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Solution Manager 2.1 to 7.1

by Ajay Vonkarey

June 9, 2010

SAP Solution Manager – is it a tool, a system, part of a process, part of a methodology, it is a standard or part of best practices.

Is it one or is it all.  The mere definition of the word is – “A manager of your Solution”.  A manager of your SAP Solution or your  IT solution?

After reading all the blogs, listening to multiple podcasts and webinars, I wanted to share my thoughts on the most discussed topic – SAP Solution Manager.

Comparisons have been made to Solution Manager as a ‘Swiss Army Knife’, or a ‘shed with lots of tools’.  Case is true – a Swiss army knife is very successful and Victorinox had made its name on it.

HISTORY:

SAP solution Manager has been out for a long time, since 2001. Here is a history of the tool with its functions.

 

CHALLENGES:

An interesting statistic – SAP Solution Manager is the 2nd most installed SAP product after SAP ECC.  Much more than CRM, BI, APO and other SAP products.  But the utilization of the tool – less than 10%.  This leads to many questions and myriad answers.  Depending on whom you ask the answers are:

Customer:

  • Yes we have solution manager installed and use it for installation keys and early watch reports. 
  • Not cognizant of the fact that it has much more functionality than just systems monitoring. 
  • Well we have 3< sup>rd party tools for change management, service desk, too late in the game to change it

Integration Partner:

  • We have our own best practices and methodologies and the tools. 
  • Too complicated to implemented - no specific roadmap
  • An added layer of tool for our already tight project schedule

Functional Consultants:

  • Ah! An additional layer for tool for our configuration
  • Why do I have to follow the business process structure when I can directly to my configuration
  • I can go do my development directly in SE38, why do I need Solution Manager

Most of the talk today around is by the technical folks who have been using Solution Manager for their particular trade – BASIS RELATED FUNCTIONS.

What customers/consultants/SAP professionals do not realize that it has lot more potential to it.  Few reasons for it:

  1. The perception is still that it is a technical tool as it was in Solution Manager 2.1
  2. It is an IT tool and not a business tool, hence not in the priority of systems/tools to be implemented
  3. Most of the customers have been using SAP for a long time, how do we bring in the history into Solution Manager so they can extend it for other functions
  4. There are other 3rd party tools that have been out in the market for some time, to difficult to give up on them.
  5. What is the business case for Solution Manager – where is the hard data and customer references that in fact this has been a successfully implemented and utilized tool.

Some of the customer survey’s today show that less than 20% use it for systems monitoring and less than 10% use it for Chang e Management.  When asked the main challenges for Solution Manager Utilization, the response includes complexity, value of Solution Manager and actual cost of implementation.   Refer to a great survey by Panaya at bit.ly/aJ4x4x

 

The other big challenge for Solution Manager is the skill set and expertise out in the market.  The expertise need for Solution Manager is a mix of project management, technical, functional and much more.  The customers need to understand that implementing Solution Manager is similar to implementing any other SAP tool – like ECC, BI, and CRM but at a smaller scale.  Check our my podcast with Jon Reed on the skill set required for Solution Manager - www.jonerp.com/content/view/255/33

 

The key for the success is also maintaining and being up to date with the latest Solution Manager Versions and enhancement packs.    A top BASIS associate and a SAP mentor, suggest that having a sponsor for Solution Manager with realistic budgets is key otherwise prepare for disappointment. 

 

The challenge is also the perception of the implementation timelines. When it is advertised that ChaRM can be implemented within few weeks, while we have seen the simplest ChaRM implementation took about 6 months.  Hence it is taken with the wrong perception tha t it can be quick and dirty and implemented within few weeks with one consultant.

 

Unfortunately, in many SAP Solution Manager Implementations the focus is not on what the customer actually requires, but on those functions offered by SAP Solution Manager by default and out of the box implementation.  This will work for more technical implementations like setting up systems monitoring and root-cause analysis.  What is difficult is to adopt is using it for functions like Change Management, Business Process Monitoring, Implementation/Upgrades and test management.

 

A customer just emailed me and asked what are the potential risks that need to consider with Solution Manager as it is connected to all production systems.  Very valid question, especially for a customer with a validated environment.   Unfortunately there was no direct answer, no white paper to be referred to or a list of bullet points.  Her decision – maybe we will look into implementing it in the future once we are comfortable with the risks and mitigation.

 

Also the other challenge customers face, with the right intentions of implementing Solution Manager is: what is a good roadmap, what is a good starting point?  With the plethora of functionally in Solution Manager, does the customer start it with using it for a new SAP implementation, continue using it only for systems monitoring, may be use it only for small functionally for service desk or Change Management. 

SOLUTIONS:

The success will come in by budgeting it as an implementation project, find the right SAP certified company and go thru the complete implementation life cycle.  Just hiring a consultant, who is more of a technical consultant with BASIS background, will not help with the success of the system.

 

It is crucial to success that the customer has a clear picture of all functions in Solution Manager, but more importantly prioritize them for implementation.  For example a customer with lot of batch job issues and downtime does not make sense in setting up Implementation or Service Desk functions. This means that the focus must not be on the solution management tool, but on the risks that are addressed and minimized by Solution Manager.

 

I did a presentation on Change Request mgmt and deploying it at an SAP Insider conference back in 2006.  One of the comments was ‘as much as I like the BASIS folks, Solution Manager is NOT just a BASIS tool”.  Unfortunately it is still considered a technical tool.  It is time to change the perception and realize that I can be used by all of IT and business too.

 

Customers need some hard dollar numbers and relevant success stories to sell the same with their management.  A basic cost matrix of a sample customer with cost information with and with our Solution Manager.  I guess as a Run SAP partner, it’s a cue for us to take it up.

 

If you are making Solution Manager mandatory to the customer, make it the same for the implementation partners and independent consultants.  What is the point if you do not have the skill set and expertise to implement it while it is mandatory?

 

Having been working on Solution Manager since 2002, it bothers me to see that it still has not taken off, the discussions is still around the technical functions and capabilities.  I would like to see a webinar/podcast with user of Solution Manager, be it someone from I T or business.

 

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