Business Solutions with SAP

3 Development Phases for SAP Center of Excellence Maturity

May 14th, 2012 by
SAP CoE Maturity

SAP CoE Maturity

Before we get into the substance of HOW TO build a next generation IT organization that is integrated with business a quick review is in order.

Last week’s post on SAP Service Provider to Business Peer Through Center of Excellence Maturity proposed the direct maturity of the SAP IT organization.  The key principle is there are three stages or strata of Organizational Change Management Inside the SAP IT Support Organization These stages create clear distinctions between SAP Service Delivery versus Value Delivery

This week is an overview of the development and maturity details to use SAP as a Change Enabler through SAP Enabled Business Transformation for IT Leadership.  Please keep in mind this organizational development overview is just one component of the Series on SAP Competency Center or SAP Center of Excellence.  The need to continue your Steering Committee Governance for an SAP Center of Excellence cannot be ignored.  Properly formed and instituted your SAP steering committee is a key enabler for business to IT convergence. 

To achieve SAP IT Convergence Beyond Business to IT Alignment requires a senior leader change champion to make this a deliberate and accountable effort.  This is not intended to be a theoretical discussion but instead it is an action plan.  The entire initiative is as a project and needs a project plan, deliverables, key milestones, assigned resources, etc.   All of the structure and processes will need to be defined within your IT organization to move this forward.

SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development Level 1 – Internal Focus on IT Operations (Service Provider)

Internal focus is an “all hands on deck” effort.  If internal focus, or basic IT service delivery is suffering then everyone within the IT organization must work to ensure your systems are meeting business needs.  You will not gain enough trust of the business community to become a partner or peer until the basic infrastructure works. Some of the key development in this phase includes:

  • A skills matrix
  • IT staff training and development plans
  • Clear SLA requirements
  • Consistent and regular feedback and coaching

Typical activities for service delivery include:

  • Help desk functions
  • Data maintenance
  • Security and authorizations
  • Technical infrastructure (servers, system performance, database maintenance, network, etc)
  • System access (desktop, remote, mobile, etc).
  • Hardware procurement
  • Knowledge (information) base development (Wikis, SharePoint, collaboration tools, etc.)
  • Knowledge transfer to the user community (formal and informal training)
  • Super user development

Skills development focuses on SAP or technical domain competence

  • Application module specialties (SD, MM, PP, SRM, CRM, FI, APO, BObj, etc)
  • Programming languages (ABAP, Java, PHP, etc.)
  • Infrastructure (Cisco, routers, VOIP, IPv6, DHCP, LDAP, etc.)
  • SAP Solution Manager use
  • Effective presentation skills

SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development Level 2 – SAP IT Integration With the Broader Business Enterprise (Business Partner)

At this stage, depending on the size of your SAP or IT organization, there are 2 levels of leadership here: 1) delivery management, and 2) process management while developing methodologies, tools, templates, and controls.  A key part of the process management is the development of KPI indexes.  Typical activities for business (enterprise) integration include:

  • Requirements gathering
  • Blueprinting
  • System & solution architecture
  • Business case development (cost and value)
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Subject matter expert training
  • Super user training
  • KPI and PPI* development with analytics
  • Project management
  • Team and project leadership
  • Basic supervisory tasks
  • Mentoring, coaching, and staff development
  • Budget adherence
  • Sourcing and supplier management
  • SAP Solution Manager setup and maintenance for project delivery as well as BPM

Skills development focuses on project delivery and management.

  • Facilitation, meeting, and time management skills
  • Project management (training and certification)
  • Managing conflict
  • Supervisory & leadership
  • Negotiation skills
  • Organizational Change Management
  • Total Quality Management
  • Business Process modeling

SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development Level 3 – Strategic Development Around the Marketplace and Competitors (Business Peer)

Split development track for leaders – 1) product or service engineering support (i.e. the “innovation” track) or 2) sales and marketing (i.e. customer focus).  Typical activities for value added strategic technology convergence include:

  • BPI* development and analytics
  • Marketplace analytics with solution proposals
  • Customer analytics with solution proposals
  • Value analysis – ROI assessment and benefit compliance
  • Cost analysis – TCO assessment and cost savings
  • Business case review for strategic fit
  • Technology roadmap for system & solution architecture
  • System architecture integration with business process management
  • Program management
  • Program & project budget development
  • Project audits / QA’s
  • Mentoring, coaching, and development of level 2 participants
  • Vendor management

Skills development focuses on business drivers, marketplace competitive pressures, sales, and senior leadership.

