Business Solutions with SAP

Toward an SAP Center of Excellence or SAP Competency Center – PART 2

July 27th, 2010 by

SAP Production Support 2Part 2 of 3

SAP Competency Center – Doing Things Right

SAP Center of Excellence – Doing the Right Things

The SAP Center of Excellence approach assumes a dynamic organization that is experiencing a fair amount of change, at a pace that causes the organization to stretch.  This is usually the case with growth oriented companies who are seeking to find new competitive methods and ways of operating in a challenging global climate.

The SAP Competency Center approach assumes a fairly stable business model, without significant market disruptors, and a mature marketplace.  This is generally seen with older companies who compete in commodity spaces.  The SAP Competency Center is sometimes called an SAP Center of Expertise, but without more direct and clearly aligned business integration the organization name does not make it a true center of excellence.

The SAP Center of Excellence Structure and Purpose

For purposes of this post we will focus primarily on the SAP Center of Excellence structure or model (where IT organizations focus on business to SAP alignment).  This Center of Excellence structure first requires building out some of the stability infrastructure that comes from developing an SAP Competency Center.  The SAP Competency Center Framework is used to stabilize the application and business processes immediately after go-live.  The  SAP Competency Center becomes the foundation for the Center of Excellence structure (to aggressively focus on market and competitive pressures).

The basic differences between an SAP Competency Center and an SAP Center of Excellence are related to maturity and function.

The competency center seeks to employ change management strategies to regain system and business stability; the center of excellence seeks to integrate application support staff and support technology into the business for competitive advantage.

SAP Competency Centers are REACTIVE to any business need, waiting for unsolicited help desk tickets or business input.  Competency Centers react to requirements.

SAP Centers of Excellence on the other hand are PROACTIVE and try to find ways to apply technology and resources to value propositions and competitive pressures in an ongoing manner.  Centers of Excellence actively look for value opportunities.

SAP Competency Center – Doing Things Right

From an SAP Competency Center approach there is a strong focus on:

  • resolving day to day activities,
  • preserving existing market share (customer retention),
  • managing help desk requests,
  • and a general focus on stability and structure.

The Competency Center approach is needed for some time after a new SAP implementation goes into production, and it is a good place to start for companies who want to build a true Center of Excellence.  However, as Peter Drucker has noted there is a difference in philosophy around doing things right or doing the right things.  SAP Competency Center management does not seek to achieve a strong, changing, vibrant dynamic within the business.

The Competency Center framework and approach seeks stability, predictability and short to mid-term incremental improvements.  Not too much change and not too much disruption.  The goal of a competency center is to maintain smooth operations after the period of system stabilization.  Long term adoption of an SAP Competency Center framework is for those companies who have a business model that is both change and risk averse.  Otherwise the SAP Competency Center framework should become the foundational building blocks for an SAP Center of Excellence Structure shortly after achieving stable production operations.

SAP Center of Excellence – Doing the Right Things

The SAP Center of Excellence approach assumes a more aggressive business model, one that is dynamic and pursuing market opportunities.  This model and approach are well suited to growth oriented companies no matter what their size.  The idea of doing the right things means that in the process of change some things may not always be done at their optimal level.  Business is not perfect, markets are not perfect, no matter how hard companies may try, products and services are not perfect.  This does not mean they are sloppy, it just means you don’t have the luxury of pursuing the last mile of perfection.

The SAP Center of Excellence structure tries to find the right things to do to continue to be a market maker or a market mover.  This usually means creating a very dynamic and fluid SAP support organization that is more closely integrated into the business (and not just aligned to it). Because of the pace, and the struggles involved in being a market maker or market mover some things can not always be anticipated.

Is Your Company a Good Fit for an SAP Center of Excellence?

Companies that are good candidates for an SAP Center of Excellence are (or want to be) able to change and adapt quickly because of market necessities or because it is part of their business model. Together with many of the items listed for Competency Center focused companies, those who want to implement an SAP Center of Excellence structure have a strong focus on:

  • wanting to gain market share, or wanting to protect market share in a volatile marketplace
  • customer retention and customer acquisition,
  • market intelligence,
  • innovation,
  • market responsiveness (the ability to quickly adapt and change).

