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Build a Quality Support Center: What Every Public Sector Agency Needs to Know About CCC Certification

by Steve Parris

October 1, 2008

A goal of every SAP customer should be to achieve high-quality, well-structured support for SAP systems. Getting an SAP-certified Customer Competency Center (CCC) in place is a key step toward this goal — but a process that often challenges public sector agencies. Here’s some practical advice for a successful SAP CCC audit that can help any company considering the benefits of certification.

Budgetary and statutory compliance, complex financial reports, leverage from powerful interest groups, and close public scrutiny are not uncommon challenges for SAP customers. But for public sector agencies, these challenges are at the heart of their business processes and IT systems — making high-quality systems support even more crucial.

The special set of budgetary and structural constraints in the public sector can lead to a clash between the need for competitive pricing for quality service and the fiduciary trust demanded by the public. All spending must be transparent; governments are publicly accountable for details of their operations; even initial budgetary planning is scrutinized by citizens and special interest groups.

Effective support of a business-critical landscape can be difficult to achieve in private sector and government agencies. Yet organizations should — and can — aim to offer high-quality, well-structured, well-staffed support centers for their SAP systems.

The first step, of course, is to ensure that SAP support is planned for as part of any SAP project. But another logical step is to get your SAP support center — or SAP Customer Competency Center (SAP CCC) — certified by SAP so you can see the business benefits of certified status.

A goal of every SAP customer should be to pass the SAP certification program’s audit on the first attempt. This article offers an approach for a successful certification process that all organizations can learn from — but with a special focus on the public sector. Because governments typically lose points in the certification process for certain criteria that is out of their control, it is critical for public sector agencies to maximize thei r opportunities for a successful certification, and this article provides an example of why and how one government agency did just that.

Why a Certified Support Center?

Project teams working on SAP implementations are often so excited about the go-live event that the support structure becomes an afterthought. These teams do not plan effectively for a transition to a functional support center, much less one that qualifies for SAP certification. An SAP-certified CCC brings with it a variety of benefits, such as a reduced license fee, enhanced system stability and system management, faster responses to OSS messages, and richer networking opportunities.

SAP designed its certification program to promote organizations’ self-sufficiency regarding software support, as well as to maximize return on investments with the software. The objectives of the certification program include complying with the license agreement, promoting SAP products, and serving as an effective liaison between SAP and the client organization. SAP’s audit process ensures these features are present in a formally certified CCC. And because SAP provides support and guidance every step of the way, the certification process does not have to be overwhelming.

What is a Customer Competency Center?

An SAP Customer Competency Center (SAP CCC) is an organizational unit that offers functional support to an organization’s SAP systems. In general, the CCC is responsible for level 1 and level 2 support of SAP operations. Other key responsibilities include internal consulting, infrastructure management, application management, influence of the future development of SAP solutions, and management of the organization’s relationship with SAP.

The CCC is usually composed of implementation project team members who know and understand all the nuances of the system and its functionality.

Special Considerations for Becoming Certified with SAP

There are three key considerations that position governments for a successful CCC certification audit:

  • Organize your CCC: What should the structure of your CCC look like? Where should it operate in the organizational structure?

  • Assess the certification requirements: Where does your CCC stand in relation to SAP certification requirements?

  • Develop a human resource strategy: How should you staff your CCC?

Organize Your CCC

One of the first questions you need to ask is, “Where do we place the CCC in our organization?” When considering how to structure your CCC, it helps if you envision your organization as a three-layered entity with the governing authority at the top layer, the executive officers in the middle, and the separate departments that make up the organization on the bottom layer.

A CCC is most effective if it resides in a separate layer, between the management level and the departmental level. It should be as close as possible to the executive management and the strategic management functions, but not attached to a particular unit of the organization (like the IT or finance department). This structure positions the CCC both politically and financially to make the best decisions in the most efficient way. The point of elevating the CCC is to be more visible to the highest levels of leadership.

Keep in mind that executive management owns the CCC directly under this structure. Not only that, but by elevating the CCC above the political crossfire between departments, you can achieve financial and political leverage to make business decisions that ensure CCC success.

For example, a recommendation to fund a new SAP component will receive full disclosure and consideration with executive management and the governing board because the benefits of the new functionality will be easily communicated to these decision-making bodies.

When considering where to organize the CCC, another important factor is the management style used to present the CCC. It is important to explain to the organization the purpose of this structure and to set expectations that predispose the desired results.

A well-placed CCC would exist close to executive management but would not be attached to any particular unit of the organization

Assess the Certification Requirements

If you are currently planning an implementation project, be sure to include a clear and detailed vision of the CCC in the plan and manage to that end. If you have already gone live with SAP and did not originally plan for CCC certification, then you need to step back and figure out where you stand in relation to the certification requirements.

Regardless of whether you planned for the CCC all along or are considering a CCC post go-live, it’s a good idea to perform the following type of assessment before you jump into the certification process. The assessment discussed here does not take a lot of time, and it will allow your organization to remediate performance issues before the audit. A word of caution: Do not attempt certification until you have a stable production environment.