  • Advertising principles
  • Business statistics
  • Market research
  • Sales management
  • International marketing
  • Sales models
  • Organizational development
  • Coaching and leadership
  • Delegation
  • Strategic planning

Conclusion on SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development

This analysis provides a framework for development of a world class, fully integrated SAP IT organization.  However, this framework only scratches the surface of a much broader and more important topic–, Organizational Change Management Inside the SAP IT Support Organization.

Communication is One Key to Business and IT Integration

One of the most critical components of a change management program is not listed above in any of the bullet points – developing communication channels.  Maybe this is naïve of me but I would expect that actively and aggressively developing clear and open lines of communication between IT at all levels with the business would be assumed.  Developing an overall communication program and plans is a basic part of any change management initiative.

There is a significant amount of additional guidance for developing your SAP Center of Excellence in the Series on SAP Competency Center or SAP Center of Excellence.  A systematic approach, including key milestones to measure progress against are important elements to success.  To that end I hope this framework contributes to the dialog and direction of future SAP IT organization maturity.


* An upcoming post in the future will look in detail at this concept of “KPI, PPI, and BPI” as Key Performance Indicators, Process Performance Indicators, and then finally Business Performance Indicators.

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SAP IT Convergence is About Business Focused Integration

August 15th, 2011 by
SAP IT Convergence for ROI

SAP IT Convergence

The problems with Enterprise SAP IT organizations are they are focused on SAP and IT.  They lose sight of their purpose which is to support and promote the broader objectives of the enterprise.  In an SAP centered IT organization this means your whole existence is about ensuring business benefit, focusing on enterprise goals, strategies, and objectives.

Somewhere between the SAP sales cycle and the SAP go-live the concept of business benefit gets lost and is never found again.  By the time you go live with the SAP application the entire IT organization becomes narrowly focused on the care and feeding of the new system.  Everything is all about the “new” ERP application and the business is left holding an empty bag –, the money is gone but the business now has to struggle through getting their operations stabilized just to continue doing business.

The entire IT organization’s existence must focus on enabling business.

Today’s enterprises will no longer pay the premium prices for SAP or IT organizations which exist in a silo.  To continue with this old way of doing SAP or IT support will turn those internal services into very expensive commodities to be outsourced to the lowest cost provider(s).  If you want to do more than survive, but rather to thrive, you must build a converged SAP or IT organization.  Without IT convergence you can expect budget cuts and more outsourcing pressures.

Research Shows a Business Focus Produces SAP Results Needed for IT Convergence

Successful SAP projects require the management and measurement of expected benefits and the purpose for the project throughout the entire SAP life-cycle (Holland and Light, pg. 1630-1636, 1999).  To gain business benefits from an ERP package like SAP you will need serious discussion of goals, direction, objectives, and what the business software can do in those areas.  After that, coordination of key resources from both business and IT is also required to create business to IT alignment (Willcocks and Sykes, pg. 33-38, 2000).  This business to IT alignment produces some great results but is just the beginning.

[F]irms that invested more heavily in business process redesign and devoted more of their IT resources to increasing customer value (e.g. quality, timeliness, convenience) had greater productivity and business performance (Hitt, Wu, and Zhou, pg. 3, 2004 citing Brynolfsson and Hitt)…   [A 1999 study on] the impact of ERP systems on self-reported company performance based on a survey of 101 US implementers of SAP R/3 packages [showed]… companies reported substantial performance improvement in several areas as a result of their ERP implementation, including their ability to provide information to customers, cycle times, and on-time completion rates (Hitt, Wu, and Zhou, pg. 5-6, 2004).

