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How Well Do You Really Understand Your SAP Maintenance Agreement?

by SAP's Greg Pike | SAPinsider

October 1, 2005

Many SAP customers don’t take full advantage of the resources available to them under the terms of their maintenance agreement. Greg Pike, Senior Vice President of SAP Active Global Support, discusses how you can optimize your SAP landscape with a properly exercised maintenance agreement accompanied by a sound support strategy.
 



Greg Pike
Senior Vice President of
SAP Active Global Support,
SAP America

Many SAP customers don't take full advantage of the resources available to them under the terms of their maintenance agreements. As a direct result, they incur higher operating costs, greater risk, and less flexibility. For some, it's a simple matter of not being up to date with all that's available. For others, it's a symptom of an internal support strategy that is out of sync with the solutions it is intended to safeguard. Properly exercising maintenance agreements and sound support strategies are key prerequisites for optimizing the business processes, performance, and stability of an SAP landscape. This interview with Greg Pike, Senior Vice President of SAP Active Global Support, explores the need to engage both practices.

Q. What portions of customers' maintenance agreements are underutilized, and how does this impact the performance, stability, and operating costs of their SAP solutions?

Many of our customers are not getting the full value they have coming to them through their SAP maintenance agreement, even though they have invested heavily in it. There are a number of reasons for this, but neglecting to take advantage of three important offerings quickly comes to mind.

The first is SAP Service Marketplace. Only 50 percent of our customers are regularly using the Service Marketplace. This online resource reflects information from our support and development arms, as well as knowledge gleaned from hands-on engagements with thousands of our customers. SAP customers who habitually leverage SAP Service Marketplace routinely have lower operating costs, period. This claim is supported by a 2004 Gartner Group study, which states that e-support tools decreased support expenses by between 12 and 45 percent.

For those of you who haven't visited the SAP Service Marketplace recently, you'll find it now has personalized tools and proactive notification services, so it's easier to navigate and routinely check this resource.1

The second is SAP Solution Manager. Solution Manager is another resource that yields very high dividends to those who frequently use it. This platform delivers centralized content and tools that provide users with transparency, control, flexibility, and efficiency in their SAP solutions. It also offers direct access to, and works in conjunction with, SAP Service Marketplace.2

Support with SAP Solution Manager

The support functions in SAP Solution Manager are the ones most underutilized by our customers. These include:

  • Support desk — SAP Solution Manager offers a complete infrastructure for organizing and operating an on-site help desk that covers your entire solution landscape. As of SAP Solution Manager 3.1, the new support desk is based on integrated customer relationship management (CRM) functionality. This facilitates the management of service-level agreements, automated workflows, escalations, and interfaces to third parties.

  • Message handling — SAP Solution Manager connects to the SAP Notes database and SAP Service Marketplace, as well as integrates support tools, such as the SAP Note Assistant tool, an SAProuter enhancement, and Microsoft NetMeeting.

  • Message posting — Any user can post error messages quickly and simply with just a click of the mouse. The posted message then appears in the corresponding area of the support section of SAP Solution Manager.

  • Problem resolution — SAP Solution Manager provides access to an integrated message-handling system. For serious problems, you can forward a message to SAP, where a team of experienced developers and application specialists is ready to solve your problem immediately. Changed status information is transferred directly into your SAP system.

  • Issue tracking and reporting — SAP Solution Manager comes with issue tracking and top-issue reporting functions so that you can preventively support your projects, from implementation through development to service delivery.

The third consists of the products and services that we deliver around key events like implementations, upgrades, and all sorts of continuous improvement efforts. Let's start from the beginning, with the planning and execution of an implementation. SAP Best Practices — fully documented and reusable prototypes that are stored in SAP Service Marketplace and accessible through SAP Solution Manager — can be readily leveraged to jump-start things and quickly get a solution up and running and into production.3 Right off the bat, you shave significant amounts of money off your implementation cost. In fact, studies show that you can reduce time-to-solution by 10 percent and decrease problem resolution time by up to 20 percent. More important, in my mind, is that you incur far less risk. The solution will be implemented right the first time and enter production ready to deliver high value. Invaluable lessons drawn from one implementation after another are reflected in our best practices, and with your maintenance agreement, they're there for the taking.

