Why you need a SAP Centre of Excellence
Whatever stage an organisation is at in its SAP maturity, it is not too late to put the required infrastructure in place to support the SAP environment. Many organisations see a Centre of Excellence as an important part of that infrastructure.
In the ‘SAP Green Book’ Michael Doane defines a Centre of Excellence as, “an organisation that will sustain and improve whatever level of maturity [of SAP implementation] has been maintained.”
Generally, the Centre of Excellence is a business led, IT supported function. The number of staff in the function and its precise composition will be determined by the needs of the organisation and level of SAP implementation. There is no universally accepted standard or structure for Centres of Excellence; again, these will differ from organisation to organisation. As such, there is no “off the shelf” solution or universally accepted road map for implementing a Centre of Excellence.
The tasks a Centre of Excellence will undertake include:
- Acting as a central contact point for all SAP matters.
- Providing operational support to end users.
- Taking ownership of remaining IT issues that were in place at go-live.
- Providing SAP application management and enhancement.
- Identifying business processes that are not working and those that can be improved relating to the SAP implementation. This can mean simplifying complex processes where end users are having difficulty post-go-live.
- Developing an understanding of how the benefits identified by the SAP implementation compare to those that were defined at the start of the project and then continuing to drive actions so they are realised.
- Making sure that ongoing business projects are aligned to the SAP road map. For example, there may be a drive to introduce a system or process to solve a business problem that can be covered by a SAP module that the company has bought or can obtain in the future.
- Infrastructure management; including developing infrastructure standards and procedures.
- Making sure that ongoing training and knowledge transfer to end users are in place.
- Enhancing the value of SAP across the business for the long term.
Many organisations develop their Centre of Excellence over time but those which are “best in class” build it during the SAP implementation. The aim is to make sure there is continued momentum following go-live and that there is not a period where the foot is taken off the pedal.
Doane estimates that there will shortly be thousands of companies who will have had SAP for 20 years and that SAP becomes a long term commitment. Yet one of the biggest hurdles in setting up a Centre of Excellence is getting senior management commitment to what is ultimately a long-term venture.
Establishing a Centre of Excellence should be an important factor in any SAP implementation strategy. It does not have to be perfect on the first day after go-live and it will grow and mature as the organisation gets used to SAP. Many SAP experts suggest letting the Centre of Excellence grow according to evolving business objectives. Agility and being able to adapt to changing end user, business and company requirements are important factors for the Centre of Excellence to drive value to the organisation and to guarantee the function’s long term success.