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SAP Contract Requirements for a Center of Expertise

July 2nd, 2012 by
Deliver SAP Excellence

Deliver SAP Excellence

If not all, most new SAP contracts and agreements contain provisions which require customers to create a “Center of Expertise” (or CoE). This is a customer’s, and SAP’s, first line of maintenance support. The CoE terms and conditions define a great aspiration that your organization will support “efficient implementation, innovation, operation and quality of business processes and systems” based on the Phase 6 RUN SAP ASAP Methodology. Good luck with all that!

However, back on planet earth, the RunSAP Methodology is a good starting point. Although SAP references the need to go further the delivered methodology only covers basic technical operations. As we look at SAP Enabled Business Transformation for IT Leadership it is apparent that the RunSAP Methodology is all about Internal IT Focus. The SAP delivered CoE requirement doesn’t deliver much on How To Navigate the SAP Business Transformation Journey around Enterprise Integration or External Business Drivers.

What ARE SAP Center of Expertise Requirements (as defined in their Terms and Conditions)?

For background and insight, here is an actual SAP Terms and Conditions excerpt from the SAP ENTERPRISE SUPPORT SCHEDULE (“Schedule”):

4. Customer Center of Expertise.

4.1 Role of the Customer Center of Expertise. In order to leverage the full potential value delivered as part of SAP Enterprise Support, Licensee is required to establish a Customer Center of Expertise (“Customer Center of Expertise”, or “Customer COE”). The Customer COE is designated by Licensee as a central point of contact for interaction with the SAP support organization. As a permanent center of expertise, the Customer COE supports Licensee’s efficient implementation, innovation, operation and quality of business processes and systems related to the SAP Software Solution based on the Run SAP methodology provided by SAP (for more information on the Run SAP methodology, refer to http://service.sap.com/runsap). The Customer COE should cover all core business process operations. SAP recommends starting the implementation of the Customer COE as a project that runs in parallel with the functional and technical implementation projects.

4.2 Basic Functions of the Customer COE. The Customer COE must fulfill the following basic functions:

  • Support Desk: Set-up and operation of a support desk with a sufficient number of support consultants for infrastructure/application platforms and the related applications during regular local working hours (at least 8 hours a day, 5 days (Monday through Friday) a week).
  • Licensee support process and skills will be jointly reviewed in the framework of the service planning process and the certification audit.
  • Contract administration: Contract and license processing in conjunction with SAP (license audit, maintenance billing, release order processing, user master and installation data management).
  • Coordination of innovation requests: Collection and coordination of development requests from the Licensee and/or any of its affiliates provided such affiliates are entitled to use the Enterprise Support Solutions under the Agreement. In this role the Customer COE shall also be empowered to function as an interface to SAP to take all action and decisions needed to avoid unnecessary modification of Enterprise Support Solutions and to ensure that planned modifications are in alignment with the SAP software and release strategy.
  • Information management: Distribution of information (e.g. internal demonstrations, information events and marketing) about Enterprise Support Solutions and the Customer COE within the Licensee’s organization.
  • CQC and other remote services planning: Licensee regularly engages in a service planning process with SAP. The service planning starts during the initial implementation and will then be continued regularly.

4.3 Customer COE Certification. Licensee must establish a certified Customer COE upon the later to occur of the following: (i) within twelve (12) months after the Effective Date; or (ii) within six (6) months after Licensee has started using at least one of the Enterprise Support Solutions in live mode for normal business operations. To obtain the then-current primary Customer COE certification or re-certification by SAP, the Customer COE undergoes an audit procedure. Detailed information on the initial certification and re-certification process and conditions, as well as information on the available certification levels, is available on the SAP Service Marketplace (http://service.sap.com/coe).

What the SAP Center of Expertise (or CoE) is NOT

As previously noted, even though there are several great aspirations in the CoE requirement the details are all about a focus on technical competence. In many respects this makes sense to SAP, you make sure your internal resources are the first line of defense. You cover your own maintenance and then only if you really can’t resolve the issue internally you turn to SAP.

