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Looking for Ways Your IT Organization Can Contain Costs Without Sacrificing Services? An Introduction to SAP Solution Manager Tools

by Cay Rademann | SAPinsider

January 1, 2005

Where can your IT organization contain its costs while still meeting the call for innovation? SAP Solution Manager offers tools to support your IT team for greater efficiency in managing solutions with improved reliability, cost containment, and alignment of business and IT goals.
 

How does your IT organization ensure the reliability of your IT solutions? Where can you identify new ways to contain costs while still meeting calls for business innovation? How do you guarantee that your IT organization perfectly supports your company's business goals?

To respond to challenges like these, your IT organization needs an effective approach to application management across your solution landscape, with the right kinds of tools, functions, services, and support. Application management, as defined by the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL),1 addresses the complex subject of managing solutions, from the initial business need through all the phases of the application management life cycle:

  • Requirements
  • Design
  • Build
  • Deploy
  • Operate
  • Optimize

SAP Solution Manager, SAP's application management platform, offers IT teams a comprehensive offering of content, access to SAP services, and powerful tools to help your organization. These tools support you at every point in this life cycle (see Figure 1) for greater reliability, cost containment, and alignment of business and IT goals. Let's first look at your current IT landscape as it stands now, as we follow SAP Solution Manager tools through the entire application management life cycle:

Figure 1
SAP Solution Manager Provides Tools for Each Phase of the Application Management Life Cycle

Operate

When it comes to everyday operations, the IT department's mission is, simply put, to ensure that solutions run smoothly without disrupting your business. But consider a salesperson creating a new customer order in the SAP CRM component. Successfully entering the order requires more than just a single component. A number of required functions — from determining correct pricing to checking availability — must be available and working at reasonable performance levels. This means that involved components — e.g., the Internet Pricing and Configurator (IPC) or SAP APO — must be running smoothly behind the scenes.

To ensure the reliability of your complete solution across an entire business process, SAP Solution Manager offers tools such as these:

  • For many SAP customers, adding Service Desk functionality to provide end-user support within your organization is a common starting point for using SAP Solution Manager. If a user encounters a problem while working with a component, he can create a message describing the incident directly — with no need to leave the application. The Service Desk then collects messages created on various components, so your support organization can analyze the problems centrally and find solutions faster, with help from tight integration with SAP Notes in SAP Service Marketplace. If the issue can't be resolved by your support organization, messages can be forwarded to SAP, and SAP Active Global Support will take care of resolving them. And when it comes to a remedy, SAP Solution Manager provides support here as well, by applying the fixes to help accelerate problem resolution and reduce business disruption.

  • Many problems (think of resource capacity issues, for example) don't just hit suddenly — they increase steadily over time. With proactive monitoring tools, you can enhance reliability by detecting these problems well before they become apparent to end users. SAP Solution Manager's monitoring functionality can detect when thresholds are exceeded, display corresponding alerts centrally, and guide your administrators to expert tools to analyze and fix the problem. You can even integrate non-SAP components to provide an overview of the complete solution, and view your landscape from different perspectives — including system, business process, and interface monitoring. Business Process Monitoring (see Figure 2), for example, provides a business view of the IT solution, so it not only identifies which server is overloaded, but which business process steps are impacted.

  • A different kind of monitoring is Service Level Management. It looks at longer time periods, allowing you to discover changes in the quality of IT services and compliance with service level agreements (SLAs), so that you can react to problems before agreed service levels are exceeded. Through Service Level Management, you can also generate reports to help you communicate to your business how well your IT services are delivered.
Figure 2
Business Process Monitoring in SAP Solution Manager

Optimize

To improve the performance of your solution, ensure data consistency, and optimize processes, various services and best practices are available to further improve application management and services delivered by your IT organization. SAP Solution Manager is the platform for service delivery, either through SAP Active Global Support or self-services. For example:

  • The Solution Management Assessment service provides recommendations for optimizing customer solutions by checking current system and application operations.

  • SAP Empowering services reduce the cost of operation by introducing reliable service and support offerings for improved business process management.

  • Backup and Restore for mySAP Business Suite is a best practice document that helps to improve the reliability of mySAP ERP, mySAP SCM, or other mySAP Business Suite solutions.

But what about starting a new project — whether it's an upgrade,2 a change to a business process, or even the implementation of a new solution? From setting your requirements to deploying your project, SAP Solution Manager has tools to help.

Requirements

Shifting business priorities and technical requirements make change inevitable for any IT application. This includes everything from hot fixes (like the implementation of an SAP Note) to the installation of a support package, a change to a process, the upgrade of a component, or even the implementation of a new business process.

No matter how large or small the project, the key to successful change management is a clear definition of requirements — especially your business requirements. For any new functionality requested by the business side, a change request must document its requirements. This request will serve as the foundation for estimating the required development effort and for deciding which requests will be realized. Later it will be used to check the progress of the request, and even in auditing.

To manage and track these changes, SAP Solution Manager 3.2 (with general availability in early 2005) includes the new scenario Change Request Management (ChaRM). Change requests for your current solutions are centrally documented in SAP Solution Manager, so it's easy to keep an overview of all requirements and to track the results in the future.