To pass the certification audit, the CCC must achieve at least 55 points out of the maximum 100. The certification audit has four basic parameters that companies receive scores on: quality (50 points), quantity (15 points), solution complexity (15 points), and support information (20 points).

There are two criteria that public sector agencies often find challenging in the certification process:

  • Solution complexity, a key scoring standard for public sector agencies, includes the number of production installations, countries, currencies, etc. Because governments are typically one production system with only one currency, the score is usually low on this parameter. Solution complexity is usually 0 points for government, as there is generally only one production installation with one language. The number of second-tier components must exceed 50 to achieve any points at all — and even then, you only receive one point for 50 second-tier components. You must operate 100 second-tier components to even earn two points.

  • Support information is typically a low-scoring parameter in the public sector as well because many governments do not fully use SAP Solution Manager. Note that if you are evaluating ramping up to expanded use of SAP technology, SAP Solution Manager could be mandatory for newer SAP solutions. If you have a production landscape that is structurally established and stable and you are running SAP EarlyWatch Alert, you would receive 8 points. An additional 4 points are available for each of the following: Service Plan for Maintenance, Definition of Core Business Processes, and Diagnostics for Root Cause Analysis.

Because governments typically won’t score many points (if any) for the solution complexity and support information criteria, it is critical to maximize the scoring opportunities that do exist in the CCC certification audit process. Therefore, most governments must achieve high scores for the remaining two parameters:

  • Quality is based on the percentage of Online Support System (OSS) messages that SAP fulfills. A high fulfillment percentage means a higher score. In order to score the full 50 points for this parameter, you need a 75% or higher fulfillment rate.

  • Quantity is based on the number of OSS messages sent to SAP. A low number of messages means a higher score.

Carefully review the quality and quantity of OSS information and try to determine what your score will be before you make any attempt at certification. Your Basis administrator can provide the number of OSS messages fulfilled by SAP.

If you average more than four messages per month and the fulfillment rate is less than 65% successful, achieving certification is unlikely. Averaging more than four messages per month begins to degrade the score. However, if you average fewer than four messages per month, you will probably receive the entire 15 points.

Note that the scoring is scaled and the actual number of messages per month varies by the dollar amount of the license agreement. A high dollar amount on the software license agreement generally means a more complex solution — so as the dollar value increases, more messages are allowed.

The scoring summary details may vary based on your specific circumstance, but the limitations discussed above certainly skew the scale for many agencies in the public sector. Instead of the normal passing grade of 55 out of 100 points, government agencies more realistically need to score 55 out of only 80 points. Therefore, quality and quantity criteria are critical for success — and these factors depend heavily on the caliber of your staff. Compromised staffing of the support desk leads to poor scores for the quality and complexity of OSS messages.

Parameter Criteria Points Comments
Quality Fulfillment Rate
The percentage of OSS messages that SAP fulfills. A high fulfillment percentage means a higher score.
Quantity Number of Messages
The number of OSS messages sent to SAP affects this score. A low number of messages means a higher score.
Solution Complexity Installations, Countries, Components
This parameter acknowledges the complexity of the system and awards points for high complexity.
Support Information SAP Solution Manager, Service Plan
SAP encourages the use of SAP Solution Manager as the application management platform.
Maximum Points for Certification
The scoring discussion is based on SAP AG 2006/CCC Certification Guidelines v2006/01. This scale is available on the SAP Help Portal. Contact SAP via the Help Portal for more details (
Minimum Points for Certification
The CCC certification formula

Develop a Human Resource Strategy

While some processes may contribute to higher audit scores, you must obtain and secure the best people available; without qualified staff, CCC certification is unlikely.

Admittedly, staffing the broad range of skills required for a support desk is not an easy task. Agencies with business-critical components like Funds Management may require that a CCC dedicate one or more full-time staff members to support this functionality, but there may not be a job description or a pay scale for this role. In most government agencies that use SAP solutions, there are over a dozen different components, and each is a separate discipline. For example, staff members who maintain roles of Basis, security, ABAP, and Workflow require their own sets of expertise.

Other components in your production system (like Controlling or Treasury Management) may not require full-time support but will require a high level of expertise at times. It all depends on the complexity of the component. For example, the Payroll component will require at least one (preferably two) resources for support. However, if a government agency is only managing cash investments and debt instruments, then the Treasury Management component may only require part-time staff. Some project team members who are qualified to support the CCC may have been pulled from other government roles and must return to their original jobs. This scenario poses quite a challenge, as these highly qualified resources would be difficult and costly to replace.

The human resources area is particularly problematic for governments for a couple major reasons:

  • Public sector salary structures are not typically competitive with the private sector consulting market.

  • Due to limited availability of employees and funds for contracting, project team members are often pulled from other roles in the organization.

To meet the challenges that are particular to governments, you can create a strategy that includes any number of the following components:

  • Outsourcing: Governments are beginning to understand that when done properly, outsourcing effectively transfers risk to the service provider, which may be a consulting firm or an individual consultant. This is a common solution — understand that this won’t likely be a short-term, temporary arrangement.

