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Build an Insight Engine with an Insights Center of Excellence (iCOE)


Uncovering customer insights and applying them at scale is critical. Understanding customer needs, preferences, and behaviors are core competencies at best in class organizations. As VP of Strategic Consulting & Solutions at Brooks Bell, I’d like to give you some tips to help you bring customer insights to life in your organization. I’ll introduce you to a concept that will optimize collaboration, facilitate sharing, and build accountability: an Insights Center of Excellence (iCOE).

Brooks Bell’s Insights Flywheel

At Brooks Bell, we specialize in creating teams capable of uncovering insights in all they do, sharing them across their organizations, and taking quick action. We help our clients gather insights through experimentation, advanced analytics, and customer research. Our consulting services ensure teams are equipped with the right people, processes, and governance to execute efficiently and drive value for their company. This customer insight flywheel builds momentum around insight-driven decisions across organizations and drives success. I lead a team of consultants to build this capability for top brands.

We’ve navigated many different types of organizations, seen common challenges, and have crafted customized solutions to overcome them.

Defining an iCOE

Centers of Excellence are used across industries – technology, data, business processes, security, innovation, even stretching into academia and the military. The concept of a COE is a known, proven one. And its primary function is to provide leadership, best practices, research, support or training for a specific area of focus. What I’d like to walk you through in this article is the application of a COE to insights.

An Insights Center of Excellence (iCOE) is a centralized team or function that focuses on generating, sharing, and applying customer insights across the organization. It acts as a hub that brings together experts, tools, and best practices, fostering a culture of data-driven decision-making.

Why Consider an iCOE

The expertise, governance, and collaborative nature of a COE lends itself to customer insight generation and sharing. Insights come from many places in an organization, and so bringing them together is a common obstacle to overcome. By employing a COE structure, organizations will bridge the gaps in insight creation and sharing.

The benefits of this include more insights, diversity of insights, wider application of insights, iteration of insights, and overall alignment. And from a culture perspective, there is enhanced collaboration that builds relationships alongside a greater appreciation for the insights and work being done by teams people may not often interface with.

Common Challenges of an iCOE

While implementing an iCOE can bring numerous benefits, it is common to experience headwinds when integrating with existing processes, gaining organizational buy-in, and ensuring the quality and consistency of insights. Proper planning and clear communication are key to overcoming these obstacles. We help clients with process transformation and organizational effectiveness, and I’ve seen tremendous benefit from working with an expert partner to guide this process. It can be quite disruptive if not approached correctly, so ensure you’re taking the time to align on strategy and build a communication plan.

How to Build an iCOE

You may be thinking “Sounds great! How do I get started?” I can help! Our recommendations are tailored to the specific needs of each organization, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. However, I have some tips:

  • Formalize your vision for the iCOE. What is the vision and purpose of this group? What outcomes do you want the iCOE to achieve for your organization? Once you have set your vision, you can create your insights roadmap or plan. Determine how you’ll measure progress and what success looks like 3, 6, 12 months from now. You’ll find yourself coming back to this frequently, so use it as your true north.
  • Develop a shared definition of an insight. Everyone’s understanding of what an insight is may vary. This variability changes how insights are written and their perceived applicability in decision-making. Standardizing the terminology and definition, allows individuals to better understand insight value, generation and application, thus fueling the insight flywheel.
  • Start your iCOE with existing team members. It will be an additional responsibility on their plate, but this will be a faster and more successful way to get the ball rolling. You have experts in-house. Find them! You’re looking for people that know their craft well, love to talk about it, have influence in the organization, and are comfortable building something new. At this stage, it’s smarter to put a budget toward a partner that can help you stand up the structure and prove ROI. This foundation-setting will make a stronger business case for expansion later.
  • Map your insight centers and pull them in. These are teams within your organization that have access to customers and information that lead to great insights. Think about research, customer service, marketing, product, business intelligence, etc. Some of these teams may be great at generating, sharing and using insights already, but I assure you there are others that have the capability that aren’t using it. The iCOE and organization will get so much value from their participation, and they will too as part of the organization’s insight network.
  • Define roles, responsibilities and process. Once you’ve identified specific key players and teams in key areas, it’s time to put definition around roles, responsibilities and process structure that will set the foundation of your iCOE and will enable collaboration, accountability and more informed decision-making across your organization.

We’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative impact of iCOEs on our clients’ customer insights initiatives. By establishing a strong organizational structure and implementing effective COE practices, organizations can achieve remarkable results.

If you’re looking to establish an iCOE for your customer insights efforts, I’d love to chat more with you. Contact us via the contact button on the site or DM me on LinkedIn you can find my original post below.

Originally posted on LinkedIn