You see it in the news all the time: some huge, once-invincible company begins closing its doors because customers are attracted to some easier, digital alternative. The company has tried to catch up, introducing a new online service here, a Twitter campaign there, but fails to make any real impact. Why, we so often wonder, are these humongous enterprises getting beaten so badly and so suddenly, often by companies that didn’t even exist ten years ago?

The answer almost always has to do with the approach to digital that these traditional businesses employ. Their tendency is to hire a few consultants and strategists, often from other big companies, let them coordinate digital campaigns and initiatives, and maintain executive control over their work. When these initiatives fall flat, those at the top of the business quickly gut the entire division and start from scratch.

Strategies like these tend to fail for a number of reasons, but the most important problem with them is that they don’t give their digital teams the resources or the infrastructure necessary to compete with disruptive, all-digital competitors. What those teams need is a Digital Center of Excellence (DCoE).

What Does a Digital Center of Excellence Do?

To become a truly secure enterprise in today’s business environment, building a website, mobile app, and social media presence isn’t enough. Real digital leaders should be bridging the gap between physical and digital, leveraging digital capabilities in the physical world with wearables or smart devices. But before your company can become an industry leader, it needs to make wide-ranging transformations in several areas:

  • Your organization and structure
  • Your culture
  • Your digital tools and technology
  • Your focus on digital products from “must-have” features to the ideal customer experience

Completing these changes is the primary task of a Digital Center of Excellence. This department should be completely entrusted with your transformation, and be exclusively focused on digital operations. To give your company the speed and fluidity it needs to compete with digital competitors, the DCoE must:

  • Move your company away from a waterfall methodology towards an agile one, emphasizing adaptive planning and continual improvement of initiatives and products.
  • Usurp the existing company culture with a new set of enduring assets. This strategy calls for the development of comprehensive road maps and plans of action that keep your workflow dynamic rather than static, while also building teams of digital champions who act as resources for employees and spread ideas to lines of business and digital partners.
  • Researching and purchasing the latest digital tools to enhance both production and internal operations.

Who’s Involved in a Digital Center of Excellence?

This completely specialized department will be made up of a number of teams and roles, each of which emphasize accountability for individual projects, initiatives, and products. Here are just a few of the many responsibilities that a DCoE is charged with:

Experience and Design Team: These employees are tasked with developing the user experience. They determine how customers should move and feel when they use your product or service, mapping out the individual journey they want individual users to take.

Product Managers: To ensure that the experience being designed is aligned with user needs, these managers take ownership of individual products and help development teams by becoming the voice of the customer. As the design teams try to bring business goals and requirements to life, product managers serve as experts on what users actually want from individual products.

Digital Operations Team: Representing the top level of management for the Digital Center of Excellence, this team exists to make sure everything, from products to content, is running efficiently and getting things done on time. Different members are tasked with different priorities like compliance, regulatory issues, planning, maintenance, finance, and quality assurance.

Regardless of the exact roles you fill, a Digital Center of Excellence needs room to breathe and adjust. There’s no point in implementing an agile methodology if the digital experts at the core of your business aren’t free to change course. When that center produces consistent excellence, your company has the opportunity to emerge as a dynamic leader in the digital age.