Why you need a Platform Center of Excellence

February 14, 2021
Promises, promises

Building applications faster, with more functionality and better overall value for your business and customers by using a low-code/no-code platform (“Platform”) sounds awesome.  Who doesn’t want to cut development time in half, reduce headcount by a third and eliminate time consuming and resource-eating tasks like pipeline management or obtaining the Authority To Operate (“ATO”)?  No one I know to be sure.   However, simply deploying a Platform does not automatically get you to this dream state.  As many of us are all too aware, technology is the easy part.  People and processes have much more inertia and are often very hard to move.

Organizations must avoid the mistake of buying platforms without a strategy and plan for industrializing the generation of new applications in a way that allows for reusable assets and tighter integration with previously built applications at scale.  Otherwise, the platform is just another tool with new cost that creates a whole new set of siloed applications across the enterprise.  The last thing we want to do is spawn a whole new generation of legacy systems.

So how do we keep ourselves out of this situation?

Mass customization

Call me strange, but one of the things I enjoy doing in any consulting project is to relate the client’s situation to examples outside of the day-to-day aspects of their jobs.  This has the effect of giving new perspective and unlocking new ways of thinking that can help drive capabilities to higher levels of quality and value.  Here I like to suggest that Platforms are analogous to factories where applications can be manufactured just like cars that come off an assembly line.  Out of the box Platform features can be thought of as individual sub-assemblies that can be quickly configured for the particular use case and moved down the production line to the next station.   Platform stakeholders can be thought of as automotive OEM suppliers that must adhere to strict tolerances and production schedules to ensure that the application exits the factory on time and within budget.  And end users can be thought of as drivers who can easily walk by your dealer to the next one if your cars aren’t winning automotive awards or regularly surpassing federal safety guidelines.

Changing the Platform mindset from tool to factory draws parallels to manufacturing.  In manufacturing, a centralized coordination function is required to plan and adjust for all of the variables that can be encountered during production runs.  That coordination is essential to ensure communication is open both upstream and downstream of any bottlenecks to allow for acceleration or deceleration to prevent significant sunk material, labor or transportation costs.  At the same time, frameworks must be designed such that those managing smaller units of work can solve problems on their own without requiring the coordinating bodies to interfere.

Imagining the Platform as a factory, this means providing technical teams with a set of tools, reusable assets, governance rules, knowledge, training, standards, and access to just-in-time experts to build their sub-assemblies in the most resource efficient manner possible.  This means providing the business with a deep understanding of the capabilities of their new Platform factory so that they are best prepared to react to customer demand with products that will meet their needs.  And, not surprisingly, it also means providing senior leadership with data driven proof that the applications produced in the Platform factory are moving the needles in the right direction.

So how do we get this firing on all cylinders?  

If you build it, they will come

Enter the Platform Center of Excellence (“COE”).  The COE becomes the logistical and knowledge backbone of the Platform factory enabling the organization to achieve application delivery at scale.  While the term ‘center of excellence’ is not new. they often are loosely aligned individuals that may come from several locations within IT and the business but who may not have much power to change the way things are done.  Their main function is usually to serve in a resource support role such as assisting project teams transform from waterfall to Agile.  

At Digital Forge, we have helped clients define COEs that address the following activity streams.

·       Platform Strategy

·       Technical and Functional Roadmap

·       Governance

·       Platform Evaluation

·       Market Research

·       Solution Architecture Review

·       Platform Use Case Management

·       Product Management/SDLC Integration

·       Training and Enablement

·       Performance and Value Monitoring

·       Platform Administration

·       Platform Development

·       Platform Testing

·       Business Process Design

·       User Interface Design

·       Pipeline Management

·       Infrastructure Support

Forging Ahead

Built and staffed intelligently, the Platform COE drives both knowledge and subject matter expertise with just the right level of governance and technical capabilities to enable Platform constituents to become proficient and contribute to the overall output of the program but do so in a way that is coordinated to the larger enterprise strategy.  The success of the COE then becomes self-fulfilling through additional stakeholder participation driving even higher levels of output and value.

About Digital Forge

Digital Forge, LLC advances digital design and transformation of enterprises into world-class, high performing organizations ready to take on the challenges associated with an ever-accelerating emergence of new technologies and increasingly hard to meet customer expectations.  Our integrated digital design and transformation framework encompasses a holistic digital strategy combined with low-code/no-code application platforms and state-of-the-art networking capabilities to ensure your business outperforms competitors and pleases customers for years to come.  With decades of experience in strategy, management and IT consulting experience, our team of highly skilled practitioners partners with clients to achieve new levels of success.

About the author

Chip Taliaferro is the Founder and Chief Digital Guy at Digital Forge.  You can connect with him on LinkedIn or directly via email at chip.taliaferro@digital-forge.io