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First of a series of three articles on SAP Customer Center of Excellence for Azure.


The title of this article poses many questions to many customers as they plan to migrate to S/4HANA on hyperscale cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure. Is there a need for a Center of Excellence for SAP and Azure? And if the answer is yes, customers must then plan and execute through what are the required skills, training and competencies required for their SAP Center of Excellence staff. In this article, I will lay out three concepts:

  • Multi-cloud model consisting of SAP and Microsoft Cloud Services.

  • Capability model of a Unified SAP Customer Center of Excellence for Azure.

  • Role Mapping of a typical SAP SME to Microsoft training and certification.

But first, let’s find out what is a Centre of Excellence from both SAP and Microsoft’s point of view. According to SAP, below is the overview definition and what it does and its functional structure:

Mission Objectives, Functions and Key Components

SAP Customer Centre of Expertise (SAP CCoE)

Customer Centers of Expertise (Customer COEs) act as collaboration hubs across IT and Lines of Business in their companies. Their mission is to provide transparency and efficiency of implementation, innovation, operation, and quality of business processes and systems related to the SAP software solutions and services They have the knowledge, the capabilities, and the network to centrally drive continuous improvement and continuous innovation.”

SAP also certifies the customer under a program based on two maturity levels: Primary Customer CoE and Advanced Customer CoE. Please go to this link to read further. Usually, large SAP customers and Managed Service Providers go through this certification process to attain level of competency in ensuring service quality in support/operations and innovation excellence.

Microsoft Azure Cloud Centre of Excellence (Azure CCoE)

On the other hand, Microsoft’s view of Cloud Center of Excellence is defined as below as part of Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework. The objectives defined as:

  • “Help build a modern IT organization through agile approaches to capture and implement business requirements.

  • Use reusable deployment packages that align with security, compliance, and service management policies.

  • Maintain a functional Azure platform in alignment with operational procedures.

  • Review and approve the use of cloud-native tools.”

Over time, standardization and automation would be commonly needed for platform components and solutions. Currently, there is no certification program for Azure Centre of Excellence, but Microsoft Consulting has an portfolio solution that utilizes DevOps principles and Azure Cloud Native service management and security controls with an objective to build cloud capabilities and promote cultural change.




SAP Customer Centre of Expertise Azure Cloud Centre of Excellence

·       Information Management

·       Contract & License Management

·       Innovation & Influence

·       Support Operations – Go to contact for all SAP related topics


·       Cloud adoption (specifically solution architects)

·       Cloud strategy (specifically the program and project managers)

·       Cloud governance

·       Cloud platform

·       Cloud automation



Other than both their acronyms are termed as “CCoE”, the mission objectives are also similar. The staff within the CCoEs are meant to work collaboratively with their internal stakeholders (lines of business, IT) to implement, innovate and operate technical solutions and services in support of the enterprise or organizational business processes.

However, we need to peel off the layers of responsibilities for business, application, development and infrastructure.  See below for typical organizational model responsibilities delineated between Business and IT.

Figure 1: Core Responsibilities within an Organization – Source: SAP

Key Components of SAP CCoE

SAP CCoE key components includes the concept of a “Mission Control Center” borrowed from U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) where “An operations control center focuses on day-to-day operations; an implementation control center provides a project control approach that monitors the progress and quality metrics of multiple critical projects and helps ensure a smooth transition of the new solution from the project to the operations phase”.

In general, mission control centers are staffed as a virtual team from representatives from other groups like development and infrastructure. Even application/data owners from business should inducted in as they are key users which will help speed up issue resolution with clearly defined escalation paths. It is one-team approach that gives a clear governance based on KPIs as a single source of truth. From the network perspective, the typical SAP CCoE works with externally with SAP’s control center (maybe it depends on whether the customer has SAP MaxAttention or other other egnagement types) and partners as below. For example, in the case for SAP on Azure, the partner would be Microsoft, and this will depend on the customer’s support arrangement with Microsoft.

Nonetheless, line-of-business owners can still drive investment decisions for new technologies and products through fast value realization and value identification using DevOps and Agile Methodologies. This will be aligned to the Azure CCoE cloud adoption team construct.

Figure 2: Key Components of SAP CCoE – Source: SAP (modified)

Key Components of Azure CCoE

There is no direct mapping of a typical Azure CCoE components to a SAP CCoE components, because Microsoft view the Azure CCoE as having a focus on self-service which is contrary to SAP CCoE model.. SAP CCoE = Control Center and Azure CCoE = Self-Service. This is dichotomy between the models. We would need to somehow blend and unify between control and self-service.