The SAP Center of Excellence requires new methods, tools, and approaches for companies to achieve this level of business performance.  The SAP Center of Excellence at its heart and soul is more about business than it is about applications.  So, with a firm SAP Competency Center framework and management foundation,

“a true SAP Center of Excellence seeks to do the right things the right way.”

In the next post we will look at a first pass at a very high level SAP Center of Excellence framework and model.  Many of these components would also be in the Competency Center, but in a Center of Excellence the ability and need for collaboration and change is much more aggressive.


Toward an SAP Center of Excellence or SAP Competency Center – PART 1

Explaining the differences between an SAP Competency Center or sometimes referred to as an SAP Center of Expertise and an SAP Center of Excellence.  As Peter Drucker wrote either Do Things Right or Do the Right Things.

Toward an SAP Center of Excellence or SAP Competency Center – PART 2

A more complete and thorough explanation of the differences between the SAP Competency Center (or Expertise Center) and the SAP Center of Excellence (or the Business Transformation Center).  An understanding the operating differences and how the Competency Center is focused on reactive processing of things like help desk tickets, problem resolution, data correction, and knowledge transfer.

Toward an SAP Center of Excellence or SAP Competency Center – PART 3

Business model application of steps, techniques, and methods to produce an SAP Center of Expertise or an SAP Business Transformation Center.  The major business transformation steps on moving from an SAP Competency Center to an SAP Center of Excellence.

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Where do you Start with SAP Return on Investment or SAP ROI?

July 19th, 2010 by

SAP Return on Investment or ROI

See PART 1SAP Implementation is an Investment NOT an Event

How much is it going to cost and how long is it going to take?  That is the classic approach to SAP implementations.  Today it’s not enough and the marketplace is demanding more from their IT dollars.  Now there are questions about measuring cost reductions, process improvements, as well as customer retention and customer acquisition. These are all important discussions.

Your money has to work for you in your business and it should work for you in your SAP investment as well.

If you’re looking to buy a new stock, or mutual fund, or some other investment you do your homework.  If you’re looking at a capital purchase in your business you want to understand the justification and the payback so you build a business case.  If you’re looking to implement SAP then define the business reasons for the implementation and do your homework! 

Take the time and do some research to understand how to avoid many of the sales scams, pitfalls, and ridiculous system integrator tactics.

SAP Cost Based Indicators, Total Cost of Ownership, and Return on Investment

Lagging Indicators and SAP Supported Process Cost Reduction

Using the stock investment analogy, the cost-based ROI component can be seen as the dividends paid by a stock–, generally known, stable, reliable payback, quantifiable and tangible.   In an SAP implementation the “dividends” would represent lagging indicators of performance.  There is a fairly reliable history to consider for the dividend payout. You have a pretty good idea of a number of your costs (or can find out what they are), such as:

  • current legacy systems cost,
  • you know what your man hours are (staffing, personnel, benefits, overhead, etc., etc., etc.),
  • process cycle times,
  • per transaction costs for things like purchase orders, sales orders, production orders, etc.,
  • competitor transaction cost benchmarks,
  • current application license and maintenance costs,
  • etc., etc., etc.

These are all lagging indicators and they are all cost based, cost improvement focused portions of an SAP implementation.

Same Old, Same Old, Everyone at Least Pays Lip Service to Cost Based Process Measures

EVERYONE tries to do this to some extent.  It is not always structured, clearly defined, and then measured after the system is live, but there is a general expectation of improvement.  Even for those companies who buy into this paradigm during the sales process but never see it realized, it is still part of the system integrator pitch.  You are always promised “improvements” by the system integrators.  You always expect processes to speed up and process costs to go down.

The process improvement, automation, and cost reduction approach is no different than everyone in the marketplace who does SAP or some other ERP application–, it is the old “operational excellence” model of business.  It does little or nothing to address the key components that grow business or improve revenue.  And after an initial cost reduction boost it does little to increase profits.  

