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The New Role of SAP Solution Manager for Business and the Cloud: Wences Lacaze and Benjamin Rouger on SolMan

December 5, 2014

Wences Lacaze and Benjamin Rouger

What are customers overlooking in their current SAP Solution Manager implementation? SAP Mentor and consultant Wences Lacaze (@WenSolman) and fellow SAP Solution Manager expert Benjamin Rouger of Inventy spoke with us on the SAP TechEd / d-code show floor about their thoughts on Solution Manager as companies look toward HANA, cloud and hybrid deployments.

A couple of highlights? Wences Lecaze painted a picture of practical ways Business Process Monitoring takes Solution Manager beyond a technical role:

Your server is working well, your system is working well, the memory is working well. But … there are a lot of indicators at the business level that for us - the IT guys - would mean nothing, because the system is working well!  But in the business process,  if you could tell the financial guy that you have 25 open invoices … they need to start to control that.

Benjamin Rouger shared this tip for making the most of Solution Manager features you already have:    

There are some small services in Solution Manager, and it doesn’t cost anything to use them. It’s like self-services that  give you more information on how the SAP solution should be used, how to improve some parts, and, of course, save money or be more efficient.

For more from these Solution Manager experts, read the edited transcript or listen to our (admittedly rough) interview from the exhibit hall at TechEd.

SAPinsider: Hello and welcome. This is Kristine Erickson with SAPinsider at SAP TechEd.

I’m fortunate to have two experts on SAP Solution Manager here with us, talking today about some features and functionality that Solution Manager offers that may be overlooked by customers, as well as impressions  from TechEd that relate specifically to Solution Manager.

Wences, let’s start with you?

Wences Lacaze:  My name is Wences Lacaze and I am from Argentina. I started working with Solution Manager in 2002. At the beginning I was a consultant working around the world, and I am more focusing on the Latin American market and I am living in Chile.

Benjamin Rouger: I’m Benjamin Rouger from Inventy. We are a company specializing in deploying SAP Solution Manager. We have offices in Europe and the US. And I myself have been working on SAP Solution Manager since 2006 and like Wences I am an SAP Solution Manager expert.

SAPinsider: It’s great to have you both. I wanted to first start with impressions from the week at TechEd and talk about sessions and lessons learned from TechEd. 

Wences Lacaze: It was something really crazy because if you think of SAP from the last few years, the talk was always about potentially HANA and a lot about big data. And the new functionality of HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) - HANA in the cloud - they are ameliorating it to something simple, where any kind of developer can  develop any kind of application on the cloud, even if it’s not SAP related. It’s not the normal guy that usually works with SAP.

For me it’s a totally different approach because you see that it is focused on this kind of situation or these kinds of tools that allow you to work in the right way – or in a different way from what happened in the past.

SAPinsider: Do you see any implications for Solution Manager from this change? Do you see how Solution Manager will work in the cloud?

Wences Lacaze: Actually, one of the things that was really strange is that at the beginning, it was always SAP approved and always running on the on-premise side, so it was easy to control.  W

ith the cloud as a factor and the new tools that SAP is putting on the cloud, it starts to be really hard to control that. When you were in a SAP environment, you knew the rules, and SAP built this, and it is following certain rules. But right now, with these new functionalities, you need to start to release some tools that allow you to work in a new way. I think we are starting a new path in Solution Manager to try to control all this new stuff that is coming in the next few years.

SAPinsider:  Sounds great. And Benjamin, what are your takeaways from these few days at TechEd?

Benjamin Rouger: Like Wences, I’ve seen a lot about how Solution Manager can help customers manage hybrid solutions, with some parts in the cloud, some on-premises. If you don’t have the tool that centralizes all the information on all those different apps, then it gets really hard to track everything and guarantee end to end performance on your business processes.

Also SAP has introduced new features in SAP Solution Manager around custom development, which is rather a new topic - and customers are not used to measuring and controlling the quality of the custom code.

So SAP has now delivered some really interesting tools and nice reports to give insights and transparency into everything that is delivered by developers. I think this will help them in the near future, as code quality and robustness is a key factor in reducing your SAP systems TCO.

SAPinsider:  What about Solution Manager generally – what are missed opportunities or misconceptions about Solution Manager? Or functionality that customers might not be aware of?

