).

Simply put, a Centre of Excellence is important when we have people with very specific skillsets and it’s not feasible to scale to the rest of the organisation.  This is due to high cost and limited amount of work to be done with this skillset.

So in a large organisation, people with “Agile Coaching” skillsets are grouped in an Agile CoE, as it’s not feasible to have an Agile Coach embedded in each cross-functional team in the organisation.

Agile Centre of Excellence

An Agile Centre of Excellence (Agile CoE) is a team set up to be the custodian of Agile ways of working in an organisation.  The Agile CoE is the driver of transformation.

It’s formed to address a skills/knowledge gap within an Agile organisation.  It delivers expertise and activities to support continuous improvements.

“A CoE serves as the primary resource or Single Source of Truth for Agile practitioners within an organisation,” explains Patrick Fitzgerald, a senior consultant in Los Angeles.  

Patrick says, “Having such a function enables the organisation to continuously scale and improve its Agile capabilities and ultimately maximise the value captured by adopting a new way of working.”

Their purpose is to help squads embed agile practices, facilitate ceremonies and foster effective team dynamics and operating rhythms. 

Benny Ko from our Melbourne office says, “It’s very important because the people across the business need to be trained and understand the fundamentals of Agile. This will help teams to transition into agile ways of working from conducting ceremonies to alignment across tribes.”

In other words, an Agile Centre of Excellence serves as the engine driving the adoption of the Agile mindset in the organisation.

Dave Stewart, our project lead in Toronto explains, “They not only serve as the learning centre for teams to learn about methodologies and practices, but they also help their organisations look for solutions to business problems that embody Agile values and principles.”

 “These solutions in turn support the teams and help further drive delivery of value to customers. This alignment is critical to the sustained success of Agile transformations. Businesses that establish an empowered Agile CoE see benefits not only at the team level but throughout their organisational ecosystem,” says Dave.

An Agile Centre of Excellence has 3 missions.
  1. Embed Agile practices in an organisation
  2. Foster new mindsets & behaviours
  3. Maximise performance of Tribes and Squads

When would a business need an Agile Centre of Excellence?

An organisation will identify that they need a CoE when there isn’t enough of that capability. Rachna Verma, a senior consultant in Sydney explains, “CoE’s are important like any other agile team structure because they contain capabilities that are required by cross functional teams.”

Fiona Royall, a senior consultant in Melbourne agrees, “A business may identify they need an agile CoE if they have a skill/knowledge gap within their organisation that needs to be addressed.”

Usually an assessment is done with the organisation to discuss if and when an Agile CoE is established.

What are the roles in an Agile Centre of Excellence?

An Agile centre of excellence typically houses a small group of specialist agile experts. These small teams are made up of Agile CoE lead, a Leadership coach, and Agile coaches.   

As Rachna says, “The team is a small group of finite resources that need to be shared across the organisation. Eg. Finance, HR, Legal.”    

Fiona says, “They’re important as they can act as agile champions, share and build capability within their CoE and also across the broader operating model. They can act as a community of support, sharing and continuous improvement.”

The Agile coach in a CoE will share best practices across teams, and provide support to ensure the quality of Epics and user stories.

There are three key areas in which Agile coaches operate:

  1. Agile coaches help others master essential skills
  2. Coaches work directly with people
  3. Coaches embed principles & practices that increase organisational agility

Responsibilities of the Agile Coach in an Agile Centre of Excellence

Image 2: Responsibilities of an Agile CoE.

The Agile Coaches develop and iterate on best practices within the Agile CoE. They agree on a common message to be shared with the rest of the organisation.

“This ensures people have the same understanding of ways of working. Agile Coaches will then tailor the best practices developed in the CoE to suit the situation at hand and maximise benefit for the teams and individuals they are coaching,” explains Mina Gurgis, a senior consultant in Sydney.

These are the four key responsibilities of the Agile Coach.

  1. Coaching/Training
  2. Embedding Artefacts and Ceremonies
  3. Supporting squad members
  4. Agile Maturity Assessments & Pulse Checks

If your organisation is looking to establish an Agile Centre of Excellence, get in touch with us below. We’ll get back to you straight away to discuss your needs.

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