Several critical components of a good Enterprise level integration program are completely missing from the real detailed requirements:

  • Governance (although it is referenced in the RunSAP methodology)
  • Program or Release Management
  • Enterprise Architecture
  • Business / IT convergence or integration

It is unfortunate that the RunSAP Methodology only covers the entry level stage of support. To move to something I call the “Center of Excellence” rather than the “Center of Expertise” you must focus on much more than just the CoE step 1 of 3 Development Phases for SAP Center of Excellence Maturity. To move past the first stage requires moving from an SAP Service Provider to Business Peer Through Center of Excellence Maturity.




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There is Life after the SAP Go Live

June 25th, 2012 by
SAP Support

SAP Support

One of the areas rarely addressed in the academic literature, by consulting firms, or by many of the system integrators is the organizational acceptance, and finally full use and assimilation of the SAP package. To the extent the system integrators or consulting firms do mention post production support it is generally in the context of managed services or outsourcing. Little is done to help companies develop a thriving production environment with your own resources.

One of the biggest problems I see anywhere is a failure to blueprint and ultimately design and then deliver SAP for usability. There are several hurdles which make this difficult, some of them include:

  • The SAP User Experience is one area which is overdue for attention.
  • A lack of in depth change management including training at the business process level.
  • Very few SAP consultants have much (if any) SAP support experience and have no idea about how their design and blueprint decisions will affect end users.
  • There are not enough functionality pilots demonstrated to the affected end users during the course of the implementation project.

After designing for usability the next critical issue involves Organizational Change Management Inside the SAP IT Support Organization. For long term direction Using Your SAP Steering Committee for Business Transformation can not be overlooked either. Finally, the user community, including training, change management, and ongoing super user development must be addressed.

Build a Thriving SAP Enabled Business Community and SAP Support Organization

Work to put the broader business community in a more accepting posture for your SAP / IT organizational changes by using Change Management Strategies and Knowledge Transfer Processes for a Successful SAP Project 1. Then work diligently toward Creating a Knowledge Centered Learning Organization for Business Transformation for IT Leadership. Whether you are already live with SAP, in the middle of a project, or just starting out, I would strongly encourage you to get serious about Organizational Change Management Inside the SAP IT Support Organization.

As an academic study I recently reviewed noted:

It is during [the post-implementation stage] that the effects of uncontrolled problems in previous stages appear due to the fact that users start the exploitation and evaluation of the system. During the implementation stage, users are usually limited to learn the basic functionalities [which support going live]… As a critical mass of users start mastering the system and they see its advantages on their work and its capabilities, they start using it in a more creative way and exploring its more advanced functionalities and requiring, even more functions… These are… signs of the system’s acceptance and assimilation which is… essential for the system’s success (Kouki, Poulin, and Pellerin, Ppg. 3-4).

SAP Certified Center of Expertise

Many of today’s SAP contracts include a provision that customers must create a Center of Expertise. In plain terms this means you are required to create your own internal support organization. This works well for SAP by putting your internal IT employees on the front line of defense but does little to ensure longer term acceptance, adoption, and even assimilation of the new system into the broader organization. Do not get confused by the terminology here either, the type of support SAP wants to see which constitutes a “Certified Center of Expertise” is related to you becoming less of a burden on their support organization, and in turn reducing their support costs for your company.  While this independence helps SAP it also helps to ensure you develop sufficient internal competence with the application.  In turn it is not enough and is just the beginning of the changes you must make.

The very basic components of building an Center of Expertise is contained in the Phase 6 RUN SAP ASAP Methodology. But as I’ve previously noted, this is just the first step of a critical path and process in Business Transformation for IT Leadership.

Understand the Series on SAP Competency Center or SAP Center of Excellence to gain the important insight for ensuring long term enterprise application success. Without a greater focus on the end user you may never fully realize business benefits or it will take longer than necessary, cost more than it should, and yield limited mid-term results.