  • Retainers: A variation of outsourcing, the retainer approach provides access to highly skilled resources without the full-time commitment. This arrangement functions a bit like a work-order contract, and services are typically provided remotely.

  • Virtual resources: Following this approach, employees who worked on the implementation can return to their original jobs and still provide support to the CCC in a virtual way. The staff required for this arrangement must be self-disciplined, motivated, adaptable to changing work requirements, and skilled at software troubleshooting.

  • Custom pay plan: If you’re going to build SAP staff among your employee ranks, then you must develop a competitive pay scale. Full-market price is probably not needed, but the conventional pay scales of most governments will not be adequate. You need to augment these jobs with intangibles such as telecommuting, alternate work schedules, additional benefits, or others. Secure your investment by defining employee obligations like retaining training costs, longer notices for separation, etc.

  • Training plan: Provide training to employees who support SAP systems, and this training should target specific goals and objectives. For example, you should train an employee in a Funds Management role to understand the Funds Management derivation strategy, troubleshooting techniques, and the agency’s budgetary reporting requirements.

  • Knowledge transfer plan: These plans, which address project team knowledge, are typically measured at the end of the implementation. Because the project team comprises most of the CCC after go-live, you should extend the plan to address the requirements for the operational phase of the SAP solution.

South Florida Water Management District Achieves SAP-Certified CCC

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) was the second out of ten public sector entities in the United States to achieve SAP certification of its Customer Competency Center (CCC). The SFWMD is a governmental agency responsible for water quality, flood control, water supply, and environmental restoration in 16 counties from Orlando, Florida to the Florida Keys. The SFWMD’s regional water management system, with approximately 2,000 miles of canals and levees, 2,200 structures, and 500 major water control structures, helps protect regional water supplies and alleviate flooding on behalf of 7.5 million South Floridians. It’s also the lead agency in restoring America’s Everglades — the largest environmental restoration project in the nation’s history. The SFWMD employs 1,777 employees, and the adopted budget for FY2008 is $1.283 billion.

The SAP-integrated water management system that the SFWMD runs on the SAP NetWeaver platform supports operations and uses these applications:

  • Financial Accounting

  • Controlling

  • Grants Management

  • Funds Management

  • Asset Management

  • Materials Management

  • Project System
  • Plant Maintenance

  • Human Resources

  • Personnel Administration

  • Time Management

  • Treasury

  • Training and Events Management
  • Payroll (US)

  • Benefits

  • Business Warehouse

  • Employee Self-Service

  • Recruitment

  • Organizational Management

Initially, the SFWMD’s SAP implementation project did not adequately address CCC certification requirements. However, after the organization achieved a stable production system, the certification program was identified as a primary objective that would support system stability, enhance performance, provide faster service to users, and optimize the agency’s relationship with SAP. Working with Meridian Partners, an SAP Services Partner, the SFWMD achieved a successful certification audit.

The first step was to assess the CCC staff’s qualifications, organizational structure, and processes in relation to the required SAP certification standard. Due to the limited point-earning opportunities for a public sector entity, the SFWMD recognized that managing OSS messages internally was critical to achieving certification. The internal assessment identified a number of OSS messages sent to SAP for assistance as being unnecessary — that is, a simple OSS search by a CCC staff member could have located the solution and avoided escalation.

Based on this assessment, the SFWMD took the following key steps:

  • Identified the person at SAP responsible for the audit of the SFWMD’s CCC (the CCC Certification Manager)

  • Clarified roles in the defect resolution and change control processes

  • Secured and maintained highly competent staff in key roles

After these steps were implemented, a follow-up assessment revealed a message rate of fewer than four messages per month and a fulfillment rate of over 90%. At this point, the SFWMD felt confident enough to schedule the audit with the CCC Certification Manager at SAP, who managed the audit process, supported the SFWMD’s certification process, and worked with the organization to meet all the certification requirements. “It required some reorganization of roles and additional effort by the team,” states Bernardo Camarena, SFWMD Division Director of the SAP Solution Center, “but achieving the certification was well worth it. With the certification, we are providing the best support for our SAP users and receiving higher priority from the SAP support group.”

Get Certified

As I’ve stated, always plan and prepare for the audit before you actually start. With the proper preparation, the CCC certification is well within your reach. SAP is your partner in this process and will provide support and guidance, so don’t let the process intimidate you — and don’t underestimate the crucial benefits of certification.

6 Pieces of Advice

When you plan for an implementation, take the time to include a clear and detailed vision of a CCC.

Be sure to elevate your CCC above the individual departments in the agency and place it close to executive management.

Don’t attempt certification unless you have a stable production environment.

Calculate what your score would be for quality and quantity parameters before undertaking the actual certification audit.

Hire high-caliber staff to support your CCC.

When you find qualified resources to support the CCC, put measures in place to retain them.

Steve Parris is a director at Meridian Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in SAP implementations, upgrades, and support. A certified public accountant, Mr. Parris holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and has served in public sector finance for 20 years. He has 5 years of experience with SAP and is a Certified Integrator of SAP for Public Sector. You can contact him at For more information about Meridian Partners, visit

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