Leading Indicators, SAP Value Proposition and SAP Value Realization

Unless you are in a commodity market, or have clearly “broken” or significantly inefficient processes, the cost reduction or operational excellence approach to ERP should not be your only focus.  Considering your SAP implementation as an investment for ROI purposes you would understand that this is the first step in a long term system investment program.  After you get the system in, you should press your IT organization to move from an operational excellence paradigm into how to use the system to support corporate innovation and sales growth.

If you want value realization from your SAP or other business application implementation it takes a more rounded and tangible business centered approach or, a real SAP value proposition.  Using the stock analogy, the value realization comes from stock appreciation together WITH the cost saving dividends that are paid.  In your SAP implementation both lagging and leading indicators are used to finally realize value.

This new investment paradigm must focus a significant amount of attention on the end state after the business has started operating in the new SAP world.  And that “end state” focus on value realization from your SAP implementation should begin  before you write your RFP.  This entire site is dedicated to help you transfer critical knowledge needed for success from SAP value proposition all the way through value realization.

Marketplace Winners and Losers in SAP and ERP Investment

Innovation is one of the key and critical value proposition areas that separates winners from losers in the marketplace.  And even though your initial implementation may only consider the initial operational excellence areas that is just the beginning of the journey.

Does your system integrator have any ideas or methods for improving engineering, design, and delivery collaboration efforts?  Maybe you are not there yet, and that is fine, but it must be considered as part of your initial assessment of the path you are on with SAP.

Ask your system integrators how to use your SAP implementation to improve concept to market cycle times and for other innovation methods that will impact your marketplace.  Drill into the details, don’t accept “sales fluff,” ask for specifics and don’t settle for less. 

SAP Implementation Measurement of Return on Investment

To this day I am still surprised by how few companies define success criteria for their SAP implementations.  Fewer still do the up front due diligence to determine where they will have business benefit in terms of cost based lagging indicators:

  • process improvements,
  • cost reductions,
  • automation,
  • reduced transaction processing costs,
  • reduced licensing for legacy systems,
  • reduced system maintenance for legacy systems,
  • improved cycle times,
  • etc.

Even if there is some consideration of these categories or classes of cost savings, few companies quantify them and try to understand current costs and how they might be improved BEFORE bringing in a system integrator. 

During the selection process few companies ask the tough questions and demand the details of their integrators to validate their saving assumptions, and then even fewer hold the integrator accountable for them.  Few businesses attempt to tie incentives, compensation, or other means of achieving these results to their system integrator contracts. 

Talk about caveat emptor, or buyer beware!

Some companies consider legacy systems, and the cost savings for eliminating them, but beyond that there is not a lot of due diligence done to support long term cost reductions.  Key details are generally lacking.

Few companies, and fewer system integrators ever consider leading indicators of business performance such as:

Customer retention

  • service processing
    • reducing overall service requests / requirements,
  • repair and response turnaround times,
  • first time fixes,
  • solution databases,
  • interactive response forums,
  • etc., etc., etc. (come on, you didn’t expect me to tell you ALL the secrets of an ERP customer retention program did you?)

Customer acquisition

  • target markets
    • by geography,
    • product line,
    • customer strata,
    • customer segment,
  • promotion options
    • special product mixes,
    • offers,
    • promotion execution,
    • promotion cost tracking,
    • buy “x” get “y” at a discount or free,
    • buy “xyz” product mix and get “abc” mix at discount or free or both,
    • etc., etc., etc. (again, feel free to contact me if your system integrator has NO IDEA how to do all of this in the BASE SAP ERP system ;)  It is possible!)
  • Customer analysis
    • stratification,
    • buying analysis,
    • product mix / popular combinations,
    • promotion integration,
    • segmentation
      • by region,
      • dollar value,
      • product mix,
      • product line,
      • customer group or product line profitability
    • overall profitability,
    • etc., etc., etc.  (again, feel free to contact me if your system integrator has NO IDEA how to do all of this is the BASE SAP ERP system ;)  It is possible!)
  • And MANY more options…

Why is this lacking?  Because you, as the customer, do not demand it of the system integrators.  As a result the system integrator develops technicians.  And the cheaper they can develop those “technicians” rather than experts the greater their margins are. 