Read the quotes here:

“The teams in this structure organize with the intent of delegating control as much as possible. Aligning governance and compliance practices to cloud-native solutions creates guardrails and protection mechanisms. Unlike the Central IT model, the cloud-native approach maximizes innovation and minimizes operational overhead. For this model to be adopted, mutual agreement to modernize IT processes will be required from business and IT leadership. This model is unlikely to occur organically and often requires executive support.”

Below Figure 3, the split of between Cloud Strategy, Adoption, Operations with a separate Azure CCoE. In my view, this is model is suited for pure DevOps model of application development on cloud native platforms but not necessarily suitable for packaged solutions like SAP. Read this article where I wrote on custom development versus packaged applications.

Figure 3: Key Components of Azure CCoE – Source: Microsoft

Microsoft even provided very detailed guidance of RACI alignment for the various cloud teams. Moving forward, I shall now propose a Unified capability model for a SAP CCoE on Azure since we have now understood  functional, structural and component view of SAP and Microsoft center of expertise/excellence.

Multi-cloud model consisting of SAP and Microsoft Cloud Services

Traditionally, the concept of SAP CCoE has always been on-premise centric point of view, but SAP now recognizes the growing reality of cloud deployment models which SAP terms as Hybrid Cloud and emerging trends in DevOps.  Here I present an graphical overview of the solution capabilities for Microsoft Azure and SAP SaaS solutions and Cloud Platforms (self-explanatory I hope).

Figure 4: Overview of Microsoft Azure IaaS/PaaS and SAP SaaS/SAP Cloud PaaS. Source: Author


[3-Apr-2020: Author's Note - Embrace Architecture is now published]

These architectures are part of the Embrace Collaboration:

Extend SAP S/4HANA with SAP and Microsoft services

Simplify business process integration across SAP and Microsoft

Intelligently optimize and automate processes with SAP and Microsoft services 

Consume Microsoft Azure services in SAP Cloud Platform

Establish identity & authentication workflow between SAP and Microsoft

I propose the concept of “Unified SAP Customer Center of Excellence for Azure or Unified SAP CCoEA”. You may swap the word “Excellence” with “Expertise” if that suits your organization.

I draw inspiration from the United States military – Unified Combatant Command. Quoting Wikipedia : “composed of forces from at least two Military Departments and has a broad and continuing mission. These commands are established to provide effective command and control of U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of service, in peace and war."

Capability Model for a Unified SAP Customer Center of Excellence for Azure

I would propose this new Unified SAP CCoE  adopt the role of Broker Orchestrator & Integrator as part of a Digital IT Operating Model (credit: KPMG)

  • Design Authority and Governance Owner

  • Strong alignment and collaboration with business

  • IT Strategy and Roadmap to support business needs and requirements

  • Corporate standards for enterprise security and integration

  • Legacy IT tasks are redundant (datacenter, legacy software)

  • SaaS Application solutions provides opportunities for standardization and continuous innovation

  • PaaS solutions provide opportunities for integration between system of record, system of differentiation and system of innovation using Gartner’s Bi-Modal IT concepts.

  • New Skills and Role Required (blend of both SAP and Azure skills)

I assume that the customer is responsible for governance for end to end of service delivery and that certain layers might involve managed service providers to deliver operational services through outsourcing or out-tasking. It is an important capability to able to manage service delivery of different vendors.

Figure 5: Cloud Responsibilities by layer – Source: SAP (Modified)

Now, I would like to propose a capability model that embraces all the different deployment models of SAP SaaS, PaaS and Azure PaaS, and IaaS.

SAP and Azure Cloud Strategy

  • Governance alignment with organization’s senior leadership stakeholder on its business strategy.

  • Assess suitable maturity of cloud solutions for your organization (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS)

    • SaaS: SAP SuccessFactors, Ariba, SAP Analytics Cloud.

    • PaaS: SAP Cloud Platform on Azure, Azure PaaS services (Logic Apps, IoT, Event Hubs, Azure Data Factory, etc.)

    • IaaS: SAP workload on Azure (Azure Virtual Machines), HANA Large Instances, Azure storage, Azure Netapps).

  • Evaluate Opportunities and Risks for new solutions from SAP roadmaps and Azure updates.

  • Develop business case criteria and overall strategy for SAP solutions (cloud or non-cloud) and Azure IaaS/PaaS to fulfil enterprise business needs and future innovation.

