One of the more daunting barriers to the establishment of a viable Center of Excellence in most firms is the persistent view that SAP is an IT subject and thus IT holds decision-making powers that it should never be given. Over the years I’ve observed dozens of clients send out SAP management to create a business-centric organization that few business people agree to join. Unsurprisingly, one of the most frequent questions I get is “how do you get business people to participate in a center of excellence?” The short answer: have business people build and lead the center of excellence.
Even when business people are involved in a Center of Excellence, a further barrier is thrown up if there is a lack of authority vested in the business process owners.
Consider, for example, how the owner of the Orders-to-Cash business process needs process authority across a number of vertical departments:
When authority over individual applications is given to vertical department heads, we find that conflicting “improvements” tend to occur. One common example is when the head of sales decides to promote sales by changing the sales order process to allow for massive discounting and accelerated sales closings while at the very same time the head of the warehouse changes his applications to squeeze out inventory.
Ideally, department heads will not have the authority to change applications. Ideally, all changes to applications should be approved by the relevant business process owners. In this light, business process owners should be inclined to accept requests that are justifiable and do not negatively impact key performance.
Here again is a template organizational chart:
Note that the arrows from process owners to the applications are unidirectional. That is because in a functioning Center of Excellence there is no longer a “negotiating” culture and process owners clearly direct the applications maintenance agenda. If the process owners do not have the requisite authority, the Center of Excellence becomes a Center of Mediocrity.
So here is an extremely excellent practice that I learned from a client who purchased a large quantity of both of my books and therefore merited a freebie consulting session. In the course of our discussion I learned that not only was his company forming a Center of Excellence (pre-implementation, no less!) but that they had also adopted a policy:
Any individual destined for senior management had to spend at least two years in the enterprise and enablement domains.
“It is obvious to us,” the client confided, “that the work experience of mastering business process and the inherent business measurements as well as the cause and effect of business process improvement is the best possible preparation for a senior position.”
Further, exposure to the enablement domain helps assure that these future senior execs will gain insight into the end user (we prefer to call them process drivers) experience and thus understand, in depth, how business processes are fulfilled.
I cannot think of any policy that could do more to fully authorize (as well as energize) business process ownership in the context of a business-centric Center of Excellence.