The last few weeks have focused on the path for IT leaders to become strategic business partners. Academic research shows that for Sustained Business Value from SAP Business Software you must focus technology implementation efforts on business benefits. This includes metrics to determine if business goals were achieved by the software implementation effort.
Achieving Business Value from SAP Investment was about case studies which evaluated organizations which applied a business benefits approach. These case studies determined the business benefits focus also requires organizational change management. Several years before these case studies I wrote about SAP as a Change Enabler which provides a good summary of what the authors found in their 35 page study.
On this journey to SAP Enabled Business Transformation for IT Leadership we reviewed some of the senior leadership work by CIO Magazine and their 3 stage competency model of:
- Internal Focus
- Enterprise Focus
- External Focus
Insight and activities to address the Internal Focus area were provided in the How To Steps in the SAP Business Transformation Journey and the Phase 6 RUN SAP ASAP Methodology. This post will offer insight on taking your SAP or IT organization to the next level. The focus now is on the Enterprise area with additional efforts to prepare your SAP IT support organization for External focus.
Making SAP About Business Transformation and Business Benefit
To move your SAP organization to the next level means your efforts must take SAP IT Convergence Beyond Business to IT Alignment. As previously discussed, the Internal Focus in this maturity model is about “keeping the lights on” with your enterprise systems. The next level requires a deliberate focus on convergence by IT leadership because SAP IT Convergence is About Business Focused Integration–, it is NOT about IT!
IT leaders must be deliberate about working through a full IT competency model–, there are no shortcuts!
There is no “magical formula” for suddenly transforming your SAP or IT organization into a market and customer focused powerhouse. It is a methodical path driven by an internal (senior level) champion to move the entire IT organization through the preliminary steps before arriving at the external market / customer / business competitive pressure focus. Here is the ugly reality, no matter how smart, talented, diligent, hardworking, dedicated, or committed your IT staff are, or how hard you work as a leader, until you gain a trusted peer relationship with the business any externally focused efforts will not be well received. The good news for many SAP organizations who provided great business resources for your SAP project is that you have a lot of talent to tap into to help bridge the business gap for an Enterprise Focus.
Some of the Steps to Achieve SAP IT Convergence require deliberate efforts at internal SAP support organization transformation. A few maturity characteristics of that enterprise focus are:
- SAP and IT staff communications, internally and externally, are more in business language rather than technology.
- Proactively seeks out new business opportunities.
- Able to interpret, and then implement, business marketplace requirements by turning them into technology solutions.
- Adapts to business market conditions.
- Not worried about the latest “techie buzz” like social media (Twitter, Facebook), cloud, etc. unless there is a direct business marketplace connection.
To be effective you must work at Integrating Business Stakeholders as Part of SAP IT Convergence. I call a “converged” SAP or IT organization a “Center of Excellence” because it goes far beyond the SAP Center of Expertise. The SAP Center of Excellence concept should not to be confused with SAP’s “borrowing” of the term in some of the sales literature. Generally when SAP refers to a “Center of Excellence” they are talking about their “lights on” support oriented “Center of Expertise” where you as the customer take care of some of the support you pay them for. To achieve this you need continued and ongoing Steering Committee Governance for an SAP Center of Excellence.
Organizational Change for the SAP and IT staff
One of the key arrangements I have seen over the years, which some of the commentators are beginning to explore, is a dual IT organization. One part focuses on day to day support (“lights on”) while the other part addresses key business needs in the business environment.
1) Create a solid internal “anchor” focus with emphasis on bridging the business perception of any “capability/expectation gap” (Louie Ehrlich, President, Chevron Information Technology Company, and CIO, Chevron Corp).
That capability / expectation gap is related to taking care of the “lights on” IT functions in such a way that IT is effective and reliable. The internal focus is where IT operates almost like a utility, the electricity is on but we really don’t think about it unless it goes out and then it is a big disruption because it is generally so reliable.
2) Try to develop more internal employee “exchange programs”. This is an effective approach to build bridges between business and IT. But it really should go both ways. Not just IT embedded into the business, but certain business stakeholders embedded into IT. This is one way to “be deliberate” integrating your IT organization into the business.
Work to create a “converged” IT organization RATHER than an “aligned” IT organization.
As my previous post on ERP II & ERP III – SAP Business IT Revolution, from a TechRepublic.com article:
“IT has to stop thinking of itself as a business utility and start seeing itself as a business catalyst. In order to do that, it’s going to have to think in business terms and economic impact for everything it does…”
Creating a Learning Organization Through Collaboration and Knowledge Management
Another key phase which we may visit in the future is about creating a “learning organization” first within the circles of the SAP IT organization, and then within the broader business community. This collaboration network will serve as a critical foundation for the third stage, or the “external” focus. In ERP III – Is the Integration of Collaboration the Future of Enterprise Applications we take a look at Learning Organizations, Knowledge Transfer, and Knowledge Management (rather than information management).
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