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A step-by-step approach to an SAP PCOE certification or recertification

An SAP Partner Center of Expertise certification is a mandatory requirement to sell SAP products and offer enterprise support services to customers. Here's how to earn it.

The Partner Center of Expertise certification is a must for any company wanting to be an SAP value-added reseller....

Without a certification, your company cannot sell SAP products or offer services. Earning the PCOE certification says your company has the requisite SAP expertise and delivers the highest level of enterprise support services.

Laying the groundwork to earn the SAP PCOE certification can be time-consuming, but it is worth the effort. Certification secures your company SAP licensing discounts, which it can pass on to customers. The Partner Center of Expertise certification also enables your company to provide enterprise support services to customer companies, which can mean much more revenue for your company.

Whether your company is attempting to attain SAP PCOE certification or a recertification, it's important to have the necessary infrastructure, processes and people in place. A recertification is required of value-added resellers (VARs) every two years to ensure the partner still meets SAP's benchmark for providing enterprise support services. Most of the standards of certification are the same, with the exception of four additional requirements for recertification. Certification to sell new products has two requirements -- on top of PCOE certification. All are detailed below.

Here are the prerequisites your company needs before attempting PCOE certification or recertification.

Infrastructure prerequisites

1. Your company needs on-premises hardware and servers, or a cloud-based subscription capable of installing SAP Solution Manager and testing systems, such as SAP ECC, Business Warehouse and so on. Solution Manager is the central SAP system, where all support ticket logging and tracking takes place. It also needs the appropriate test or play systems for SAP ECC and Business Warehouse to enable your company's SAP support consultants to test and simulate the same problems that a customer has in order to come up with applicable solution.

2. If you have an on-premises setup, you need an internet connection that can connect your Solution Manager system with any customer's Solution Manager and with the SAP Support Center -- known as Active Global Support.

3. Your company needs an SAP NetWeaver consultant to advise you on the hardware sizing and speed of internet connectivity required to manage the PCOE setup.

4. Connect your Solution Manager with customers' Solution Manager or, for first-time certification seekers, with the dummy customer. Either way, the customer or customers should be able to raise a ticket to their Solution Manager that gets routed to your company's Solution Manager for resolution. If not, the ticket should be escalated to SAP's Solution Manager portal, Active Global Support.

5. Be sure you have a dedicated support help desk with both office and after-office hours at your company's location for customers to contact.

6. In addition, you may want to create a dedicated enterprise support services email address, but this not mandatory.

Processes prerequisites

1. Your company needs documents covering end-to-end business process flows on how the customer will log the support ticket in its Solution Manager, how tickets will reach your Solution Manager, how the ticket will be assigned to a technical or functional support consultant and the benchmark to close a ticket. Further, and depending on the severity of the issue faced by a customer, certain key performance indicators should be set to assess the quality of support service you provide.

2. Your company's corporate presentation to new or potential SAP customers should also have a few slides to highlight enterprise support services that SAP provides in coordination with its partner.

3. You should also prepare a standard template of annual maintenance contracts for each customer to clarify the scope of enterprise support services. The template provides a clear understanding of enterprise support services, as well as the scope of roles and responsibilities of the customer company, the VAR and SAP.

People prerequisites

1. At least two of your company's SAP consultants should achieve free and online PCOE support certification with the course code, Q_SUPP_1.

2. Your company also needs two SAP consultants certified in a specific product or technology in which you are attempting certification. For example, if your company plans to sell SAP Business All in One or SAP ECC, then two certified BAiO consultants are required. Consultants' certification can be in any SAP ECC components. Same is the case with Analytics or HANA certification. In other words, whatever SAP product you want to sell licenses for, your company should have two certified SAP consultant for that specific product.

3. Be sure to check with SAP on the exact SAP certification code that will meet the eligibility of the PCOE certification requirement.

PCOE certification or recertification steps

Now that the PCOE certification prerequisites are established, here are some important steps to successfully navigate the PCOE certification:

1. Request a partner services adviser from SAP. To facilitate the certification process, SAP assigns a PSA to advise and guide in all stages of certification, as well as be a contact person between SAP and a partner.

2. In advance of applying for an SAP PCOE certification, be sure to have satisfied all the listed requirements in the PCOE audit checklist and be sure to fill the checklist out completely. The checklist is a structured list of information on infrastructure, processes and people, as well as references to supporting documents.

3. Be sure to have available on the SAP PartnerEdge portal documentation, information and assets. The portal is created specifically by SAP to manage its partnerships.

4. Schedule the preaudit check. A potential or current SAP partner can have one free preaudit service, where the SAP PCOE audit team checks for all gaps and shortcomings that could lead to potential certification failure. SAP will issue the preaudit report to your company, which then needs to address all observations before the actual audit date. If there are any major shortcomings that are not possible to fix before the actual audit, you can request rescheduled audit date.

5. After the actual audit, the auditor gives two working days to address all gaps and shortcomings found during the audit before submitting the final audit report to PCOE judges for a decision.

6. It normally takes two weeks to learn the PCOE judges' verdict. During this waiting period, your company should remain completely available to address any queries or concerns the judges may have during the PCOE audit report's review.

Requirements specific to PCOE recertification only

The following prerequisites are specific to recertification only:

1. Your customers' Solution Manager systems should be able to automatically generate an EarlyWatch Alert. An EWA is a report that evaluates the health of the customer's SAP system, such as whether the password used is complex enough or the date and time the password was last changed. The report also details the servers' loads and makes appropriate recommendations for customers to follow. This helps your customers' SAP systems to run more smoothly, which, in turn, lowers the number of customer issues.

2. As part of the mandatory requirements, you will need to install Maintenance Planner and Optimizer to plan and schedule updates and upgrades in customers' SAP systems. This ensures the customer can automatically download the latest patches, fixes and other necessary updates as part of maintenance and optimization of the SAP system.

3. You must have had your customers fill out a survey feedback form at least once a year. Surveys filled out by each customer are required to gauge a customer's satisfaction of a partner's enterprise support services.

4. Create a comprehensive list of existing SAP customers in your Solution Manager.

PCOE requirements for certification to offer new SAP products

If your company wants to sell more SAP products for which you are not yet PCOE-certified, such as SAP HANA, Ariba or SuccessFactors, you can get certified to do so after an initial certification or in between two recertifications. For a new SAP product certification, there are only two prerequisites to meet:

  • Having at least two certified SAP consultants in the related technology -- HANA, Ariba; and
  • Having test SAP systems of the relevant technology.

As with any project, careful planning, regular follow-ups to remove showstoppers and maintaining close coordination with the partner services adviser goes a long way toward ensuring that your company earns certification or recertification on the first attempt.

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