In the 2004 study just cited they also referenced compiled research by Gattiker and Goodhue (2000) which identified four broad categories of ERP benefits including (1) better information flows, standardization, integration, communication and coordination; (2) centralization of administration activities like, AP, payroll, etc. (i.e. “shared services”); (3) reduced IS maintenance costs and improved ability to deploy new IS functionality; (4) a move to “best business practices” around business processes.

Some of the additional and very interesting findings (Hitt, Wu, and Zhou, pg. 18, 2004) include:

  • Greater sales employee performance
  • Higher profit margins
  • Better return on assets including greater asset utilization
  • Higher inventory turns
  • Greater receivables management (including better “cash to cash” cycles)
  • More revenue generated per unit of input

This is impressive but notice these benefits are nearly all operational business performance results.  They certainly appeal to the CFO and improve market valuation making them meaningful. However, as operational benefits they are nearly all focused on lagging indicators of business success.  Shareholders approve of these results with the valuations of companies who implement ERP systems like SAP being “worth approximately 13% more than their non-adopting counterparts, controlling for assets, time and industry” (Hitt, Wu, and Zhou, pg. 20, 2004).  So implementing SAP has a positive impact on stock values.  While the focus on operational results generally produces good results, a focus on business and marketplace results can produce disruptive results.

Today’s SAP Enterprise Can Realize Even More Through SAP IT Convergence

All of these benefits and gains from roughly a decade ago are not enough today.  While the study from Hitt, Wu, and Zhou (as well as the others reviewed here) showed tremendous benefits for SAP they were based on studies at least 10 years old.

In the last decade the entire global landscape has dramatically changed –, the Internet and the pace of technology change has disrupted every value proposition model relied upon by business.  No area of the enterprise is off limits–, business is in the midst of a global and dynamic transformation of operations, innovation, and customer focus.  To thrive in our modern business era we will all have to move past the IT to business alignment model and push into IT convergence.

Your SAP Enterprise Can No Longer Avoid Full Business to IT Integration (i.e. “Convergence”)

The business benefit focus has been difficult for SAP or IT leaders trying to quantify returns from their investments.  Even though SAP has been at the forefront of addressing this message it is slow to catch on.  Over a year ago I highlighted SAP’s “value delivery” and value focus to implementing their software:

Studies have shown that there is a critical disconnect between projected benefits in business cases for IT investments and actual value achieved, because so many firms focus on going live with a project rather than its value delivery. An SAP / ASUG best-practice survey on the ability to capture the projected benefits of an IT project found that 73% of companies do not quantitatively measure value post-implementation (SAP Executive Insight Series, pg. 7, 2009)…  Critical business benefits for an SAP project require taking a hard look at the enterprise and its goals or direction…  (see A New SAP Implementation Methodology and Implementation Steps).

And while all of this is critical for realizing SAP ROI from your investment there is still more to do.  With this groundwork focusing on the need for business benefit, or measurable ROI, we can take the next step and start to explore full IT convergence around your SAP endeavors.

Next week we will look at some methods to create SAP IT convergence.


Gattiker, T., and Goodhue, D. Understanding the plant level costs and benefits of ERP: Will the ugly ducking always turn into a swan? In: R. Sprague, Jr. (Ed.), Proceedings of the 33rd Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences ( CD-ROM), Los Alamitos, CA: IEEE Computer Society Press, 2000.

Hitt, L., Wu, D.J., and Zhou, X. ERP Investment: Business Impact and Productivity Measures.  Wharton School at U of P (2004).

Holland, C. and Light, B. Critical Success Factors Model for ERP Implementation.  IEEE Software. May / June (1999).

Willcocks, L. P. and Sykes, R. The Role of the CIO and IT Function in ERP.  Communications of the ACM, Vol. 43, Iss. 4 (2000).

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Do You Know When To Do SAP Custom Development?