If you look at post-go-live scenarios, where you need to really maximize the performance and throughput of your system, leveraging SAP Support services makes sound business sense. For example, optimization services have been able to decrease one customer's transaction processing times by 87 percent. Another increased their overall system performance by five percent, and yet another US customer was able to increase their workload by 100 percent without any additional hardware. These three examples illustrate different measures of performance and different optimization services, but regardless, the business benefits are obvious.

Notice that I led with planning and implementation. There's a myth that abounds about support — that it starts after go-live. If you subscribe to this notion, it's a sure sign you're not leveraging your maintenance options to their fullest. Support starts right from the very beginning, and I advise every customer to develop a support strategy that aligns with the solutions it's meant to serve right from their inception, not after the solutions enter production. That's the most effective way to heighten their value and keep the cost of operations down.

Q. Is it your view that the internal support strategies of most SAP customers are not properly aligned with the solutions they've got in place?

As customers' business application landscapes move to a services-oriented architecture, support strategies have to move, too. If your organization is changing its IT infrastructure to drive faster information delivery, faster decision making, faster time-to-market, and so on, support organizations need to be prepared. The implication to our world — the world of support — is that you have to be fast-to-support. You need a strategy that enables you to readily institute changes, without degrading system performance, and in a way that does not saddle end users with any negative consequences. If you're not prepared for this, then your support and business process strategies are not properly aligned.

A simple, surefire way to meet these support goals is to leverage the best practices, skills, and tools that are made available to you within SAP Standard Support. These resources are designed expressly for this purpose. Use them (you've already paid for them) and you increase the supportability of your solutions and at the same time reduce risk, reduce TCO, and build more flexibility into your landscape so you can address change. Make sure your support strategies and processes don't lag behind. An IT support organization needs to enable change, not hinder it.

Q. How would you like to see customers interact with the SAP Support organization?

The best thing our customers can do is continuously and critically examine their support strategy and team to be certain they're leveraging the SAP Standard Support offerings to their full advantage. If customers need more information about what SAP Support can do to increase their system performance and reliability, they should engage their SAP account team.

For the vast majority of our customers, there's a lot of value in their SAP Support relationship that they're still not getting, which could make their operations more effective and less vulnerable. For our part, we'll continue to invest in these support components and create value for our customers. It's a win-win that more of our customers should take advantage of.

How Do You Know You're Underutilizing Your SAP Maintenance Agreement?

1. Do you understand all of the free services you receive under your SAP maintenance contract?

2. Can you name the top 10 SAP tools used to reduce risks?

3. Do you regularly use SAP's library of best practices to reduce your training and operating costs?

4. Do you know how to use SAP Solution Manager to reduce your implementation and operating expenses?

5. Are you confident your SAP support staff can support your core business processes?

6. Do you know how to maximize the performance of your SAP system?

7. Do you know that SAP's knowledge base is contained within SAP Service Marketplace?

8. Do you know how to minimize the problem resolution time with SAP Support?

If you answered "no" to one or more of these questions, it's a sure sign you are underutilizing your maintenance agreement. Call your SAP contact and review these areas.


1 - To learn more about SAP Service Marketplace and how you can use this easy-access source for your business needs, visit www.service.sap.com.

2 - For more information on SAP Solution Manager, see "Looking for Ways Your IT Organization Can Contain Costs Without Sacrificing Services? An Introduction to SAP Solution Manager Tools" by Cay Rademann in the January-March 2005 issue of SAP Insider (www.SAPinsider.com).

3 - See "The Secret to Accelerated SAP Implementations: SAP Best Practices" by Peter Neuer and Marian Maravilla in this issue of SAP Insider. (www.sapinsider.com).


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