Centres of excellence and shared service teams are nothing new. Its a concept that Technology Management teams have been wrestling with for years, if not decades in an effort to streamline underlying technical architecture and simplify application landscapes. In the digital world, its a less well established approach, but one that is gaining momentum as an emerging set of best practices forms around how to organize and manage a global digital strategy.

Pete Blackshaw has led the charge over the last couple of years at Nestle, establishing a widely publicised Digital Acceleration Team. The team focuses on “listening, engaging, inspiring and transforming” across Nestle’s disparate and diverse markets and brands. Its not just an operational centre of excellence, it walks a fine line between dictating to local teams and being a paper tiger with no real influence. And it does so very effectively.

But why “acceleration team” and not “centre of excellence”.

I believe that the language is important. For a local team, the idea that a global “centre of excellence” is going to roll up and tell them what to do can be a very negative experience. Do the global team understand the nuances of my market? Will migrating our lean, agile eCommerce platform onto the behemoth enterprise platform slow us down?

“Acceleration” helps create a more positive and collaborative approach.  

Forrester’s Digital Maturity Modelis a useful tool here. It benchmarks digital teams across the four dimensions of Culture, Organization, Technology and Metrics. This in itself can be a useful exercise, but the model can help you think about the role of a digital acceleration team and how it interfaces with local business units. When we look at effective digital shared service teams, we find that they operate across these four dimensions with a set of best practices:

  • Culture. Educate and inspire local teams to embrace digital and share best practices.
  • Organization. Provide specialist resources to reinforce local teams as they develop new digital capabilities.
  • Technology. Develop shared platforms and processes to accelerate digital adoption.
  • Metrics. Establish common metrics to measure the maturity and success of local teams.

But its not just global firms that benefit from establishing a shared service capability. If your firm has multiple divisions, lines of business, product groups or other organizational structures, then you may see benefit in building a central digital team to drive strategy and create common services, while you embed digital execution into your operational business units to make sure digital is fine-tuned to their unique needs.

In our latest report, Establish a Digital Acceleration Team, we dig deeper into the strategies that this emerging breed of digital centre of excellence are employing to help their firms drive deeper value from digital.