Implementing SAP in an organization not only aligns business processes but sometimes results in an overhaul of the company’s deeply ingrained ways of doing business. People from all levels of the organization need to collaborate to achieve the common goal. The SAP subject matter expert (SME) provides the expertise necessary to ease the transition, considering some of the upheaving changes that are inevitable within the organization.
SAP Subject Matter Expert
The SAP subject matter expert (SME) has command, authority and expertise within a particular domain or area. In short, he is not a jack-of-all-trades. This expert has spent a considerable amount of time in their domain and is a champion of that subject. They may or may not be a department head but they are usually part of the management team.
For example, a country with complex import processes requires a person who knows those import processes like the back of their hand. The SME knows what sort of duties, taxes, and levies are involved. They can select the best clearing and forwarding agent. They know how to handle customs, regulations and other legal issues and how to deal with shipping companies. This person may be the procurement department head or a manager leading the import section of procurement.
Further, if a company is involved in the import of regulated or high-profile materials, a subject matter expert is required who can deal with and is aware of the consequences of the import of such materials. A person without this expertise may be ignorant of specific laws and may result in negligence. This subject matter expert may or may not be the same as the general import subject matter expert mentioned above.
An SAP subject matter expert can be:
- A person who is highly specialized in a particular area so that his expertise can be integrated seamlessly into SAP
- A person who has been involved in SAP implementations within the same domain at other companies
Roles of SAP Subject Matter Expert
The SAP subject matter expert is mainly responsible for:
- Process harmonization and standardization within respective business domain
- Identifying the operational difficulties that the staff face in their daily operations
- Documenting, supervising and monitoring details of AS IS business processes
- Reviewing TO BE business process documentation and identifying gaps
- Approving TO BE business process documentation
- Efficacy of final business process design, once approved
- Ensuring that the processes being implemented are in line with the company’s operations and do not affect other departments’ operations
- Liaising between users and the implementation team
- Identifying potential threats and informing all concerned parties in a timely manner
- Facilitating change management within their team and answering queries/alleviating fears
- Foreseeing future hurdles and preparing a mitigation strategy
- Successful implementation of SAP with acceptability across all hierarchies
Traits of SAP Subject Matter Expert
A successful subject matter expert should possess extensive expertise, practical experience and deep business knowledge of their industry’s best practices. This person is aware of the realities and the environment in which users perform their daily operations. It is expected that the expert looks after the interests, not only of the organization, but also of the individual employees on their team. The expert should be able to articulate the concerns and grievances raised by their team in response to changes in processes or technological environment.
Furthermore, a subject matter expert should be well-versed in human management, understanding personal space needs and human emotions which might arise as a result of change. They should be a good coach with strong interpersonal skills. The expert must be able to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of end users, ensuring that they can effectively do their job in SAP and arranging supplementary training as necessary.
An SAP subject matter expert should be able to develop strong rapport with all stakeholders of an SAP implementation, regardless of level. They should build a bridge across all hierarchies within an organization. Similar to the SAP business process owner, they should be able to mediate and resolve friction between the SAP implementation team and the business team. Strong subject matter experts tend to be seen as problem solvers amongst their counterparts.
During an implementation, the SAP subject matter expert plays a critical role. This person monitors whether things are going according to plan, verifies that users are getting what was committed, and validates that the implementation meets all the business requirements. Beyond the implementation phase, the expert observes the ongoing business processes, identifies gaps, improves current processes, arranges training for subordinates and gains industry insights on how other companies and competitors are carrying out their operations. Their ongoing support and buy-in is critical to the success of your SAP implementation and beyond!