IT experts commonly advise enterprises to consolidate their IT systems, preferably into a single instance. But while that strategy may bring efficiencies, it also carries certain risks. Should that single instance fail, a global company could find itself brought to a standstill, not just in one office or region, but around the world.
At global biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS), the business’s mission is to discover, develop, and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases (see sidebar below). Any interruption of service would be serious and, if prolonged, catastrophic. To safeguard itself against such a disaster, BMS opted to partner closely with its software provider, SAP, taking full advantage of the vendor’s top-level support offering, SAP Enterprise Support.
“This level of support offers around-the-clock coverage, so we can call any time, day or night, and we get people started on the issue — and they keep working on it until it’s solved. That’s very important for us, especially given the size of our SAP instance and the fact that we only have the one instance,” says Michael DiNovi, Director of Application Services at BMS.
Relying on a Single Instance
“Downtime is a big problem for us because we have people on our global system 24/7,” says DiNovi. “We need quick responses and to keep downtime as low as possible.”
An SAP customer since 1997, BMS completed its technical upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0 in May 2008 with very few issues. “Because of the size of our instance, it is not really possible for us to perform a technical upgrade and try to change business processes at the same time,” DiNovi says. Instead, BMS does its technical upgrades first, and then implements the additional enhancement packages, support packs, or other available functionality in the years that follow.
“We will now use all of the latest and greatest features and functions that are available in SAP ERP 6.0 enhancement package 4 and enhancement package 1 for SAP NetWeaver so we can provide standard SAP functionality, rather than having to customize,” says DiNovi. “If we use SAP software as it is intended to be used and don’t customize it, we can not only respond to business changes faster, but also continue to improve our business processes and efficiency in performance.”
According to DiNovi, this method works very well. “Within a week of our SAP ERP go-live, we were stable. It was, to a large degree, a non-event for us to do the technical upgrade. One reason for that was the help we received from SAP Enterprise Support,” he says. “They were very much engaged in that whole process, along with the team, so it went extremely well.”
Eliminating Risk with SAP Enterprise Support
For BMS, the biggest benefit of its SAP Enterprise Support agreement has been in the area of risk management. “When looking at how to manage risks, and how to do so cost-effectively, SAP has to be a piece of that, in our mind,” DiNovi says. “No one knows the software as well as them. No one knows the interaction between the software and the database and all of the other technical components like SAP does.”
According to DiNovi, fully engaging SAP for support helps streamline the resolution of issues as they arise. “It didn’t make sense for us to have a lot of middlemen,” he says. “We much prefer to engage directly with the people who are going to help us.” Because of its extensive engagement with SAP for support, BMS can rest assured that SAP knows the biopharmaceutical company’s systems and how they are used. He says that anyone else would require extensive education, having to learn the systems and the BMS organization before they could begin to solve an issue.
BMS engages with SAP Enterprise Support on several levels to make sure the company gets the appropriate expertise and can access SAP’s development organization, should any critical issues arise. According to DiNovi, BMS engages SAP Enterprise Support:
- From a technical standpoint, to work on analysis, design, and build
- As part of the implementation team, to perform instance and performance testing and other proactive services, such as SAP GoingLive Check and SAP EarlyWatch Check
- On a case-by-case basis, to perform Continuous Quality Checks for implementation checks and other assessments
According to DiNovi, BMS sees the additional support from SAP Enterprise Support services as a huge advantage. “SAP can look at things that we won’t necessarily look at, or that might be more difficult for us to look at,” he says. “They have a lot more experience across their customer base and can more easily identify warning signs, point out critical mistakes ahead of time, or suggest process improvements.”
Streamlining IT Systems and Processes
Beyond its SAP ERP instance consolidation efforts, BMS has also been working to streamline its overall IT architecture over the past several years. “We want to retire several legacy systems that were custom-written in-house and bring those functions into our SAP software,” says DiNovi.