 SAP Business, Application, Data, Development and Azure Platform Architecture

  • Business, Application, Data and Development Design

  • Integration Design

    • Integration architecture design using below services.

      • SAP Cloud Platform PaaS services: SAP Cloud Integration, API Management, Integration Advisor, Smart Data Integration.

      • Azure PaaS Services with SAP connectors: Azure Active Directory, SAP Logic Apps, Event Hub, Azure Data Factory.

    • Use of Microservices like container orchestration like Azure Kubernetes

    • SAP Cloud Platform on Azure (via Cloud Foundry) various microservices and integration services which are abstracted but still using Azure underlying services.

  • Technical Design

    • SAP NetWeaver/Basis, HANA Database and Any DB architecture solution design.

    • Azure Infrastructure Design for SAP HANA workloads.

    • Elasticity and Scalability Design for Azure.

    • High Availability and Disaster Recovery for SAP on Azure IaaS components.

    • SAP Application and User security.

    • Azure Security for Platform (Single Sign-On, platform infrastructure, encryption).

Hybrid SAP and Azure Operations

  • Hybrid operations for SAP NetWeaver/Basis on Azure IaaS.

  • Business Process Monitoring

  • Application Monitoring.

  • System and Technical Monitoring.

  • SAP Batch Job Management

  • SAP on Azure Landscape Management (use of Azure SAP LaMa connector)

  • Technical Upgrade (Bugfixes/Legal Changes)

  • Optimize Functionality

  • SAP on Azure DevOps (use of ABAP SDK for Azure)

  • Cloud Cost/Spend Optimization

Cloud Adoption and Transformation

  • Quick prototyping and iteration of proof of concepts and/or proof of value pilots or minimum viable product (MVP).

  • Practice Agile Scrum tools/methodologies for MVP; SAP Activate, or Azure DevOps for these quick wins.

  • Design, develop and build high level multi-year transition and transformation roadmap for S/4HANA and Cloud Migration (assuming you have complex existing landscapes with intricate integration and custom development in place.

  • Design, develop, build and execute detailed program/project for either transition/transformation for S/4 HANA Feature Upgrades.

  • Manage Communication with Key Business and IT stakeholders through Organizational Change Management (OCM) initiatives.

Figure 6: Overview of Unified SAP Customer CCoEA’s Capability Model. Source: Author

Further to this, as of late October 2019, SAP also announced its partnership with Microsoft for Project Embrace which will help accelerate cus... This makes it ever more important for customers to build up SAP CCoEs and Azure CCoEs if they don’t have one now. If they do, then the question whether to integrate both from and structural perspective and define respective role/responsibilities and competencies.

I will provide a brief and broad outline on what this might look like drawing from SAP and Microsoft source material. Using the above capability areas as reference, this will be mapped to the knowledge expertise of subject matter experts (SME) job roles within the Unified SAP CCoEA with a virtual extension to Azure CCoE. This enables a rotation of deep skilled SMEs from Azure CoE’s Operations Governance, Platform, Automation and Security teams to the Unified SAP CCoEA.

The proposed model for training and certification pathways for the specific Hybrid SAP SME roles is to enable them to effectively perform their job functions in support of the Unified SAP CCoEA objectives. The key is that these SMEs need to upskill with knowledge of Azure technologies and tools to better leverage cloud capabilities. Other topics of how to build a Unified SAP CCoEA structure, its associated management processes, cultural change and knowledge tools will not be covered in this article to preserve short article length. Perhaps, these topics can be covered in subsequent articles if time permits.

Unified SAP CCoEA Role Based Mapping to Microsoft Azure Skills

On September 2018, Microsoft announced a job role-based certification framework for customers and partners. Associated with the certification are pathways that individuals can utilize for their learning to skill up.

Figure 7: Overview of Microsoft Training and Certification. Source: Microsoft

Here are the available channels for learning, quoted from here:

  • Microlearning available on Microsoft Learn offers you the opportunity to learn Microsoft technologies and role-based concepts online for free, in an engaging and interactive way. These step-by-step tutorials provide a hands-on learning experience with easily accessed materials. Earn achievement badges to share with your networks.

  • Online courses are always a favorite, given their flexibility, self-paced structure, and technical content partnerships with industry leaders, such as Pluralsight, LinkedIn Learning, edX, and Microsoft Learning Partners. Build practical job skills with a focus on the role-based certification you are pursuing.

  • Instructor-led training with Microsoft Learning Partners offers deep technical expertise. Choose from in-person training, online training, or blended learning, as you prepare with the experts for certification in your job role.