Wences Lacaze: Well, at the beginning, Solution Manager was hard to implement because there were a lot of manual activities and a lot of new concepts that you needed to apply.  But with the last version of Solution Manager, when they start with 7.1 and the refresh, and they put a lot of automatic steps in this configuration, I think they give you a totally different approach to the tool.  

SAPinsider: So the complexity is lower?

Wences Lacaze: So the complexity starts to become lower.  They are using email, they are using Excel files, they are using meetings to keep track of all these changes. This offers one central tool to let you know what you are implementing, and what the steps are in the future for the new versions and the new releases.

Benjamin Rouger: For the features, I think there are some new features that SAP has provided in the last six months that are really interesting for customers, like Scope and Effort Analyzer to be able to detect the impacts of an upgrade prior to doing the actual installations of a support package or an enhancement package.  And also Custom Code Lifecycle Management, which I’ve talked about before.

But there is also some stuff over the last 4 or 5 years that many customers don’t know, like some small services that give you some understanding of how you execute your business processes, for example, and try and find ways to improve business process execution - also about release management process execution. 

There are available in Solution Manager, and it doesn’t cost anything to use them. It’s like self-service, to give you more information into how the SAP solution should be used and how to improve some parts and, of course, save money and be more efficient.

All SAP customers should look into that because it’s standard, it’s very easy to implement, and clearly gives you some useful information.

Wences Lacaze: I think that when you start to use Solution Manager, if you don’t have a clear path in which direction you are going and what your scope is, you start to lose the focus because there is so much functionality.  If you don’t have the concept about how to use the tool, or understand the methodology of the tool, and what the process is that SAP proposes to work with the tool, you can start to be really frustrated about the tool, and say “The problem is a tool.” The problem is that you’re not thinking in which way the process needs to work.

SAPinsider: And do you see this with clients when you are working with them?

Benjamin Rouger: Well, there’s that, but also, sometimes customers struggle at first with the technical part of Solution Manager managed system setup, and it can lead to a false impression that you need to do a lot of operations before being able to use any Solution Manager features. And there have been some bad experiences at customers with ChaRM implementations.

I can understand where those perceptions can come from.  But the product has evolved a lot and SAP has worked hard in making it easy to run and deploy.

You just have to, as Wences said, proceed step by step, and think ahead of what you want to do. And if you do that, and you have the right people to do the project with you, it’s worth trying.

SAPinsider: Any last comments about TechEd and Solution Manager?

Wences Lacaze: Actually the point of view in Solution Manager was always about controlling your situation - but always from the technical side. But you see SAP start to release a lot of tools to improve the process of the company - to start to use this information, but to help the business guys, not the IT guys.

There are some really nice features for Business Process Analysis, and all these types of tools to allow you to help in the business way, not technically speaking. This will be the next market that Solution Manager will take you.

SAPinsider: Business Process Analysis and business process improvement – these are the two areas that you would look at.  

Wences Lacaze: The simple explanation I would add is: OK, your server is working well, your system is working well, the memory is working well, but your process in the company is not working well. There are a lot of indicators at the business level that, for us, the IT guys, would mean nothing -- because it is working well!  

But in the business process if you told, for example, the financial guy that you have 25 open invoices that you need to pay, they need to start to control that.

Maybe you say, if they want a report, they see the information on the screen. But this case is more interactive. Because after you have the 25 invoices open, the system will automatically notify him that it’s time to pay these, because if not, at the end of the day you will have a big issue with your cash flow.

SAPinsider: A feature or functionality that is a favorite of yours, Benjamin, what would one be on your side?

Benjamin Rouger: Definitely for customers, it’s the Scope and Effort Analyzer, which was recently released by SAP. I think customers should definitely look into this. They will all want to do an upgrade or an EhP/SP implementation at some point. This functionality will help them save money and reduce the risk of upgrading.

Clearly it’s something that customers should look into. And I think this is really a good thing because we see that SAP delivers some really interesting features that customers have been expecting for many, many years, and now it’s in Solution Manager, without any additional license costs.

SAPinsider:  We’ll end on that note. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about SAP Solution Manager.

Wences Lacaze: Thank you!

Benjamin Rouger: Thank you.

Wences Lacaze is a consultant and SAP Mentor. You can follow him on Twitter at @WenSolman or reach him at wlacaze@gmail.com. Benjamin Rouger is Managing Director at Inventy US. You can reach him at benjamin.rouger@inventy.com.

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