Also as part of this initiative, the company wants to streamline and standardize its processes to better align them with the SAP software. “Our perspective is that SAP comes with a lot of technical knowledge,” says DiNovi. “Their experts write the software and understand the system in the way they intended it to be used. We understand it the way BMS wants to use it. We want to bring those two things together — because if we don’t, we might do something that’s contradictory and cause a support issue.”
A major motivator behind this standardization initiative is the business’s desire to improve its financial processes and back-office systems, including the way that costs are structured. “We have a bunch of disparate systems that we need to align in order to understand our cost structures throughout our entire corporation. This is quite a difficult, time-consuming, and cumbersome task,” DiNovi says. “This initiative is designed to remove some of those systems and to standardize and change processes, getting much cleaner visibility into our costs and where those costs are generated within our company — all so we can manage our product portfolio more effectively and much more quickly.”
Boosting Spend Visibility
One key part of the initiative is BMS’s recent project involving an implementation of the SAP Resource and Portfolio Management (SAP RPM) application, which integrates with SAP ERP and includes a customized portfolio management process to track expenditures on particular projects.
“We want to do this for our marketing spend — to manage advertising and promotions, as well as facilities, engineering, and a variety of different functions within the business,” said DiNovi.
BMS requires the business to track its projects in order to understand how different departments spend their money, including the accruals and projections around those types of expenditures. According to DiNovi, BMS chose the SAP RPM application as an alternative to developing custom functionality. “When the business requested different features and functionalities and a common standard process, we wanted to replace customization and find a separate application — and SAP RPM was the right application for us,” he says.
BMS engaged SAP Enterprise Support during a project to proactively identify risks to help understand any potential problems and how to fix them. “They performed scheduled quality checks, which uncovered a number of issues that we were then able to rectify prior to going live,” says DiNovi.
After go-live in December, BMS encountered an issue where one of the portal interfaces would time out. SAP Enterprise Support identified the source of the time-out and corrected it. “We got the right resources involved who then spent a lot of time looking at our system and helping us understand what the fundamental problem was,” says DiNovi. “We just did our last series of accruals and projections, and we uncovered only very minor issues, so we feel good about where we are.”
Application Lifecycle Management with SAP Solution Manager
To manage all of its SAP landscape changes and create a global template for its consolidated SAP instance, BMS also implemented SAP Solution Manager 7.0. Previously, the company relied on procedural controls for what occurred in the SAP software; it maintained a separate change management system for modifying documentation, and the SAP system itself wouldn’t have a record of the changes.
“Previously, we had a legacy system that managed our workflow and documentation for our validation requirements for the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world. Then, we had to run audit reports to show that we’d actually followed our procedures, which was a lot of extra work with no value added,” DiNovi says. “SAP Solution Manager has really helped us to be compliant. It allowed us to get rid of those audit reports because we now have systematic controls instead of procedural controls.”
“For us, the biggest driver for selecting SAP Enterprise Support was risk management.”
— Michael DiNovi, Director of Application Services, Bristol-Myers Squibb
SAP Solution Manager also provided BMS with the ability to create a global template of its requirements and the design built within its SAP systems to support all of its business processes. This template functions as a list of all the business processes, as well as their relationship to the transactions and all of the technical documentation created over the years to support those processes.
“SAP Solution Manager allows us to traverse back and forth from technical to business processes, which we were never able to do before. It’s been a wonderful benefit to us in terms of efficiency and robustness,” says DiNovi.
Today, thanks to its single SAP instance, emphasis on maximizing SAP Enterprise Support, and use of SAP Solution Manager, BMS believes that it is better able to manage risk. “We can respond faster and better, and we can escalate things much more appropriately, to the right level, to get the appropriate response,” says DiNovi.
This commitment to faster response time perfectly complements the company’s ongoing dedication to social responsibility.
Contributing editor Evan J. Albright is a member of the LeadGen Writers Group (www.leadgenwriters.com), which provides SAP partners with writing, editing, and marketing services aimed at growing sales pipelines. A professional writer for 25 years, Albright is former senior editor of SAPinsider and SAP NetWeaver Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.