Competency Centers: Enabling Governance as The First Stage of an Integration Strategy

Competency Centers: Enabling Governance as The First Stage of an Integration Strategy

by Jose Herrera,
July 22nd, 2014.

As outlined in a previous Groundswell blog post, we identified how organizations continue to adopt technology to accomplish their daily processes; while enabling employees to perform tasks successfully, and effortlessly. We also identified how modern integration technologies allow the seamless addition or decommission

As outlined in a previous Groundswell blog post, we identified how organizations continue to adopt technology to accomplish their daily processes; while enabling employees to perform tasks successfully, and effortlessly. We also identified how modern integration technologies allow the seamless addition or decommission of applications, and how an Integration Strategy will provide the necessary initial steps to implement Governance, usually in the form of a Competency Center; along with the acquisition and regimented implementation of those integration technologies.

Before we begin with the Competency Center aspects derived from an Integration Strategy, let us make a few clarifications to our previous blog, since we received quite a bit of feedback on it.

  • When we speak about modern integration technologies, we are referring to those Enterprise Tools that provide capabilities for Enterprise Integration (EI), Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), Extract Transform Load (ETL), Business Process Management (BPM), amongst others; and not necessarily to those implemented by more conservative organizations where information is shared, and processes triggered (ie: putting a Post-it note® in someone else’s screen or desk).
  • The depiction of technology between people and processes in our graphics is not intended to say that technology creates a barrier between the other two. Please consider these a graphical representation only to illustrate our discussion points.

So, let us begin with a Competency Center definition:

“A governance body that provides guidance and expertise within an organization, in order to coordinate, support, and act as the repository of knowledge, for a specific discipline; in order to gain efficiencies and effectiveness for a competitive advantage.”

Essentially, Competency Centers originated from the need to have proper Governance and guidance within an organization, in order to avoid proliferation of competing technologies, architectures and design patterns; and with the intention to regulate growth of a certain discipline. In this case, let’s consider this discipline is Integration, since Competency Centers can be redesigned to include Governance for Business Intelligence, Business Process Management, Enterprise Content Management, and so on.

It is important to note Competency Centers are commonly established before, or at the same time when a new integration technology is acquired; in order to early assess, document, define and guide the existing and future integration components that support the business processes which bring revenue to the organization.

That said, let’s go back to the organization we depicted in our previous blog: an Integration Strategy is in place, and the decision to acquire a new integration technology has been made.

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However, the acquisition of such integration technology is not just about the purchase, proper Governance in the form of a Competency Center must be in place ahead of time in order to avoid common pitfalls in the future, such as: competing technologies, disjointed processes, unknown data quality, unsustainable point to point interfaces, and complex systems architecture. In our experience, organizations that do not implement a Competency Centre usually have the following symptoms:

  • Tendency to implement the new technology in a disorganized way; with disparate architectures and competing design patterns.

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  • Failure to keep track of old integrations that require to be replaced, and implement new integration projects without following a process.
  • Propensity to accumulate competing and disparate technologies, architectures and patterns that will lead them back to the original problem they were trying to solve.
  • Disorganized in keeping a proper knowledge base about their integrations, with no documentation to enable sustainment.
  • Susceptibility to integrated data ownership problems, which will lead to inefficiencies and ineffectiveness; affecting the organization’s competitiveness in the marketplace.
  • Major impacts to their net profit due to data discrepancies that lead to higher costs of ownership.

The establishment of a Competency Centre within an organization helps solve and alleviate most of the issues and risks outlined before. However, like anything else, a Competency Centre will not be a ‘silver bullet’ that will immediately resolve those issues and mitigate the derived risks. A Competency Centre is designed to establish processes through technology, enabling people to leverage integration in the proper manner. As the organization matures their approach to integration, by following and enforcing Governance, and once the different foundational components of the Competency Center are clearly delineated and valued, risks will be addressed and mitigated, and issues will eventually be resolved.

In Groundswell’s experience, the minimal foundational components of a Competency Centre are as follows:

  • Governance Committee
  • Integration Inventory
  • Governance Process
  • Reference Architecture
  • Design Patterns
  • Development Guidelines
  • Methodology

It is important to note that additional components can be added to the Competency Centre in subsequent phases, as required.

This is the first of a three-post blog series. Stay tuned for our next post which will cover key components of Competency Centres, including Governance Committee, Integration Inventory, Governance Process, Reference Architecture, Design Patterns, Development Guidelines and Methodology.