The SAP Customer Centre of Expertise (CCoE) as an integral equation. The key note presentation must have brought back quite some high-school memories for many of the SAP CCoE Info Forum participants gathered in Frankfurt, Germany. This event was organized for the 18th time and the question that pops up is: has the SAP CCoE concept come of age?

An integral equation; Andreas Oczko, co-chairman of the International CCC Community, presented his view to the essence of a CCOE in SAP customers in an intriguing way. Packaged as the kernel function of an integral equation he said the CCoE function is about ensuring Sustainability, Added Value, and Relation to Reality of SAP solutions implemented in enterprises. Or put more simply: the CCoE is a unique bridge between SAP, IT, and business. This no doubt is put in practice in arvato Systems where Andreas is heading up the CCoE or rather, Customer Competence Centre (CCC) as arvato names it.

Even after 18 years the annual SAP CCoE event still brings loads of value to managers accountable for SAP solutions in their companies. Michael Rieder, SVP at SAP and Head of SAP Active Global Support (AGS) EMEA, during his key-note speech made clear he is very convinced of this. On the one hand through compact updates on SAP recommended best practices and tools for building and running SAP solutions. On the other, through sharing SAP customer experiences via presentations and via informal talks during the networking breaks.

An important trend Michael Rieder signalled is that SAP customers are moving away from big upfront designs and move towards delivering smaller chunks of functionality. This allows for instance showing early progress to leadership and internal stakeholders. This ‘from big to small’ message was echoed by Steffen von Berg, Vice President and Head of SAP Active Global Support DACH, and Wolfgang Schatz, Global Program Owner Advanced CCOE, when they said ‘start being agile’.

Schatz and von Berg passed in review how the SAP CCoE concept was born and raised. They described how the maturity of the CCoE-concept grew over the years and how the focus shifted respectively from Efficiency to Quality, to Value, to Business Alignment, and next, to Innovation. The initial CCoE focus was introspective: streamlining the efficiency of IT processes and discovering optimization potential cross IT. Around 2009, business-orientation was added to the mix and the concept was name changed from CCC to CCoE. With the economic downturn and subsequent pressure on cost it became of even more vital importance to show the value of IT and the IT organization to the business.

Another step in the CCoE growing up was to learn to talk the business talk in order to become better understood and taken more seriously as a business partner. Today, it was said by Schatz and von Berg, the CCoE should drive innovation to a new dimension. What the bigger picture governance model is for this remained untouched during the event however, apart from the SAP-specific Innovation Control Centre (ICC) idea taking care of Changes, and using an RDS for quick prototyping.

A variety of award-winning CCoE’ presented their journeys. Bank of America outlined how they put in place a global Centre of over a 1000 headcount to execute their multi-year Finance Systems Roadmap. Brazilian multinational Votorantim showed how they achieved Advanced CCoE recertification on top of ISO9001, ISO20000, ISO27001 and ISAE-3402 certifications. Did their management endorse all those certifications? Well, most of the certified Advanced CCoE’s confirmed they had to push up and convince their management to go obtain it.

In the era of cloud solutions the business no longer comes to IT for solutions but they go shopping themselves – and consequently run into issues when it comes to license and contract negotiations, external and internal service level agreements, integration into existing landscape, meeting IT policies like for security, internal cost recharge schemas, and so forth. Most SAP customers also have SAP solutions on-premise so how does such a hybrid set of solutions impact the CCoE?

Michael Zoeller and Michael Bannert, SAP AGS, stressed how SAP is working to provide end2end support through SAP ONE Support. ONE Support provides a simple, integrated and comprehensive support process with consistent delivery of support services for all customers. SAP will provide customers with one single entry point for support for all of their products, acquired and native ones. The Service Marketplace will cover SuccessFactors in January 2015, followed by Ariba in the first quarter of 2015 and later on, by Hybris and Sybase.

From SAP’s perspective, one way of organizing the CCoE is through so-called Control Centres. The Operations Control Center (OCC) aims at running SAP like a factory while the Innovation Control Center (ICC) aims at building SAP like a factory. Those in-house Centres can be linked to the SAP Mission Control Center, an enhanced back-office at SAP side that provides direct access to expertise from SAP.

Jason Yi, Head of Basis and OCC at Canadian retailer Loblaw, set forth how their Operations Control Center leveraged SAP Solution Manager for System Monitoring, Business Process Monitoring, End User Experience Monitoring (EEM), and Alert Inbox monitoring (all alerts). This looked quite impressive and comprehensive. Alessandro Saralli of PosteItaliano shared his OCC facts including a management dashboard and technical dashboards for reporting on average and maximum process times and number of documents processed (transactions). The PosteItaliano ICC has for example delivered a Proof of Concept for SAP Cloud4Sales doing rapid prototyping.

In essence the ICC is accountable for the realisation of changes so it could also be labelled Change Control Centre, a CCC. And then we’re back to CCC’s! The International Competence Centre Community (ICCC) still clings on to this term, changed by SAP to CCoE in 2009. But more important: has the CCoE concept come of age now?

It was certainly well bred over the past 18 years. It enables to demonstrate the value of IT and SAP and the delivery units continuously to business and can serve as a single source of documentation truth for the usage of SAP in any SAP customer – specifically relevant in case of outsourced Application Management. Adolescence is often about finding one’s own place in the world while grown-ups usually gained better understanding of how the world hangs together. Putting the SAP CCoE concept in perspective may therefore well be the theme for the 19th CCoE event in 2015.

MENDEL KOERTS works for ENSEAD Advisory and is an Associate Director with Gartner Consulting. He has specialized in SAP Strategy, Architecture and Governance. Opinions expressed in this article are strictly his own. This article was posted on LinkedIn earlier.

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