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Kouki, R., Poulin, D., and Pellerin, R. (2006). ERP Assimilation Challenge: An Integrative Framework for a Better Post-Implementation Assimilation, CIRRELT Working Paper DT-2006-DP-1




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Investigative Report: Enterprise Application Guest Worker Fraud in America

June 18th, 2012 by
H1-B Visa Fraud

Guest Worker Fraud

Last week’s post on why Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud provided a little background on guest worker fraud being investigated now. Much of the spark to light this match was the whistle-blowing activity of a Jack Palmer about Infosys. However Infosys should NOT be considered an isolated incident.

As Jack Palmer’s case demonstrates there are options for consultants who are tired of the fraud. What Mr. Palmer’s conviction and dedication indicates is that you must be willing to stand up and be counted. No one said being a whistle-blower would be easy, but there are protections. Another interesting feature of Mr. Palmer’s case involves the various government agencies and channels conducting several of the ongoing investigations.

United States Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa has taken a strong interest in meaningful visa reform and ending the fraud for some time. As a regular crusader against H1-B visa fraud he has often introduced legislation and taken a stand against fraudulent practices. As one example in a February 10, 2012 Grassley Weekly Video Address: H-1B Reform was the topic.

While some Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud there are still too many customers who are ripped off while their SAP or other enterprise projects crash and burn. Even though there are Hidden SAP Offshore Development Costs, those costs and the negative consequences go much higher when dealing with fake experience from onshore resources. There is a measure of customer trust that workers who are on site, employed by system integrators, had to go through some type of screening and background verifications for experience. Enterprise application customers almost expect that the hiring practices at some of these IT firms mirror their own internal processes. NOTHING could be further from the truth. See this excerpt from Mr. Palmer’s insight (noted last week in Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud):

When asked if all the people had some special expertise that couldn’t be found in the U.S., Palmer said, “Absolutely not. Not even close. Many of them [are] what we call freshers. People that would just come over, whoever they could get to come over. Whoever got accepted for a visa.”

Many of the people brought in, in fact, didn’t know what they were doing at all, Palmer said. “There was not a project or program that I was involved in that we did not remove somebody because they had no knowledge of what they were doing,” he said.

As noted by Mr. Palmer’s attorney Ken Mendelsohn, “Senator Grassley has taken an interest in this situation and actually wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoliatano.” The letter and responses are attached here and are interesting from the perspective that there are still MASSIVE numbers of B-1 and other visas being issued (primarily to Indian IT firms).

Letter from Grassley

Response from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Conclusion on Helping to Clean Up VISA FRAUD in the Enterprise Application Space

Sadly for those with real experience, whether foreign born or citizen, it is not just the system integrators who are the problem–, often some of the recruiting firms help to continue perpetuating the visa fraud. I’ve heard of many cases where unscrupulous recruiters will provide candidates with resumes the recruiters rewrote to add “experience” and background “employment” that the individual does not have.

Mr. Palmer’s case together with several criminal investigations are underway (with still more to come) but you can do your part to stop the fraud in the visa program by reporting any incidents you encounter.

If the fraud were stopped I personally wouldn’t care if the caps on visas related to high tech were significantly increased or eliminated. Unfortunately I don’t think a real cleanup will happen until some people end up in jail.

As I have long said, I personally have no issue competing with the very best there is anywhere in the world but it gets old cleaning up and working around so many messes left behind in the SAP world. I’m not interested in that kind of “job security.” I want to make the highest and best use of my skills by helping businesses gain real benefit from their SAP projects.

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References and Additional Information on Reporting Suspected Visa Fraud and Abuse

United States Code (USC): 18 USC § 1546 (a) “[Any visa, permit, or other document] procured by means of any false claim or statement, or to have been otherwise procured by fraud or unlawfully obtained…” provides for criminal penalties and fines.

Contact U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley to tell your story or to encourage further investigations or prosecutions: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/contact.cfm

The Criminal investigations into Infosys and other high tech worker visa fraud issues is being partially handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Texas. If you have information about Infosys or other system integrators committing visa fraud reach out to them. You can contact them here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/txe/contact.html

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accepts tips and information related to visa fraud, feel free to report any suspected incidents here: http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp

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