IT departments and centers of excellence (COEs) often struggle with the enormous task of monitoring business-user activities and the overall health of the company’s systems landscape, especially when those businesses operate worldwide facilities and employ hordes of remote users. Coty Inc., a leading global manufacturer and distributor of beauty and fragrance products, has more than 12,000 employees across the globe — and the business’s COE must service each and every one of them. By implementing an SAP solution extension, SAP Extended Diagnostics by CA Wily, Coty’s COE has begun using intuitive dashboards to proactively monitor IT operations and user activity, and to keep tabs on the health of the IT environment’s servers, networks, and applications.
“SAP Extended Diagnostics provides a good understanding of your entire landscape as well as the details of single user sessions,” says Vishnu Chittem, Enterprise Architect for Coty. “For example, with this tool, you can identify if an application’s response time is better for certain users in certain places or if a problem occurs because a user is accessing too much data.”
Chittem, who is responsible for Coty’s IT infrastructure and application development in its SAP landscape, also leads the architecture review board that makes all decisions regarding new or potential IT projects. When Chittem came to Coty, the business was in the proof-of-concept phase of evaluating SAP Extended Diagnostics. Because he had previous, extensive experience using the tool, he knew the potential benefits and strongly encouraged Coty to implement and utilize it.
“When I first joined Coty, we purchased SAP Extended Diagnostics and as part of that purchase, we intended to use the application to monitor both our SAP and non-SAP systems — to help us with root cause analysis of any issues or change management in our landscape,” Chittem says.
The fact that the business had both SAP and non-SAP systems in its landscape made the choice of a diagnostics tool an easy one (see sidebar). Coty has been an SAP customer for over a decade (recently upgrading from SAP ERP version 4.6C to 6.0) and currently has 80% of the business running on SAP ERP. Before its initial SAP implementation, the business used JD Edwards software in the back end. Today, certain parts of the company have not yet fully retired those systems — for example, one legacy non-SAP application that is currently still in use contains data for business planning.
Early Benefits to the Business
In Coty’s COE, about 12 people use the diagnostics tool — some are focused on the SAP applications and others deal with the non-SAP systems. Chittem’s team is thrilled with the new application’s possibilities. “Everyone is excited that we have connected all of our SAP and non-SAP systems and now have a central tool for managing all of them,” he says. “The diagnostics solution lets us understand how systems and applications are performing based on the user load, as well as see the patterns of system usage — all through a dashboard that allows us to easily diagnose any issues that may come up.”
Some of the key benefits Coty’s COE has experienced thus far include:
- Proactive monitoring: If any systems or servers are lagging, or applications themselves are running through bottlenecks, the team can identify precisely where in the network the bottleneck exists. With this proactive approach, the team can avoid problems before they affect the business.
- Central location for triage: Team members responsible for triaging problems (i.e., identifying their root cause) now have one focal point where information is collected from different components of the SAP landscape — the application server front ends, the database information, and system network installation.
- Accelerated problem resolution: Instead of various database, application, and operations workers adding their own role-based ideas and delaying problem resolution, people responsible for different markup infrastructure and applications can all view one dashboard. They can come to conclusions and make decisions very quickly, which accelerates root cause analysis and minimizes the time it takes to repair issues.
In addition, SAP Extended Diagnostics traces the end-to-end performance and user access details of user sessions. This trace analysis is possible even when a user experiences a problem with a session that migrates from an SAP application to a Java application. However, the Java application (or other non-SAP application) must be configured first to allow the diagnostics tool to monitor it and perform trace analysis.
Also, the diagnostics solution helps to perform volume tests in real time. Chittem says, “You can check the performance of an application in a production scenario and estimate how the concurrency of the users will react based on the application performance.”
For example, the team had difficultly identifying the root cause of a Java-based application that previously experienced performance snags, Chittem says. “With the diagnostics tool, we can monitor what happened on a certain day,” he explains. “If a user complains about an issue that he or she had at 9am this morning, the tool captures all the data for that particular timeframe. Then we can go back and analyze and see whether there was a problem in the system or if the user experienced the issue because of a slow session coming from the user machine.”
So far, all of Coty’s SAP systems are visible to the tool. Several non-SAP applications have been configured, and more will be configured if necessary. “If new applications require diagnostics monitoring, we can configure additional components on demand by simply installing the CA Wily agent, and we have all of that information available for us to do that,” says Chittem.
Using the Diagnostics Tool
The SAP Extended Diagnostics application is intuitive, easy to use, and doesn’t require a 10-week training course to learn how to drill down into different components. The training process required to familiarize Chittem’s team with the new technology was smooth and painless. Coty engaged with its implementation partner CA Technologies for training, which involved a consultant from CA Technologies coming onsite to Coty. And within three to four days, the consultant helped implement the solution and trained users on how to use it.
“The individual worked with one of our technical folks to install the component, get the application up and running quickly, and create and configure the dashboards,” says Chittem. “He explained different scenarios of how to use the tool, how to troubleshoot, how to look at the graphs, and how to make changes in the diagnostics solution.”
The dashboards that were created were very technical in nature and provided a way for Chittem’s team to navigate right to the monitored components, allowing developers and architects to drill down into next-level details that are helpful for observing the SAP landscape’s server and network operations. The SAP application dashboards were fairly standard, but creating dashboards that would monitor the memory and CPU usage and performance of non-SAP applications required a bit of custom configuration.
Together, Coty and CA Technologies configured the dashboards and created hierarchies to tailor them to the specific business requirements, such as what data to display in the dashboards and how people want to view the data. For instance, with executive dashboards, senior managers can view the health of the business processes and software. Currently, the Coty team is working on configuring executive dashboards that give visibility into the company’s systems landscape at a much higher level than the existing technical dashboards.
According to Chittem, the two most crucial aspects of the SAP Extended Diagnostics implementation were the initial planning and the scope definition. “You don’t want to configure a hundred applications,” he says. “Follow a building-block process in which you include only those applications that are critical. Then once they are up and running, you can continue to add more components.” He hopes that other COEs will heed this advice and benefit from their own successful implementations.