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A center of excellence refers to a team, a shared facility or an entity that provides leadership, evangelization, best practices, research, support and/or training for a focus area. The focus area in this case might be a technology (e.g. Java), a business concept (e.g. BPM), a skill (e.g. negotiation) or a broad area of study (e.g. women's health). A center of excellence may also be aimed at revitalizing stalled initiatives.
Within an organization, a center of excellence may refer to a group of people, a department or a shared facility. It may also be known as a competency center or a capability center. The term may also refer to a network of institutions collaborating with each other to pursue excellence in a particular area. (e.g. the Rochester Area Colleges Center for Excellence in Math and Science).
In technology companies, the center of excellence concept is often associated with new software tools, technologies or associated business concepts such as Service-oriented architecture or business intelligence. In academic institutions, a center of excellence often refers to a team with a clear focus on a particular area of research; such a center may bring together faculty members from different disciplines and provide shared facilities.