The Ultimate Guide to

SAP Center of Excellence

Implementing an SAP Center of Excellence allows businesses to optimize, manage and increase the value of their SAP solution for transformation success.

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Introduction

As so many companies begin the process of migrating to SAP S/4HANA and implementing SAP Activate methodology, the need for a dedicated SAP Center of Excellence has never been greater. Digital transformation is essential for SAP customers, but many enterprises struggle to adopt, manage and update all the emerging technologies required to achieve SAP transformation success.

This is why all businesses who are either new to SAP or those who already use SAP products, can benefit from an SAP CoE. Its mission is to combine business and IT technology infrastructure with industry best practices to achieve continued value from SAP technologies. 

 

What is the SAP Center of Excellence?

The SAP Center of Excellence is the expertise given to enterprises so they are better able to implement and run the best infrastructure to support an SAP environment. The CoE aims to help businesses achieve continued value from their investments in SAP technologies, as well as optimize all SAP products and provide ongoing support.

The SAP Center of Excellence model helps businesses to learn, apply, and maintain SAP technologies; this includes building an SAP support strategy that involves designing, managing, and optimizing key processes, providing user support, and keeping the complex SAP system landscape running smoothly.

The outcome of the SAP CoE process depends entirely on the objectives of the company; whether they wish to streamline their IT infrastructure, optimize applications, or migrate to a new ERP. A dedicated CoE team will work with business leaders to prioritize what’s needed.

Critical functions of SAP CoE

The critical functions of SAP CoE can be boiled down to:

  • operational support,
  • application management and enhancements,
  • infrastructure management, and
  • change management.

Operational support helps businesses streamline day-to-day SAP operations, while application enhancements will optimize existing apps and make them more cost-effective. Change management is important for IT infrastructure migration, particularly during the move to SAP S/4HANA.

Characteristics of SAP CoE

SAP CoE is business-led and IT-supported. These two aspects of the CoE are intertwined and must be considered at every point of the strategy, especially as you optimize current systems to suit the needs of the business.

On this note, while best practices are used to guide the process, no CoE will be implemented the same way and will vary according to the size of the enterprise and how it’s organized. This guarantees that the goals of the enterprise will be met and maintained. 

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Why implement the SAP CoE?

When implementing the SAP CoE, every business will have different objectives they wish to achieve through the process. This makes it difficult to definitively pinpoint all the various things CoE can accomplish. However, there are several universal functions and benefits which are typical of the SAP Center of Excellence. Some of the benefits of SAP CoE include: 

  • Creating a unique platform for global SAP solutions that is company-specific.
  • Engaging a standard for deployment of SAP best practices. 
  • Businesses with a CoE will always have a point of contact for SAP-related matters. 
  • Will develop expertise in all areas of the SAP landscape. 
  • Improved user productivity.
  • Improved levels of service.
  • Better integration and more standardization from the SAP Solution.
  • Reduces the overall cost of SAP operations.
  • Retention of important SAP personnel.
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Building SAP CoE for success

The next step in a successful SAP Center of Excellence is compiling the team to make it happen. SAP Center of Excellence roles and team structure vary based on what is needed, and you will not need to fill each one of these positions to create a successful CoE. 

Leadership

  • Head of SAP CoE
    The Head of SAP CoE is responsible for ensuring that projects are executed and implemented to certain well-defined standards of compliance. They will lead the team and be in charge of relaying important updates and information to key stakeholders. The CoE lead will also be responsible for prioritizing projects, budgetary requirements, and keeping the team engaged and enthusiastic.

Core Team

Architects

  • SAP Solution Architect
    An SAP Architect is an SAP expert. They will understand SAP processes end-to-end and how modules fit together. They have a high degree of knowledge of SAP products and market trends and understand how high-level business processes are integrated with technology.
  • Enterprise Architect
    The Enterprise Architect works to comprehensively define, organize, standardize, and document an organization’s business and technology structures to achieve company goals. An enterprise architect will be aware of how SAP products are integrated into an enterprise's technology landscape.
  • Business Process Architect
    The role of a Business Process Architect is to oversee business transformation and is a link between business strategy and technology. They will oversee that all SAP processes are aligned with business processes and strategy.

