Monday, September 20, 2010

MS BI Center of Excellence ( CoE ) : How to boost your technical growth via CoE

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I have been in charge in different capacities to manage MS BI CoE activities at different points in time. And this post is to share my views on MS BI CoE. As a part of competency building exercise, almost all of the CMM Level organizations have a CoE. The general impression among the developer community for a CoE remains that it's a POC (Proof Of Concept) Hub and a documentation office, using which managers want to shine their KPIs. Bluntly speaking, I would not disagree on this to a major extent. But there are ways in which being a technical professional, one can make optimal use of time and resources available from your CoE and use it to your own advantage, which effectively serves (partially though not completely) the goals of a CoE.

1) What is a CoE: In raw terms, CoE is generally a non-billable research & development unit within an organization, where an organization employs part-time and full-time staff, with the goal of competency building and developing accelerator designs & best practices to tackle foreseen and unforeseen technical challenges.

2) How does a CoE help me: There are many ways in which a CoE can help you.

Resources: Mostly you would not find unlicensed resources like hardware/software freely available at your disposal, unless and untill you are using it for your business. CoE is mostly equipped with a lab, where you would find almost all the resources on which you can work and experiment. For ex, you might want to work on MDS (Master Data Services) / Sharepoint 2010 for PPS, but you cannot do that on your own machine as it requires 64-bit hardware and installation, and of course a license. Being part of a CoE, you can avail access to such resources and get your hands-on experience on such technologies.

Networking: Mostly developers remain immersed into their own technology, which keeps their networking scope limited with professionals from the same pool. In a CoE, the most vital aspect one can learn is to work collaboratively to achieve a common goal. Also some experts are inevitably deployed in a CoE, to guide the team. And you can approach such professionals through CoE, though they may not be your PM / Team member.

Visibility: Mostly as I said earlier, we think that managers / management promote CoE to shine their own KPIs, but don't forget that to shine their KPIs they need deliverables from you. If you manage to highlight your work tactically, you have a very nice opportunity to showcase your talent to your organization's senior leadership by the route of CoE.

Technical Authority: By showcasing your talent in the right way to the right people, you can build a technical authority in your technical stream within your organization. CoE generally remains in charge of the best practices and deliverable quality measurement techniques and documents. Say for eg, you have developed a SSIS best practices document supported by respective POCs, eventually, you can virtually establish yourself as a SSIS SME (Subject Matter Expert) within your organization.

3) What have you ( Siddharth Mehta ) achieved till date from a CoE: I recently received Capgemini India Envoy Award for the financial year 2010, not exactly for being a part of CoE, but still due to major initiatives in alignment to the same. In my past career, I have been in charge of MS BI CoE at various levels. And from my experience, I feel that it's a great way to promote personal as well as organizational growth in terms of technical expertise.

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