As thousands of SAP customers start their journey either implementing or migrating to SAP S/4 HANA, there’s never been a better — and more critical time — to develop an SAP COE (Centre of Excellence). 

Digital transformation initiatives continue to accelerate as companies look to improve efficiencies and deliver more value to their customers. However, digital transformation also requires a company-wide cultural transformation. One way to help your organization adjust to these new changes and navigate the complex SAP system landscape is by adopting an SAP COE. 

The SAP centre of excellence aims to combine business and technical infrastructure with industry best practices to gain more business value from your SAP solution. Not only will it help you optimize your SAP platform, but it can also lead to the overall company’s success. 

This blog post outlines the steps to building a successful COE. We cover why you need an SAP COE, the benefits, and implementation strategies.

What is the SAP Center of Excellence?

Before you start building an SAP Center of Excellence, it’s important to understand its purpose. The SAP COE is a methodology that organizations develop to effectively implement and manage an SAP environment. The goal of a COE is to ensure companies get the most value out of their SAP investment. It also helps companies optimize the use of their global SAP solutions in a cost-effective way. 

The SAP system landscape can be quite complicated for an organization to adopt. That’s why a comprehensive COE revolves around learning, applying, and maintaining SAP solutions, including a dedicated SAP support strategy. This should involve operational support, application management, infrastructure management, and change management. 

The outcomes of the COE depend on the company’s objectives. Your in-house COE team should work with business process owners and IT leaders to prioritize the company’s goals and objectives.

Why Your Organization Needs an SAP COE

Traditionally, SAP customers would manage their solutions on an ad-hoc, project-by-project basis. This approach caused a domino effect of problems. Without standardized business processes, ongoing training, and institutional knowledge about SAP projects, employees waste time and energy trying to troubleshoot problems on their own. 

A successful COE is where everything comes together, so an organization can understand and manage SAP technology to deliver business outcomes. Every business will have a different outcome and measure of success.

Here are a few benefits you’ll experience in a typical SAP COE…

  • On-time, on-budget SAP implementations 
  • Customized SAP platform that works specifically for your company 
  • Standardized best practices for end-to-end processes 
  • Enhanced user experience and user productivity
  • Greater use of SAP products implemented 
  • Lower costs of SAP operations 
  • Better retention of in-house SAP experts

5 Steps to Building SAP COE Success

Let’s walk through a few of the most important steps you need to take to build a successful SAP Center of Excellence. 

Step 1: Aligning Business and IT 

The relationship between business owners and IT often fizzles out after complex implementation projects are complete. This only leads to failure. These two functions need to be aligned throughout the entire process and strategy. 

Take a look at your post-implementation support team. You need to include a mix of owners from the business side of the house, as well as those with technical expertise. This ensures you have ongoing support that remains business focused — no matter what change lies ahead. 

Step 2: Establish Governance 

The next step to achieving SAP COE success, as well as aligning business and IT, is establishing governance. This framework should include leadership, processes, and structure to support your company’s business objectives.

Step 3: Develop a Continuous Improvement Model

A domestic SAP implementation isn’t a one-and-done project. You need a sustainable and continuous plan for improvement post-go live to achieve business benefits.

Your COE team should have recurring meetings to evaluate the successes (and failures), including training, user support, system design, infrastructure and enhancement standards, data management, and business processes.

Step 4: Create a Change Management Plan 

Change is hard. But there are ways to ease it with the right plan. That’s why one of the most important steps to building the SAP Center of Excellence is creating and implementing a change management plan. Your SAP project won’t succeed without employees, users, and leadership fully onboard.

Step 5: Build a Strong SAP COE Team 

You need to ensure you have the right people dedicated to the SAP project and the responsibilities clearly outlined early on. These roles may vary depending on your budget and size, but these are some key SAP personnel to include in the project.  

Head of SAP Centre of Excellence 

This is a leadership role that is essentially the head of the COE. They’re responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly, maximizing budget and resources, and keeping the team on task. This person will report the progress to the other members of the leadership team and board. 

Core Team

There are several members of the core team that handles building the SAP solution, establishing best practices, and the COE methodology. Those members include the following: 

SAP solution architect

This is someone with a technical background and expertise in SAP architecture. They also need to know about system integrations and how to connect other systems and data to SAP.

SAP analysts 

These are individuals with business and application expertise in SAP software. They stay on top of the latest updates and developments with SAP solutions. 

Business process architect 

This role works in conjunction with the SAP solution architect but focuses on the overall business processes and goals. They’re responsible for ensuring that any changes within the technology are reflected in how the business operates. They receive new ideas and areas of improvement from across the company and determine if those innovations become part of the overall SAP solution.

Subject matter experts 

These members work within the business units and are responsible for ensuring SAP and the business work in harmony. For example, your HR business partner is a subject matter expert in human resources. On this team, they’ll work closely with the business process architect to find areas of improvement, failures, and core success factors around the processes involved in HR functions. The distinction between this role and the business process architect is that this person is an SME in the area of the business but not usually an SAP expert.

Extended team

Depending on the size and complexity of your SAP business platform, you might need to add some additional resources to your SAP COE team. These roles include:

  • Test analysts
  • Infrastructure analysts
  • Security analysts
  • Functional analysts

Project team 

The project team can consist of different roles, like a project manager and other business process experts. These can be third-party resources brought in to help support and augment the project as needed.

For example, SAP consultants at Surety Systems can partner with organizations to support various needs on the project team, including project management. These team members will report to the head of the SAP COE team.

SAP COE Implementation

Once you’ve completed the steps to building the SAP centre of excellence, you can start the fun part — implementing it. This can be done in many different ways depending on your organization’s needs. An SAP customer migrating to S/4HANA will have different requirements than those first implementing SAP. 

To guarantee success, your teams should: 

  • Define KPIs for how to measure success
  • Determine how to build the SAP COE team and whether you’ll need additional third-party resources for the project 
  • Develop a plan for ongoing training and support 
  • Set clear directions and accountability for everyone involved

Partner with Surety Systems on SAP Services

Building the SAP center of excellence is critical to ongoing success and business strategy. But building the COE is just the beginning. The journey continues as your company learns new ways to optimize its SAP technologies and maximize the benefits 24/7. 

Our team at Surety Systems can guide you on that journey. We have experience managing complex implementation projects for any SAP-related matters and projects. Our team of senior-level SAP consultants has worked with companies of all sizes on creating global SAP solutions that fit their unique business needs.

Getting Started with Us

Whether you need help implementing new SAP modules and applications in your organization, building a functional SAP COE, or anything else SAP-related, Surety Systems is here to help.

Interested in learning more about our SAP consulting services? Ready to get started on a project with our SAP experts?

Contact us today to learn how we can support success for your next SAP project.