Generally, a Center Of Excellence (COE) is a business unit that has organization-wide authority. It coordinates continuous improvement initiatives, ensures that value is achieved in all areas, and fulfils the role of organizational thought-leader or consultant.
COEs are also created to capture an organization's best practices, standards and industry benchmarks. The COE facilitates the approval, transfer and integration of these best practices across the organization. For example, in a global manufacturing company, the COE may identify a best practice used in its European plant, tweak it, and implement the practice in its Saudi plant, too.
There seems to be confusion between the roles of a Project Management Office (PMO) and a PMCOE. Some argue that the PMO sufficiently leads the organization to project management excellence. So, why would an organization with a well-structured PMO need a PMCOE?
In his book, Advanced Project Management: Best Practices on Implementation, Second Edition, project management expert Dr. Harold Kerzner states:
"The definition of project management excellence must extend well beyond experience and success ... Success is measured by having achieved performance that is in the best interest of the whole company, as well as having completed a specific project."
PMOs and COEs are only successful when they achieve the objectives for which they are created. Leaders in the profession note that the number of projects or years an organization has been delivering projects can't define project management excellence. Neither can the methodology it follows.
Larger, complex organizations may need a PMO and a PMCOE -- but their roles should be clearly defined.
A PMO is an important central hub with a mandate to coordinate and deliver all project activities as determined by the organization's needs.
PMCOE executives would operate as part of the business decision-making process. These individuals would report on the organization's project portfolio as a whole and provide the organization with project consultancy.
The PMCOE also supports the PMO through research, innovation and leadership initiatives and bridges the gap between PMO teams and business units within the organization.
What do you think? Are PMO's and COE's the same? Is a PMCOE just a glorified PMO? Have you come across a PMO and PMCOE in the same organization? Is there clear role differentiation?