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SAP walks the walk when it comes to IT management -- and benefits the business

by Scott Priest, Editorial Director

August 15, 2011

Via HR Expert author Jarret Pazahanick comes a great SAP blog post about the company's IT management. The post, "Running IT Like a Business: How SAP's Technologists Unleash Their Inner MBAs," details how SAP uses common business practices to treat its IT procedures as more than just "part of the company's overhead." In doing so, it used SAP Solution Manager, much as it has with its sustainability and EPM solutions, to the company's gain.

The first business principle it highlighted, streamlining key business processes, included this section about SAP Solution Manager:

The SAP Global IT environment includes global shared services running SAP ERP, SAP Human Capital Management, SAP Supplier Relationship Management, and one of the largest instances of SAP Customer Relationship Management in the world. It also includes more than two million users in the SAP Community Network, which runs on the SAP NetWeaver portal.

“At this scale,” says Matthias Haendly, VP Marketing, Line of Business IT, “the Global IT team needs an efficient way to ensure optimal performance. Like many SAP customers, it relies on SAP Solution Manager, which is the centerpiece of our company’s application lifecycle management (ALM) strategy and IT Management solution.”

This holds steady with SAP's commitment to the Solution Manager application, whose 7.1 release has caused a busy year of publicity from SAP. At our SAPinsider IT 2011 conference this past spring, SAP was pushing the phrase "ERP for IT," which is a condensed way of saying what this blog post title said -- Solution Manager can help IT departments think and operate like the business side.

Its previous messages hadn't caught on -- as I noted in this blog post from May, just 50-60% of SAP customers were using Solution Manager despite the company foisting it on customers. Presenting real gain -- and clear, actionable takeaways you can use -- is a subtler and more effective way of increasing use.

SAP's successes aren't contained to Solution Manager, however. It also benefited from dashboards aimed at management, end-user experience monitoring (EEM), and how business process monitoring allows it to continuously improve. When you see the benefits SAP finds from a business standpoint, remember that its experiences only further improve the company's core business. If its own employees struggle with a particular functionality, or find a streamlined way of performing a certain process, it makes for an easier fix to the application or support for a customer than having to merely pass on what SAP has learned from other customers.

But it's n ot just about making IT more efficient or even reducing cost and increasing effectiveness. Applying these principles also makes the IT department run more like the business side, and can help change its image internally. This made me think back to a blog post from earlier this month by my colleague Dave Hannon of insiderPROFILES. He discussed a KPMG report that suggested that IT folks view themselves as a separate entity from the business -- concerned only with technical performance and gadgetry, and not the success of the whole business. Dave was perplexed by this, relaying a number of personal examples of IT and business working hand in hand, but coming to the conclusion:

All this being said, I think there is something to learn here – there is a stereotype IT has to overcome. Whether it’s true or not, it exists. Just like stereotypes exist for other organizations – engineers are obsessive geeks, finance are bean-counters, editors are great spelers, you know the list.

You need to recognize that in some cases, business-side people have a certain view of IT. If you’re lucky, it’s not in your company, but if it is, it makes your job a little bit harder. So focus on the soft skills – not only understanding the business’ needs, but making sure the business knows you understand their needs. Communicate (in non-techie speak) with other organizations more than you think you might need to. And promote your own work internally.

Between these soft skills and employing some of the successful tactics by SAP's internal ERP for IT push, IT groups and individuals can go a long way in ingratiating themselves to the business side of things. The successful relationship between business and IT is where the real benefit can emerge.

For some related articles from SAP Professional Journal and Solution Manager Expert, see the links below:

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