System integrators generally have little interest in promoting the idea that you should actually see a genuinely measurable business improvement.  If they did, those system integrators would be forced to bring in more competent, more highly skilled, and more seasoned veterans who understand business as well as the technology.  See for example, CRM, ERP, BI, and IT Investment — Where Do You Find the Business Benefit?  Using mostly a CRM example for illustration, that post helps you gain some insight on the types of consultants and insight you need for business success.

Short Term (operational excellence), Mid-Term (innovation), Long-Term (customer focus)

Relying on the investment analogy, your SAP portfolio should include several items or components of the application to implement.  And just like stock market investments, there must be some short-term, mid-term, long term, and business hedges built into a healthy implementation. 

Some items, such as “Wave II” or add-on functionality may be planned for at a later date but should be considered from the beginning.

For a long term successful SAP implementation it must become part of a business program, not just a system installation.

What does this mean?  This means that your thinking about SAP and its role in your enterprise must change.  As I’ve written before, Change How You Look at SAP to Create ROI.  SAP must be seen as a tool that enables the enterprise to change, to grow, and to spot opportunities and execute on those opportunities sooner than your competitors.  To do so requires a change in culture and thinking that companies often struggle with, however, SAP can enable these changes when SAP is seen as a business investment requiring regular adjustment, focus, balancing and change.  Just like your stock portfolio.

Use a Business Focused SAP Implementation for Business Transformation

If you want to see true competitive advantage it will take adding a real business imprint, real business insight, and key success metrics to create a long term business program.  That long-term business program is business transformation with SAP enabling the enterprise to be more competitive, more agile, and more robust.

At the the end of the day if you do not define what you want from SAP to consider it a SUCCESS, and if you do not have a focus on business drivers you will NEVER see the success you want from your implementation.  Worse still, if you don’t focus on these items from the beginning you will not have a good baseline to evaluate your system integrator or SAP implementation partner in the early RFI or RFP project stages.  Without that critical evaluation you may end up sinking your budgets in a “money pit” where you will NEVER see a return on investment.  Worse still, without these critical measures you may end up having a long term negative return that is dangerous for your long term prospects.  And it is NOT a shortcoming of the software!

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Customer Relationship Management or CRM

June 13th, 2010 by

Bridge to IT successCustomer Relationship Management (CRM) is a core business practice that most everyone reading this post will be familiar with at some level. It is likely that you’ve read about CRM, have attended workshops and seminars on the subject and perhaps you even believe you’ve implemented what you feel is a CRM initiative. While customer relationship management is certainly not a new business practice it is also not a practice that most executives understand or leverage to its maximum capabilities. In today’s post I’ll provide an overview of CRM and how you can apply it to your business.  

What is a TRUE CRM Software System – How do you Define CRM Solutions?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an executive and entrepreneur tell me how wonderful their CRM system is only to have me ask them a few questions and find out that what they thought was a CRM system wasn’t. Customer Relationship Management is an integrated process for managing customer interactions at every stage of the customer lifecycle. It means offering the right product or service to the right customer at the right time and price via the right contact point. CRM is much more than a product or service; it is an integration framework, or business strategy. A customer focused business has consistent, dependable, convenient, and value-added interaction with customers in every encounter.

True CRM Software Systems by Definition SHOULD Focus on Customer Acquisition and Customer Retention

An effective CRM implementation aids in the acquisition of new customers, improves customer satisfaction and retention rates and adds to the lifecycle value of customer relationships.  Current market forces and new technologies are dramatically changing the dynamics of the customer relationship. Market power is shifting from sellers to buyers, and competition for customer loyalty is rising. The bottom line is that customers are “raising the chinning bar”. Customers increasingly expect instant, 24×7 access to information and resources (product data, company information, pricing, project management, technical support, etc). They want rich, value-added information that is easy to find. Customers are beginning to expect a personalized experience – a personalized welcome message, individual relationship knowledge, the ability to review their status in real-time, and so on.

