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Author's profile photo Doug Shuptar

Speak Their Language: Building a Best-in-Class Center of Excellence

On January 29, the ASUG CoE Community held the first of its eight-part webcast series.  Independent analyst and author, Michael Doane presented, “The Center of Excellence: From Inception to Maturity – Thrive After Go Live.”

Creating and deploying a Center of Excellence in a SAP environment is an endeavor that must be embraced and supported by senior management.  The concept needs to be understood by senior management.  The concept needs to be understood from the time Core SAP is implemented to the time the Center of Excellence is at the heart of teh company’s improvement evolution.

Being a Best-in-Class Center of Excellence

Understanding the common characteristics of Best-in-Class Centers of Excellence provides a clear picture as to what the end goal should be.  Doane describes a Best-in-Class Center of Excellence as having the following characteristics:

  • Takes the long-term approach to solutions – in other words, they look beyond the implementation and consider what is going to be needed to support the solution once it goes ‘live’
  • Business takes ownership of the Center of Excellence during implementation
  • Establishes a ‘benefits-driven’ culture and processes
  • Invests in organization change management activities
  • Creates a Center of Excellence at the very beginning
  • Develops a homogeneous core application

Mr. Doane’s webcast uncovers three key points to keep in mind as you establish and launch a Center of Excellence.

Takeaway #1 – Take the Long-Term View

It is not all about getting to Go Live, Day 1.  In fact, companies that do this well recognize that Day 2 and beyond is just as important.  It has been demonstrated that companies that focus on just getting to Go Live develop several significant long-term problems.  These range from business leadership not seeing ‘visible’ value from the SAP investment (because no quantifiable measurement of business benefits derived from the implementation exist) to losing alignment between the business and IT (because the implementation team returns to their previous role and IT is left to support the installation).

It is important to take the long-term view and clearly understand how the ongoing value inherent in the SAP application is going to be mined and realized once the project is complete.

Takeaway #2 – IT Must Learn to be ‘Numerate’

When considering the benefits and value of the SAP investment (or any other technology investment), it must be put in terms the business can understand and which the business customer can measure.  It is not enough to state that an enhancement to SAP will ‘streamline the sales process’ or provide ‘productivity gains.’  These statements, while they might sound impressive, really have no meaning behind them.  On the other hand, what is required are objectives the business customer truly understands.  This includes the following pieces of information:

  • An operand – what aspect of the business process is being addressed?
  • A verb – what is being done to the operand?
  • A quantifier – to what degree is the verb being applied to the operand?
  • A result – what will be the tangible result?

By describing benefits in this manner, the following objective might result:

“Reduce stock levels by 15%, resulting in savings of $1 million”

It is critical to state the value objectives in language the business understands because benefits such as these will likely get the proper attention of the business.

Takeaway #3 – Selling the CoE Concept Requires the Buy-In from Senior Management

When the Center of Excellence is not sold to the top tier of management, it is more likely to fail.  When highlighting ‘senior management’, this does not mean one person but implies all members of the senior management team.  It is important to clearly understand the vision of each constituent among the management team and consolidate these view into a single vision for the Center of Excellence.  As one addresses the concerns / fears of each constituent, the vision becomes more solidified in the minds of management.  Securing buy-in becomes easier.  This is also where the ability to be ‘numerate’ becomes more important.  The benefits of the vision and the evolution of the value must be stated in clear business terms.  This provides the answer to the ‘What’s in it for me?’ questions that are bound to arise.  If these benefits devolve into IT jargon and benefits that are not constructed in language the business understands, the likelihood of project buy-in and overall success are reduced.

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