Will There Always be a Need for a “Center of Excellence”?

Lithuania Excellence ConceptCenters of Excellence are known by many names: Digital Centers of Excellence, Multi-Channel Marketing, Innovation Centers. Regardless of what they’re called, their goal is always the same: to ensure the organization is embracing the latest innovations in technology and communications. I’ve spent more than 15 years working in the healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing communications field as part of e-marketing teams that became digital teams that became multi-channel teams, and I believe there will always be a need for these internal groups. Each of these teams began with the idea that they would be phased out once the organization had evolved their marketing and digital was integrated into their DNA.

But, it’s never happened. After watching this evolution several times and seeing teams dissolved only to emerge a few years later under a new name and structure, they never really go away; there is always a need for people to thoroughly understand the latest trends inside and outside the industry and how they impact an organization. The organization wastes a lot of time and resources when it disbands these internal groups because the brand teams simply doesn’t have the time nor incentive to share best practices and ways that digital initiatives impact the business with the rest of the organization. They are too focused on successfully delivering on their own goals and objectives. As a result, a centralized group is better equipped to collect the learnings and share them in a way that can be applied for optimal business impact across the entire organization.

These groups, regardless of what they are called, are ultimately charged with the task of change management in an organization. They must ensure the organization is ready and understands how to participate effectively in the ever-changing technology and communications landscape. Organizations need to recognize that embracing digital requires real organizational transformation – they need to evolve and break down silos to remain competitive.

Social media is a perfect example: there is still no clarity in our industry of whether it is a marketing, public relations, or customer service tactic (I believe it is all) and without ownership, it flounders in its execution and remains inefficient and unsupported. Healthcare organizations are currently not organizationally structured to participate effectively in this channel (see our view on this in the MM&M article, Should Pharma Abandon Social Media?).

The groups that are most successful build relationships at all levels of the organization, finding key influencers at each level who will help facilitate change. Without these Centers of Excellence, the organization is left with disparate pockets of excellence and no way to apply those learnings across the organization. Organizations that want to evolve to meet their customers™ changing needs require people to lead the charge who understand the transformable nature of digital: a group that can develop a digital strategy and implement it across the organization. Until organizations truly become digital “as a means of doing business instead of just a communication tactic” these groups are here to stay and those that learn to use them most effectively will lead the way.

Beth Bengtson
Beth, co-founder and principal of Hale Advisors, has more than 15 years of experience in healthcare, digital media, and interactive strategic communications, working on both agency and client sides for Fortune 500 and small clients alike. Her focus has been on helping clients evolve their organizations through a broad understanding of the impact of digital on their lives and thus business practices. Beyond her client work, Beth has taught college-level marketing and spoken at conferences and for clients on the topics of digital marketing and sustainability communications in the healthcare industry.

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