Customers/partners/investors/suppliers/venders simply will no longer stand for repeating the same information again and again to differentiate your company, its products and services and its value propositions from the competition.  Adding an additional layer of complexity to the current marketplace, today’s customers randomly traverse communication channels – from the Web to the phone system, to a fax, to email, to instant messages etc. Regardless of the channel, your customer will expect to be recognized. Companies need to do business the way that customers are demanding: at anyplace and anytime. An end-to-end CRM solution helps solve this multi-channel challenge. 

Components of a Properly Implemented CRM System are a Function of Business Drivers

The implementation of CRM will help you evolve into a “customer-centric” business. As a customer-centric organization, you will be able to more effectively share information, analyze the overall health of your business, build greater customer loyalty, and gain a competitive edge. Relevant customer and/or product information will be accessible anytime, anywhere to employees, customers, and partners. Your organization should evolve to include a minimum of the following traits of a customer-centric business:   

  • Online Customer Interaction 
  • E-commerce
  • Lead Management
  • Experience Management 
  • Task Management
  • Surveys and Data Mining
  • Literature Fulfillment
  • Knowledgebase 
  • Analytics
  • Campaign Management 
  • List Management 
  • Online encyclopedia/glossary 
  • Sales Process Automation 
  • Forecasting/Funnel Management  
  • Service Automation
  • Support Automation 
  • Client History 
  • Quality Assurance 
  • Online lead capture 
  • E-Mail Management and Support  

Your CRM system should empower your organization with tools to manage all aspects of the sales process: prospecting, lead tracking, opportunity management, reporting, etc. It should provide a single, real-time view of the customer allowing you to instantly determine: account status, pending deals, service request, history, profitability, etc. A CRM implementation should allow you to become much more effective in the management and allocation of your time.  A customer-centric CRM system will also provide many benefits to your marketing infrastructure. CRM will allow you to develop and execute campaigns based on powerful, real-time data. You will be able to mine for data, and tailor marketing campaigns to different market segments and customer profiles.

Proper Customer Relationship Management Provides Actionable Marketing and Sales Information

The CRM tool-set will provide comprehensive tracking capabilities so marketing results can be captured in real time allowing for any necessary adjustments to be made.  CRM will allow you to more effectively manage your extended enterprise relationships. A CRM application will allow you to route leads, opportunities, and service requests to the appropriate party, and then track the performance. Partners/customers will be able to browse products and pricing information.

A CRM based infrastructure will enable you to manage channel partners as an extended virtual sales and service organization should you desire to expand your indirect marketing efforts.  The proper CRM application will have a single, complete view of the customer, with instant access to all relevant customer data. Equipped with real-time access to specific customer account information, this customer service infrastructure will deliver a high quality experience to the end-user. Web-based self-service will also enable you to provide world class service, providing customers, partners, and/or investors with 24×7 access to appropriate information. 

The implementation of a CRM solution specifically tailored to your unique requirements will provide the ability for personnel to bring the definition of excellent customer service to an entirely new level. A CRM system is designed to be used by employees who interact with your entire value chain. It is an enterprise relationship management system from customer to employee to supplier. A specifically tailored CRM solution will provide you with a central, single source of information with a complete history of the relationship’s activities to date. The ability to present a complete and consistent view to a relationship is invaluable. A specifically tailored CRM will allow you to:     

  • Maximize customer acquisition efforts
  • Retain profitable customers for the long term
  • Foster customer loyalty 
  • Enhance profitability by leveraging every role, channel, and customer touch point within your company.  

If your business has not adopted Customer Relationship Management as a key business driver then you are missing out on a substantial opportunity. 


The original source for this post can be found here:

Re-posted with author Mike Myatt’s permission, he runs a great blog at


For more information on the implementing CRM software systems which are focused on customer retention, customer acquisition, and revenue generation please read:

CRM, ERP, BI, and IT Investment — Where Do You Find the Business Benefit?


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