Over the past decade, IT solution management has become significantly more difficult. In the pool of increasingly complex business applications, customers are choosing more specialized products that require heightened service levels — and they’re getting these products from a variety of vendors. In addition, the business mandate to enable constant innovation can further stress already strapped IT departments, while current trends around mobility, in-memory database technology, and cloud-based solutions put even more pressure on IT to deliver on these heightened expectations.
In the future, IT systems will be highly heterogeneous networked landscapes, distributed over many software components and data persistence layers, and, very likely, throughout numerous enterprises. These systems will have to serve the needs of a demanding, high-tech generation, while still focusing on mission-critical business needs such as 24-hour availability, business process improvement, unwavering performance and scalability, and data security.
Successfully managing IT solutions requires a well-structured organization. One of the most critical requirements for supporting a complex IT landscape in a networked world is quality end-to-end solution orchestration. To achieve this, companies would be well-served to establish an Advanced Customer Center of Expertise (Advanced Customer COE).1
End-to-End Solution Orchestration: The Ideal Scenario
End-to-end solution orchestration is an essential practice for IT departments that are looking to deliver business value. A general approach for successful, optimized IT orchestration consists of the following:
- Standardized end-to-end operations processes. These processes need to be scalable yet flexible enough to quickly react to any business and IT changes. These changes can result from process adjustments due to innovative product implementations, as well as departmental reorganizations following company restructuring, mergers, and acquisitions.
- Automated and proactive rather than manual and reactive IT. IT departments that are proactive and use automated functions will be able to keep costs and efforts as low as possible while guaranteeing a maximum level of stability.
- Quality-oriented IT operations. Continuous improvement is the best way to ensure that a state-of-the-art IT organization is ready for new challenges. Integrated quality management is the basis for increasing the maturity of your IT department.
- Close connection to the experts. With increasing heterogeneity of software and hardware partners, close collaboration with partner experts is an absolute requirement; not all of the necessary skills can be available within your own organization.
The goal of end-to-end solution orchestration is to drive integrated quality management. Simply put, all involved organizational units have to work jointly to make IT operations and innovation projects as successful as possible. In the face of current and future challenges, companies will have to establish and control flexible, standardized, automated, proactive, and quality-oriented IT operations processes through a centralized structure — all to ensure business continuity and minimize time to value.
Advance Your Customer COE to the Next Level
What does it take to provide excellent end-to-end solution orchestration? The starting point is for an organization to establish a Mission Control Center (MCC). This MCC concept works, in principle, similarly to a NASA control room. Every mission-critical application and technology component, as well as every implementation and operation services provider, is represented within this MCC. In addition, the MCC is also staffed with representatives from all stakeholder groups. The team can also include the development support units of all the application and technology components.
Appropriate owners with access to all functional units, as well as implementation and operations stakeholders, are assigned to the MCC. They have access to key users and development support units and have clearly defined escalation paths that will help speed up issue resolution. Within the MCC, a one-team approach is enforced, with one or two co-owners assigned to review and sign off on issue resolution.
The MCC can only be efficiently implemented and constantly improved when the customer’s IT team works in close cooperation with SAP. Since the MCC will be dealing with not only current operations challenges, but also future innovation topics, this means the customer’s MCC needs to establish and control flexible, automated, proactive, and quality-oriented IT operations processes to ensure business continuity and minimize time to value.
The MCC setup is driven by each individual customer’s situation. Some customers require an operation control center that focuses on day-to-day operations. Others may need more of a project control approach that monitors the progress and quality metrics of multiple critical projects. Some environments call for critical situation management to handle escalated situations and complex go-live activity. So no matter your particular needs, you can rest assured that an MCC will effectively serve your business.
However, establishing an MCC in an increasingly complex, intricately networked world is not enough. There is a growing need to constantly adjust your MCC to provide holistic governance and take your MCC to a new level of performance. To do this, consider enhancing the MCC concept with dedicated quality managers to form an Advanced Customer COE, which serves as a single source of truth and a central point for functional collaboration among the business, IT, SAP, and partners. This structure helps increase the transparency of business processes, reduce downtime to boost system and business process availability, and reduce TCO (see Figure 1).
An Advanced Customer COE provides appropriate knowledge about end-to-end business processes that are currently implemented or will be implemented. It is responsible for various quality management tasks, including validating the successful integration of solutions into complex software landscapes during the integration testing phase of an IT project.
The Role of Quality Managers
Dedicated quality manager roles are assigned as part of the Advanced Customer COE to ensure that IT processes are state of the art by driving maturity improvement via regularly adjusted business solution process KPIs. The quality managers are the single source of truth for all IT-related reporting requirements. In the case of critical situations, quality managers can drive necessary adjustments to quickly resolve issues and coordinate the required expertise from all involved parties.
Mandatory quality manager roles cover all topics regarding business continuity, integration validation, protection of investment, and business process innovation. In addition, it is essential that both partners and SAP support the Mission Control Center with quality managers, assigned according to their responsibilities, to ensure governance and integration of a partner’s subject matter experts.
To guarantee a positive impact from the Advanced Customer COE, these MCC quality managers are also responsible for ensuring several key success factors:
- Transparent and complete documentation of solutions, projects, operations handbooks, and engagements, which will be used to create a single source of truth
- Fully integrated partner tools and roles
- Central activity planning regarding tasks, services, and issues for each KPI
- Balanced scorecard-driven continuous improvement of IT processes and projects using a KPI framework for definition and improvement documentation
By concentrating on these key success factors, quality managers keep the team on the path to successful implementation and continuous improvement of operations processes and innovation initiatives.
Revamped Advanced Customer COE Certification
Companies that successfully use an Advanced Customer COE along with their MCC can be audited by SAP to assess the maturity of quality management and integration with SAP solutions. By achieving the Advanced Customer COE certification, customers can receive exclusive benefits, such as:
- The ability to leverage the SAP service delivery engine
- Inclusion in a network with fellow Advanced Customer COE companies that are also at mature IT levels
- Early information and knowledge transfer
There is a broad range of training available for the different Advanced Customer COE roles. For instance, an enhanced foundational offering is available as core training, followed by a wide range of function-specific training — from technology foundations to specific instruction on “Run SAP Like a Factory” and application lifecycle management.
The Future of Centers of Expertise
To further help companies traverse a highly networked world, SAP is planning to:
- Provide a platform with which companies with an Advanced Customer COE can establish a network for rapid adoption of new technologies and applications
- Organize annual workshops in which customers who have achieved Advanced Customer COE certification can receive SAP Active Global Support development previews, best practices, and strategies
- Create an extra feedback channel for these certified customers to communicate with SAP for improved collaboration
By leveraging these offerings and establishing a well-organized MCC and Advanced Customer COE, companies will be fully prepared to tackle future challenges. For more information, visit http://service.sap.com/coe.
Dr. Wolfgang Schatz (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Global Program Owner for the Advanced Customer COE topic at SAP. He has 14 years of experience in maintenance and support and has held a variety of positions in SAP Active Global Support.
1 See “The Next Step to Advance Your Customer COE: Demonstrate Measurable Value” by Sheree Johnson in the October-December 2011 issue of SAPinsider. [back]