There are six environment management functions in the extended Corporate Information Factory, and I've addressed governance and infrastructure management in my last few columns. The third function is the center or excellence (CoE), and it will be my focus for this and the next two columns. Simply put, a CoE is a team of people that is established to promote collaboration and the application of best practices. Three characteristics of the CoE that have a significant impact on its value and operation are its authority, role, and organization placement and staffing.

The effectiveness of the CoE is greatest when it has the authority to influence actions. This authority is provided through the governance structure (see my April 2006 column). At one end of the spectrum, the CoE is purely advisory; at the other end, it is responsible for some tasks and has the power to dictate what other groups can and cannot do. The best approach depends a lot on company culture. Often there are some areas over which the group is merely an adviser and others over which it has decision-making and enforcement authority.

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