After a requirement is documented, it must be analyzed, categorized, and approved. The SAP Solution Manager's Change Administration workflow takes care of this process, documenting the workflow and all involved activities, to ensure the transparency of every change.

Design

After a change request is approved, requirements must be translated into specifications describing your current situation, your future solution, and the migration path. This process typically involves representatives from the line of business, the IT department, and external consulting companies — making effective information-sharing critical.

SAP Solution Manager tools help speed up the design process, enhance information access for greater reliability, and avoid costly design errors. This starts with a central repository for collecting all relevant information and making it easily accessible, even after the project is finished — increasing the transparency of your solution. The central knowledge management provides an easy overview of the complete project and enables fast and seamless transitions between the different project phases.

SAP Solution Manager also guides you through project design. When a change request is approved, ChaRM creates a project automatically (alternatively, without ChaRM, you would create the project manually). This project coordinates all activities of executing the change. During project preparation you define all general data, which remains available for all activities in the project and helps to ensure consistency.

The Business Blueprint tool collects all documents that are used in the project, and structures them according to the business processes to be implemented (see Figure 3). This eases the alignment of the project with business requirements.

Figure 3
Business Blueprint in SAP Solution Manager

Note!
  If you have already used SAP Solution Manager in an earlier project, information from that project serves as valuable input for the analysis of your current system.

Build

With design complete, it is now time to build, configure, and test the application. Since many business processes run across multiple components, these components and the various teams that manage them are involved in the configuration. However, without some means of central control, the result is inconsistencies among the different parts of the project — and unnecessarily higher costs. Central control is urgently required to avoid these costs and to ensure the reliability of the business processes.

Configuration tools from SAP Solution Manager provide this kind of central point of access for required implementation or change activities. This eases navigation within the project, while it also speeds up progress, reduces costs, and helps ensure completeness and consistency — all prerequisites for a reliable solution.

When it comes to testing, the tight integration of the testing functionality in SAP Solution Manager with the Business Blueprint functionality helps ensure the completeness of the tests, and increases the efficiency of both managing and executing testing. Cross-component tests are supported by providing a single point of access to the complete solution and by central storage of testing materials and test results. Integration with the Service Desk accelerates the handling of detected problems.

Deploy

After successful testing, the IT team must manage the transport of the technical settings. But just as important is effective knowledge transfer within the business. If end users do not know how to use the new or changed functionality, your business will not be able to gain the complete advantages of the new solution. SAP Solution Manager helps on both counts.

On the technical side, a challenge in all deployments is properly importing configuration settings to your productive environment in the right sequence — otherwise, you run the risk of inconsistencies that would decrease your solution's reliability. The Change Logistics part of the ChaRM scenario coordinates the transport of customizing settings and developments from the development systems to the production systems. It provides transport scheduling, transport synchronization, and transport tracking (see Figure 4) to help reduce complexity and ensure consistency.

Figure 4
Change Logistics Task List in SAP Solution Manager

As for knowledge transfer, e-Learning Management tools provide a solution for creating and executing end-user training over the Web. They include simulation of SAP applications, management of e-learning materials, generation of role-specific learning units, and distribution of training resources to end users. This helps to attack the costs of end-user training — one of the major cost drivers in implementation and change projects.

Conclusion

These are just a handful of the application management tools available in SAP Solution Manager. In combination with predefined implementation and upgrade content, and a communication gateway to SAP for services and solutions,3 SAP Solution Manager supports the complete application management life cycle.

Ultimately, the reliability of your SAP solution is improved. Greater consistency is ensured with the integration of the different tools through a common repository and a central access point, through possibilities for proactive problem detection, and through accelerated problem resolution. This transparency is not only relevant for implementation and upgrade projects, but for operations and continuous improvements as well.

Costs are reduced through central access to all tools, through the openness of the tools to also support non-SAP applications, through automation of application management processes, and through acceleration of change and implementation projects.

And business and IT alignment is eased through the transparency of information and the focus on business processes. With SAP Solution Manager, you can achieve the goals of your IT organization, all through one central platform that not only streamlines IT services in the short term, but gives IT teams down the line the resources they need to seamlessly support your organization.

For more information on SAP Solution Manager, please visit www.service.sap.com/solutionmanager, www.service.sap.com/rkt-solman, and www.service.sap.com/supportservices.


1 The IT Infrastructure Library is the international de facto standard guidance for IT processes. For more information on ITIL, please visit www.itil.co.uk.

2 For specifics on how SAP Solution Manager supports upgrades, see Doreen Baseler's article "How SAP Solution Manager Can Smooth Your Next Upgrade Project" in this issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).

3 For more on SAP Solution Manager content and its gateway to SAP, see "The #1 Pitfall to Avoid with Your Next Upgrade or Implementation" in this issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).


Cay Rademann joined SAP AG in 1994. Since then, he has had a great deal of experience in distributed scenarios, system integration, and lifecycle management, both as a developer and a consultant. He currently works as a product manager in the Global SAP Solution Manager Product Management team with a focus on application management. Cay has a degree in business economics from the University of Mannheim, Germany.

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