When a first time SAP to Azure Migration takes place, usually the NetWeaver/Basis/HANA teams would not have an idea of what Azure infrastructure is about. Vice-versa, the Azure platform team do not have SAP NetWeaver/Basis/HANA knowledge.  This makes it important for an SAP Technical Architect or NetWeaver/Basis HANA Consultant to be trained and be certified on Azure.

After migration is completed and as part of steady state run, this is where full benefits of running an SAP workload on Azure can be realized through these unified capabilities. Here is a mapping table for the various job roles within a typical SAP CCoE would need to acquire necessary Microsoft skills for a Unified SAP CCoEA.

Capability Area for Unified SAP CCoEA Proposed Unified SAP CCoEA Role Azure Role Mapping for Certification/Training

Cloud Strategy


Unified SAP CCoEA Leader


Azure Fundamentals

Azure Data Fundamentals

Azure AI Fundamentals


SAP Enterprise Architect


Azure Fundamentals (Architects with Business Focus)

Azure Data Fundamentals (Architects with Business Focus/Technical Background)

Azure AI Fundamentals (Architects with Business Focus/Technical Background)

Azure Solution Architect (Architects with Prior Technical Background)

Business, Application, Data Development, Technical Architecture

Solution Architects/Functional Consultant

  • SAP Modules – Finance, SD/MM, MDG, PP/PM


Azure Fundamentals (Architects with Business Focus)

Azure Data Fundamentals (Architects with Business Focus/Technical Background)

Azure AI Fundamentals (Architects with Business Focus/Technical Background)

Azure Solution Architect (Architects with Prior Technical Background)



SAP Data Architect/Consultants (traditionally skilled in Business Warehouse and BI/BO)


Azure Data Scientist

Azure Data Engineer

Azure AI Engineer

Azure Power Platform Fundamentals



SAP Technical Architect


Azure Solution Architect

Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty *


SAP Development Architect/Analyst (traditionally skilled in ABAP)


Azure Developer Associate

Azure AI Engineer
SAP Security Architect/Analyst Azure Security Engineer

Hybrid SAP and Azure Operations

SAP ABAP Developer

Azure Developer Associate

Azure DevOps Expert


SAP NetWeaver/Basis/HANA Database Consultant/Administrator




Azure Administrator

Azure for SAP Workloads Specialty *


SAP Security Administrator

Azure Security Engineer

Testing, Change and Release Administrators


Azure DevOps Associate


SAP Support Desk Operations


Azure Fundamentals


Cloud Adoption and Transformation


SAP Program/Project Managers

SAP Project Coordinators

Communication Managers

Azure Fundamentals


*Generally Available as of 21-Feb-2020

For certification based on these roles, you can go to Microsoft Certifications to have an overview on the exams overview, guidelines and how to register.

This is based largely on my background Knowledge Management, and my experience in SAP Service Delivery/Programs gained over the years and referencing SAP/Microsoft source material. This is by no means prescriptive as each organization has its own human capital learning plans and individual staff professional development interests.

The purpose of the skills training is not to make the Unified SAP CCoEA staff member to be true expert practitioners for Microsoft Azure Cloud. That role should be fulfilled by the Azure CCoE. The awareness and intermediate skill knowledge of Azure platform capabilities allows a collaborative exchange between these two knowledge disciplines that will result in common understanding of the technologies and therefore promote better communication, achieving lesser organizational friction. Ultimately, this will bring about positive value and benefits to the organization.

Use this as a guidance to start thinking through what are learning possibilities for your Unified SAP CCoEA and I would like to end with a quote from Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella LinkedIn article “The necessity of tech intensity in today’s digital world”.

Tech intensity is what underlies our mission at Microsoft to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. We are committed to helping our customers unlock the power of technology across everything they do…” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft

Other Relevant Articles on SAP Technical Community

Quick Guide to SAP on Azure SLA and OLA

Quick Project Manager’s Guide to SAP on Azure

Quick Reference to SAP on Azure Components for HA and DR

SAP Customer Center of Excellence for Azure: Govern, Design, Innovate & Build

SAP Center of Excellence for Azure: Sustain & Run

Microsoft Cloud Operating Model & SAP on Azure Migration Scenarios

SAP IT Service Operations Management on Azure

SAP Security Operations on Azure

SAP Expert Role Guide to Microsoft Azure Skills and Certification

Exam Study Resources for AZ-120 Planning and Administering Microsoft Azure for SAP Workloads.

Worst SAP Production Outage Disasters


This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

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