April 11th, 2011 by

Use SAP Best Business Practices for commodity processes and development for value added processesUse SAP Best Business Practices For Commodity Processes But More Carefully Evaluate Competitive Processes

The debate and discussion around SAP best business practices usually assumes an “either-or” mindset.  Either you use the SAP best business practices as they are or you abandon them (for more background on SAP’s “Best Business Practices” see What are SAP Best Business Practices Anyway).  Several commentators suggest you should not do a software vendor’s “best practices” because you are adopting the “herd” mentality and will not be competitive in the marketplace.  They completely ignore the reality that some processes do not need huge development investments.  SAP provides a number of tools and resources to evaluate its solutions for your enterprise’s business processes (see Using SAP Solution Composer for SAP Scope – Process Alignment).

Commentators who are broadly against “best practices” have failed to recognize that there are different types of business processes.  One type are what I call “commodity processes” or the things you must do to run business, that everyone does, but adds little or no value to reducing cost, increasing revenue, or improving margins.  The other type are “value added” processes where the process itself (not ancillary manual steps) directly aid in reducing cost, increasing revenue, or improving margins.  Some business processes justify custom development when a standard solution will not do certain business critical processes (see e.g. Lower SAP Application Support Costs – TCO – by Reducing Custom Solutions).

Value added processes must directly contribute to market share or address a specific pressure from a competitor or they are commodity practices which are good candidate for “best practices.”  By reducing costs or increasing revenue and margins you are directly affecting your competitive posture in the marketplace.

What Are Value Added Processes in the SAP Organization?

Let me clarify one thing here, a “value added” process can be any process in a company.  In one company or environment a process may be a commodity process, however in another company, or industry, that same process may be a value added process.  The test for a “value added” process is whether or not it adds to your business marketplace competitive advantage.  That generally means it has to reduce cost or increase revenue in more than a minimal way.  As an illustration ask yourself, if you significantly increase your margins on a slow moving, outdated, low volume product or service is it worth a huge amount of time and effort?  Was the investment worth it?

Management’s primary responsibilities are to increase revenue, reduce cost, and improve margins

A value added business process will generally have some type of reporting requirement attached to it.  Some way to measure its performance because the process is critical to the organization’s mission.  If you have developed KPI’s, goals, metrics, or reports for a particular portion of your business processing you can be sure it is a good candidate for special attention as a “value added” process (see Why Indexed KPIs are Critical for Business Performance and Success and Using Key Performance Indicators for Building a Strategy Focused Organization).

What are Commodity Processes in the SAP Organization?

In most companies “commodity” processes would include purchasing, warehousing, inventory, distribution, or other routine processes.  Commodity processes and those business functions that do not have a direct impact on your competitive position.  If you are a third-party logistics provider then your competitive processes would include warehousing and distribution.  It is the core of your business and what you do.  However in other businesses those would be commodity processes.  If you are a consumer products company then sales and marketing processes would be value added where purchasing and inventory would be more commodity processes.

Worse still, in recent years IT has been seen as a “commodity” resource to be outsourced.  As IT and technology functions have become more and more focused on cutting costs and shaving pennies from a few process areas they are finding smaller and smaller returns at more and more cost.  As new technology is rolled out and it stabilizes the business and senior management see IT as more and more of an expensive cost center with functions that can be performed elsewhere at a lower cost.  IT organizations everywhere must begin to aggressively focus on business integration and value realization or become prey to outsourcing themselves (see IT Outsourcing, Off Shore Support, Cost Cutting and IT Department Changes).

SAP Software Best Business Practice Processes

While I have long advocated for business process engineering rather than software engineering there are times when custom development is justified.  The key to understanding when you might choose one approach or the other is related to whether a process (or sub-process) is a “commodity” process or a “value added” process.

Considering cost, revenue, and margins separated from marketplace competitiveness is misplaced.  Unless there is some significant competitive advantage or directly aligned business driver then only standard functionality should be used.

When you consider your SAP software investment it would provide the greatest business benefit to pay special attention to value added processes. Do not waste time or development effort on commodity processes.  Spend the time, effort, and money on change management for commodity processes because after the initial change cost ongoing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for these SAP processes will be the least expensive (see Where do you Start with SAP Return on Investment or SAP ROI?).  Regression testing, patches, fixes, new functionality, and all of the other things you do with SAP business applications will be easier and less expensive for the commodity processes.

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