SAP Analysts

  • SAP Security Analyst
    An SAP Security Analyst is responsible for security management and SAP IT support. They are heavily involved in the deployment or upgrade of SAP solutions from the very beginning to secure and maintain security levels throughout the process.
  • SAP Infrastructure Analyst
    An SAP Infrastructure Analyst is responsible for ensuring the SAP architecture in the cloud and connections throughout the SAP system are streamlined and secure.
  • SAP Basis Analyst
    An SAP Basis Analyst is responsible for ensuring complex SAP systems run smoothly. Their job is primarily to keep operations up and running while also identifying any potential areas of concern. 
  • SAP Functional Analysts
    The SAP Functional Analyst is one of the most important roles of the SAP CoE team. Their role demands that they have in-depth knowledge of the SAP landscape and are vital to the success of a healthy SAP environment.

Subject Matter Expert(s)

  • SAP Release Manager
    Working closely with the project managers, SAP Release Manager will oversee the life-cycle of SAP projects and will ensure the timelines for releases are adhered to and approved. 
  • SAP Test Coordinator
    The Test Coordinator ensures that adequate testing resources are available so that tests can be run in a timely manner. 

Project Team

  • SAP Project Manager
    The SAP Project Manager will essentially ensure that all aspects of an SAP project – including SAP implementation and migration – are completed efficiently and in line with wider company objectives.

SAP CoE placement

There are two ways enterprises can go about SAP CoE placement within their business landscape: either by creating an in-house Center of Excellence or outsourcing. There are pros and cons to both depending on the unique needs and structure of an organization.

  1. In-house SAP Centers of Excellence
    The benefits of having an in-house CoE team include better and more immediate access to resources and personnel, of who will already have an in-depth knowledge of how SAP and business processes intersect.

    However, maintaining an in-house team full-time is expensive and risks the turnover of key staff members. Furthermore, an in-house team may have a limited understanding of the overarching SAP landscape and industry best practices. 

  2. Outsourcing SAP Center of Excellence 
    By outsourcing a CoE team, enterprises can mitigate resource risk and can put in place SLAs (Service Level Agreements) which is more cost-effective than having an in-house team. Outsourced teams will also tend to have a deeper knowledge of SAP solutions and best practices.

    On the other hand, outsourced CoE teams require much more detailed project overviews and support resource planning, and require BPO (Business Planning Outsourcing) accountability and ownership.

SAP CoE implementation

Once an enterprise has decided to build a CoE around their SAP solution and organized a team, they can then go ahead and begin with the implementation. There are several methods an organization can implement their SAP Center of Excellence; all of which result in increased value from the software. This is especially valuable as businesses migrate their SAP software to S/4HANA.

Implementing CoE can be challenging since all businesses will require intense support as teams learn to fully adopt the IT and process changes that come with SAP implementation. To run a smooth process, SAP architects and teams should:

  • Define key goals for how to increase the value of SAP.
  • Decide on whether to build an in-house team or outsource to SAP experts, or have a hybrid.
  • Form the CoE with people who have the right mindset and specific knowledge.
  • Define a clear vision for SAP management post-implementation.
  • Provide and maintain user support and training. 
  • Define SAP guardrails in the form of governance to provide strategic direction and accountability.

Once the SAP solution goes live, it’s important for CoE teams to analyze and optimize from the get-go for continuous Improvement. This includes identifying broken or flawed business processes, inefficient system design, data management issues, etc.

A successful SAP CoE implementation will, among other things, provide guidance on how to manage change within the context of the SAP landscape so that organizations can continue to leverage the increased value from their SAP solution.

 

Conclusion

Establishing a well-implemented SAP Center of Excellence is vital to support success. However establishing a CoE is only the first step, and it is just as critical that businesses properly manage and optimize their CoE efforts to unlock the potential of their SAP solution.

To get the most from SAP CoE, organizations should allow their software to evolve and adapt alongside business objectives, allowing for flexibility and agility to drive value and make the CoE a success in the long term. 

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Answers to frequently asked questions on SAP Center of Excellence

What is an SAP Center of Excellence?

The SAP Center of Excellence provides business and IT expertise to support an organization's global or domestic SAP implementation. This is done by managing and optimizing key processes, providing user support, and keeping the complex SAP system landscape running smoothly.

What is the role of an SAP CoE?

The role of an SAP CoE will vary based on the size and need of the organization, but in general, most businesses implement a CoE to increase the overall value of their SAP solution in-line with their business objectives – whether that be making processes more cost-effective or successfully migrating to an entirely new ERP. 

What is an SAP CoE team?

An SAP CoE team is made up of SAP experts, Architects, Projects Managers, and Subject Matter Experts who work together to achieve the SAP-focused business objectives of an organization. SAP CoE teams can either be built in-house, outsourced, or can be hybrid of both.

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