5 Key roles you need in an SAP Centre of Excellence (CoE)

In our previous post, we discussed the 7 steps for making your SAP Centre of Excellence a success. Running alongside these steps, organisations need to ensure they have the right people/roles and responsibilities within the CoE.   These will vary depending on your SAP Centre of Excellence (CoE) structure and budget, but will generally fall into one of four categories: Leadership, a Core Team, an Extended Team, and then Project Team(s). Funding a large Centre of Excellence might not be feasible to start; typically a small team is formed to begin with, growing in tandem with the organisation’s investment and the CoE’s perceived value.

When reviewing the positions/roles below look past the titles and align with the descriptions – titles vary by organisation and often the same role may have many titles


Head of SAP Centre of Excellence

Often a relatively senior leader, the head of the SAP Centre of Excellence is the figurehead of the CoE. Responsible for the day to day management of the CoE, this role takes control of the lifecycle of the SAP system. They ensure regular operations run smoothly, maximising uptime, and ensure updates and upgrade are applied in a timely manner. They drive innovation into the organisation through controlled projects and enhancements and ensure all standards are defined and adhered to. Typically the role reports to an appropriate corporate senior leadership team/board. An important role of the head of the CoE is that of demand management. During the lifecycle of any SAP solution there will be a high demand for change and innovation. Priorities must be set and controlled through this role.

Core Team

This team handles the day to day operations and relatively small-scale change/enhancements and improvements to the SAP solution. They own and improve the current SAP build, define best practices through the current solution and contribute to the definition of the Centre of Excellence methodology.

SAP Solution Architect

The Solution Architect understands the entire solution end to end. Often with a high degree of knowledge of SAP, they understand the high-level business processes and how these are embedded within the technology. They understand the inputs and outputs of each of the SAP modules and how they interlock together. It is also likely they understand the integration points into for the overall system. Typically they understand the ‘flow’ of information from any upstream stream, into SAP, through the various modules, and then either into finance or out to the finance system.

SAP Analyst(s)

Typically aligned with a process area, module or functionality, these are the SAP experts. They understand the detail, monitor the processes running in their sphere of expertise and seek to maintain and improve the BAU solutions. Typically they have an external interest in their area and should be aware of the ‘latest developments’ in the areas they specialise in. When large projects are commissioned these people are typically seconded to the project team for the duration. This assists the transition from the project into BAU.

Business Process Architect

This role sits alongside the SAP Solution Architect and looks at the overall business from a process angle. They are responsible for the strategic target operating model that SAP operates within and, when improvements are available/suggested, consider the business processes to reflect the new ways of working. They understand the operational aspects of the business and the processes both inside and outside SAP. They liaise with senior managers, capturing the new innovative ideas and suggestions from within the business functions, bringing them back to the team as requirements to build upon and validate. They control the expectations of the business and help work with them to define/redesign working practices for the new improvements.

Subject Matter Expert(s)

Subject matter experts will form part of the core team should the CoE be large enough. Typically deployed ‘in’ the business, they are responsible for working closely with business teams to ensure SAP and the business and working in harmony, whilst constantly analysing the current operational model. They understand the detail within their business area and, reporting into the Business Process Architect, spot improvements and weaknesses (cost, quality, effectiveness, efficiency and failure) in the current systems/processes. Typically this then results in creative ideas and suggestions/tweaks to improve the solution at the front line. They should be able to define the outputs from the changes in terminology the business unit understand – feeding into the business case for each iteration of change. Although not a technical specialist, the Subject Matter Expert will have a firm understanding of system concepts relating to the SAP application.

Extended Team (dependant on size)

The Extended team will probably only exist if the Centre of Excellence is of sufficient size and complexity. They work alongside the core team within their subject matter expertise. When the extended team does not exist, these roles normally form part of the core team. 

Test Analyst(s)

Being experts in testing, the test team work closely with the business and core team to define all test scripts and scenarios for all test cycles. It is beneficial if the test team have a broad spectrum of process expertise so they are able to cover the majority of the business processes with ease.

Infrastructure Analyst(s)

As the level of innovation and architecture becomes more complicated (cloud, external gateways, integration points etc) it may be pertinent to have a networking/infrastructure analyst. This role ensures the safe and secure connectivity of all components touching the SAP estate.


Depending on any agreement with third-party suppliers, it may be beneficial to have members of the team responsible for the database technology and technical components around SAP. This role is about maintaining stability and ensuring the database platform operates at it’s optimum. They will monitor all the components of SAP (normally through SAP Solution Manager) and spot and address any weaknesses before they become issues.

Security and Authorisations Analyst(s)

As your SAP estate grows it will become increasingly important to ensure roles and authorisations are appropriate. Segregation of duties is a key feature of any audit and roles should be appropriately built to prevent users from processing the full business process end to end. This role works with the core team and project team to define and build roles and authorisations for the SAP solution.

Project Team

The project team is a temporary structure in place to deliver SAP projects into the organisation. The project team will likely include a Project Manager, SAP Architect(s), SAP Analyst(s) and perhaps specialist business process experts. They may be staffed by an external solution provider, but will always involve some of the internal Centre of Excellence team. The project team typically report to the Head of the CoE. They are responsible for the day to day deliverables, scope and delivery of project outcomes according to the best practices and methodology determined by the CoE. Typically the projects are bigger change and require some business transformation in conjunction with the technology.

Relationships between the SAP Centre of Excellence and other parts of the business

As strong as the staff described above will be, they will not know everything about everything in the business. This is where the creation of close collaborative relationships comes in. Building these relationships will begin with the Head of the SAP CoE and how he or she will reach out to business managers and speciality groups in the various departments.

This initial collaboration will require a lot of care as the SAP CoE brings together technical resources with SMEs from the business areas to form the collaborative team needed for SAP success.

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Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 21 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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