As digital transformation becomes essential for SAP customers, the decision-makers at organizations are faced with the need to migrate to SAP S/4HANA and to adopt the emerging technologies that support an intelligent enterprise. This is a lot to learn, apply, and maintain—all while keeping up with constant change.

In response, ASUG has launched a new one-day, educational experience through its ASUG Express event series. Centers of Excellence: Achieving Success with SAP is designed to help you learn about the capabilities and resources you have within your current SAP systems. It will help you understand ways to get best practices to stick and stay up to date throughout your organization’s business processes.

The first event took place in Chicago and drew more than 40 attendees looking to gain a better understanding of how to create a Center of Excellence (CoE) within their organization. They wanted to learn how to gain value from their current investments in SAP technologies and how to best prepare for new implementations. Attendees were engaged throughout the day and took back ideas to immediately apply to their organizations.

SAP Challenges Are Universal

The morning began with a presentation from Stuart Browne, managing director of Resulting, an SAP consulting firm. He introduced attendees to data collected from a joint research study with former Gartner SAP research director, Dr. Derek Prior. More than 100 people with experience using SAP programs were polled to establish what made the difference between success and failure on the SAP implementations they were involved with.

Browne talked about the frustration caused by unsuccessful implementations and how organizations can set themselves up for success with 15 levers. He covered everything from strategy and vendor management to standardization and structured knowledge management.

He noted, “Fewer than 50 percent of respondents believed they had used their SAP program as an opportunity to standardize processes. And that high solution awareness and strong project management has the most overall impact on success.”

But who is charged with managing all of that before, during, and after a project has gone live?

It all Comes Back to the Center

According to SAP, a Center of Excellence combines business and IT talents with industry best practices to drive and achieve continued value from investments in SAP technologies. It’s essentially a team of highly skilled individuals and experts that is the acknowledged source of knowledge within an organization. Centers of Excellence are tasked with keeping SAP investments on course so they continue to meet business objectives.

Douglas Shuptar, principal consultant of Business Transformation Services at SAP, helps customers design and implement Centers of Excellence based on their specific needs and challenges. During his presentation, he shared stories from four customers he’s worked with in the last year to help highlight the necessity of a Center of Excellence, as well as the benefit of implementing one.

Finding the Right SAP Customer Tools

Attendees also had the opportunity to hear directly from SAP about what tools and resources are available for them.

Kristin Scheffler, head of maintenance of customer management at SAP said, “We want to show you ways to take advantage of what’s already available to you with your SAP investments.”

During her presentation, she introduced 10 ways to get the most out of your SAP support and maintenance investment, including full application life cycle management with SAP Solution Manager. She reminded attendees that everyone should upgrade to the latest version of SAP Solution Manager to maintain connectivity to the SAP Support Backbone.

Attendees also heard from partners about how to get their data in order because, it will play a much bigger role than you think. This drew a lot of interest from the room and lead to great conversations.

Setting Up for SAP S/4HANA and Beyond

The day wasn’t just about consuming information, although there was plenty to learn. Paul Kurchina, community catalyst in the SAP ecosystem, moderated a panel discussion with Douglas Shuptar, Stuart Browne, and Kevin Reilly, CIO for Old World Industries and ASUG Member. The four discussed how to set up a Center of Excellence for all the new SAP platforms, tools, and applications including SAP S/4HANA, the cloud, and beyond.

Kurchina asked, “What are the new skills required of a Center of Excellence in this new era?”

Time to Play in the SAP Sandbox

Speaking on SAP S/4HANA, Reilly said to “give your people who have worked on databases for the last 15-plus years an opportunity to get exposed to SAP HANA early enough. Let them play in a sandbox environment. Let them see what it’s like to do archives and how it’s different from their old world.”

Speaking about the cloud, Shuptar talked about building a Center of Excellence for the hybrid world. “Priorities of a business department will change, as will end-user and customer expectations.”

Create Your own SAP Centers of Excellence

Other beneficial new skills that the panel discussed included:

This event is intended for SAP customers and is a free ASUG Member benefit. Registration includes breakfast, lunch, and networking opportunities with SAP customers and experts. Attendees will also receive a copy of the Ultimate SAP CoE Best Practice Guide, the 2018 SAP Success Report, a Guide to Utilizing SAP Enterprise Support, the Solution Manager eBook, as well as other resources.

Join us in one of four cities scheduled for an ASUG Express on Centers of Excellence: Achieving Success with SAP in Houston March 26, Toronto March 28, Atlanta April 9, and Seattle April 11.