Two Ways to Adapt Your Center of Expertise for the Cloud

Any move to the cloud calls for change at varying degrees. But most times, every modification helps improve aspects of business operations. The same can be said for the Customer Center of Expertise (COE) organization – even when running IT operations in a hybrid of on-premise and cloud deployment environments.

In a hybrid scenario, the Customer COE organization shares the responsibility of several functions with traditional internal service partners, external cloud software providers, and partners delivering cloud support services. Figure 1 shows the standard functional model for Customer COE. The blue color represents the business functions and responsibilities of Customer COE. Meanwhile, the yellow color illustrates the tasks of its internal partners.

Standard Functional Model for Customer Center of Expertise
Figure 1: The Standard Functional Model for Customer COE

With the addition of cloud solutions, the functional model changes, as shown in Figure 2. The responsibility of Customer COE and its internal partners are indicated in yellow, while the tasks for cloud software providers and their partners are depicted in white. The responsibilities split between the business and IT remain unchanged when compared to the standard functional model.

Simplified Hybrid Customer Center of Expertise Functional Model
Figure 2: The Simplified Hybrid Customer COE Functional Model

Transforming the functional model allows Customer COE to handle two critical aspects of managing hybrid landscapes: support and application lifecycle.

1. Adjusting the Support Model for a Hybrid Landscape

Traditional Support Model for Customer Center of Expertise
Figure 3: Traditional Support Model for Customer COE

In the traditional support model, the Customer COE organization allows end users to access key users or submit a ticket to the service desk to acquire help for tier 1 issues. The service desk classifies incoming issues, executes service requests, and routes incidents and change requests to the next level of support.

Then, solution support teams, also known as tier 2 support, resolve incidents; plan, execute, and monitor change request activities when needed; and organize the involvement of experts from third-level support teams. Involving tier 3 support, often referred as an application support team, provides the necessary expertise, incident resolution, change requests, technical procedures, and IT infrastructure support interactions. When required, tier 2 and tier 3 support teams also communicate with the global support team from SAP.

To accommodate hybrid solution landscapes, this support model should be modified to address four fundamental considerations (see Figure 4):

  • The list of IT service participants is expanding.
  • The routing of user requests is more complicated.
  • The order of process steps and role of the customer IT support functions does not change.
  • The responsibility-sharing between vendor and service provider teams is not fully transparent.
Support Model for Customer Center of Expertise Assisting SaaS and PaaS Environments
Figure 4: The Support Model for Customer COE Assisting SaaS and PaaS Environments

The first step is to keep users, key users, and tier 1 support roles the same for software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) support models. In this use case, users submit a request through the company’s IT service management system (ITSM), which relays the request to the tier 1 support team. The support professionals classify incoming requests, settle some of those requests, route incidents, and service and change requests to the next level of support, including to the service provider.

For SaaS, tier 2 and 3 support roles need to be adapted to allow customer IT solution support (tier 2) to provide expertise, arrange vendor and service provider engagement, and plan and monitor incidents, service requests, and change management. The vendor’s (tier 2 and 3) and service provider’s support teams (tier 2) work together to help resolve incidents, fulfill service and change requests, and focus on technical procedures. Responsibility-sharing between vendor and service provider teams is not transparent to the customer.

For the PaaS model, tier 2 and 3 support roles should be adjusted to let customer IT solution support teams give expertise, arrange vendor and service provider engagement, and plan and monitor incidents, service requests, and change management. Vendor (tier 2) and service provider teams (tier 2 and 3) perform work on incident resolution, service and change requests, and technical procedures. Responsibility-sharing between service provider teams may be only partially transparent to the customer.

Regardless of the model you choose, vendors and service provider teams still need to involve their experts, when required.

2. Adjusting the Application Lifecycle for a Hybrid Landscape

Like the support model, the application lifecycle also requires some adaptation to transition from an on-premise model to a hybrid landscape, but for different reasons. The cloud model dictates new types of changes to hybrid environments, such as universal changes on the release date, newly available cloud features, and the activation of new business processes in the cloud. Testing requirements also increase dramatically as both cloud and localized extensions are added to the clean cloud environment.

However, some essential requirements remain the same. Change management must continue to meet audit requirements and be controlled. The need for integration and regression testing of critical processes also remains mostly the same. And conditions for quality assurance and testing of cloud extensions do not differ from similar requirements for the customer’s development in a traditional environment.

Change: Inevitable, Yet Transformational

IT leaders and their teams should always stay aware of the changes required and adapt accordingly – especially when switching from an on-premise environment to the cloud.

Yes, change is important. But, it’s the continuous evolution of adaptation that helps ensure that Customer COE organizations remain reliable, flexible, agile, and innovative.

Discover how SAP adapted the concept of the Customer Center of Expertise organization to help companies accommodate their functions to the requirements for hybrid landscapes by visiting us on sap.com and reviewing our guide library.

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Vladimir Sukhanov is principal business consultant and IT Transformation practice lead for Business Transformation Services at SAP CIS.