Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider. I am pleased to be joined on today’s podcast by Dr. Heiko Hecht, President of IBIS America. Dr. Hecht will be presenting at the SAPinsider Basis and Admin conference in February, and he is here today to discuss solution documentation in Solution Manager 7.2. Dr. Hecht, thank you for joining me today.
Dr. Heiko Hecht: Thanks for having me, Ken. A pleasure to be here.
Ken: Dr. Hecht, before we dive into some new functionality in Solution Manager 7.2, can you provide the audience with a brief summary of your background?
Heiko: I started working in the SAP space basically back in 1997. I started as a functional finance consultant and I started working with IBIS, we are a small research and development company, so it gave me the opportunity to work in different areas like I said functionally in FICO I did some BW projects, I was involved in developing SAP Solution Manager since 2001 in a joint development project with SAP and I’ve stayed with Solution Manager ever since.
Ken: I’m glad we got you on the phone then, because there’s a lot to talk about certainly with Solution Manager. So you’ll be presenting several sessions at the SAPinsider conference including two on Solution Manager. One of the sessions is devoted to new solution documentation tools in Solution Manager 7.2. Can you just address why it’s important for Solution Manager customers to use solution documentation?
Heiko: Documentation is an area which typically can come last in a project. We need to develop, we need to test, we need to make sure the new system is up-and-running and then if we have time people think about documentation if they think about it at all. And solution documentation is very important for each and every system and customer because it’s a risk factor, basically. Because you cannot really manage or improve what you don’t know. People retire, people change jobs and a lot of the documentation and knowledge is in people’s minds and maybe on some shared folder.
So solution documentation is a structured approach to keep the knowledge in-house. It is extremely helpful when you’re onboarding new resources whether those are internal resources or external consultants. It’s really a cornerstone in the SAP Solution Manager tool because it’s the basis for testing, for impact analysis. So in my opinion there’s no way around solution documentation. It should be a very high priority task for each and every company because it reduces the risk of losing that knowledge over time.
Ken: Why did SAP feel the need to revamp solution documentation functionality? Was there a customer challenge or need that wasn’t being met?
Heiko: I think in general when you look at the history of SAP Solution Manager I think it all started back in 2001 with a group of people at SAP looking at application lifecycle management. So Solution Manager was already a few years old when it came out, right, because the development team already started working on it. It’s a relatively old tool, the front-end probably wasn’t that easy to use if you’re new to SAP and with all the changes going on in the SAP space but also in the IT space, Internet, web GUIs and what-not, there definitely was also a technical reason for updating SAP Solution Manager just to make it more end-user friendly.
Functionally, I also think there were several compelling reasons to update SAP Solution Manager. I mean we all live and learn, right? So Solution Manager wasn’t used for over 10 years, customers requested more flexibility. One of the requirements I heard a lot was that “You know, in Solution Manager 7.1 we only have those three levels in the hierarchy to structure our content. We need more.” So the hierarchy levels that definitely was one of the asks from our customers. And there were a couple of work-arounds in Solution Manager 7.1 and probably even in 7.0 like references, process variance and the whole library concept that you can re-use content so that’s something that SAP focused on in 7.2. I also think with the branches, which is a new term, in SAP Solution Manager 7.2 the documentation process is more aligned to the actually work in SAP with our development, quality assurance and productive systems which are now reflected directly in the branch concept I would say.
Ken: So overall those changes – the added flexibility, hierarchy levels – these will improve customers’ ability to document, maintain, and enhance business processes?
Heiko: Absolutely. I’ve been working in the SAP space for quite some time. I started with those yellow and grayish front-ends, but for people who are newer to the SAP space I think the new front-end is easier to navigate; you can find information easier. In Solution Manager 7.1, we had different tabs for different functionalities like configuration, development, test cases and what-not. In the new front-end all the information is accessible via one screen, the library concept is fully supported now with Solution Manager 7.2. I mentioned the branches which are aligned to our transport pass in our SAP system.
Solution Manager 7.2 can run on the HANA database which also provides performance improvements specifically the searches for example and the reporting will run a lot faster on the HANA database.
And we had a couple of different features to incorporate process flows in Solution Manager in the past and now with the new process diagrams which supports the BPMN notation I think it offers the customers a really great possibility to use Solution Manager 7.2 also for process diagrams and they don’t need to refer to external tools, they don’t need to use PowerPoint, visuals are built into Solution Manager 7.2. I think that will be a big help to communicate with the end-users and to visually display the process flows.
Ken: For a customer already running Solution Manager, what are some of the important considerations or requirements in a Solution Manager 7.2 upgrade, or for that customer to assess the necessity of an upgrade?
Heiko: That’s a very good question. I think first and foremost people need to take a look at the current SAP Solution Manager usage in their company. What areas in Solution Manager are used, how intensively are they used, what content is available in Solution Manager and is that content up-to-date? Is it worthwhile preserving? I think that’s probably the first and the most important step. Does it make sense to migrate the content from Solution Manager 7.1 into 7.2, do we have documentation, are people using the project intensively? From there you can decide what’s the best path forward.
If people decide to move forward with what they have in Solution Manager 7.2, then you need to take a look at cleaning it up little bit, prepare it ahead of time - and that is something that people can do right away. General maintenance of Solution Manager 7.1 is running out at the end of the year, so if people haven’t upgraded yet then they should take a look at that and do it relatively fast in 2018. And if the decision is “Well, we don’t really use a lot of functionality in 7.1, we use it more for technical purposes, we use it for early watch” and they haven’t tackled topics like solution documentation, testing business processes, monitoring or impact analysis then maybe the answer is “OK, let’s start with a greenfield implementation, implement Solution Manager 7.2 and then activate the different features which need to be used.”
Ken: Lastly Heiko, you have a few other sessions at the SAPinsider Basis and Admin event, one on blueprint options in Solution Manager and the other a roadmap session on SAP S/4HANA implementations. Without divulging all of your secrets, maybe you can take a minute or two to tell our listeners of a surprise or two that may be in store for attendees at those sessions?
Heiko: The session we talked about, solution documentation tools in 7.2 obviously will be focused very specifically on the new terms and procedures of solution manager 7.2 and the solution documentation and with the business blueprint options I want to give the audience an overview of all the options we have to establish our business blueprint or solution documentation in Solution Manager 7.2. I want to bring some transparency to the table because there are a lot of blocks out there and links and documentation, but it’s relatively confusing to understand what are the options and pros and cons. I want to shed light on that so people can make an informed decision about what’s possible, what are the pros and cons, what is really the best approach for my organization – because I don’t think there’s a silver bullet out there like, “OK you have Option A,B,C and B is the best for every customer.” I don’t think that’s the case and it also depends a little bit on what’s already been done in Solution Manager 7.1 and how the organization operates.
Now the second topic, building that roadmap for S/4HANA; at first glance it doesn’t seem to have much to do with Solution Manager, but SAP Solution Manager also supports S/4HANA implementations, the activate method isn’t there and similarly to the business blueprint option it has no lack of tools and methods and approaches and offerings for S/4HANA. From SAP, from third-party vendors and what we want to do with the S/4HANA sessions is provide an overview of all the different methods and tools which are out there, where they overlap and where there are synergies and that’s almost a research project in itself because there are so many tools available and we will introduce the SAP STAR program – System Transformation by Assessment and Realignment – which was initiated by SAP basically to provide a bracket around all those approaches and methods and to provide a strategic initiative and roadmap to utilize all the services and basically let the customer pick and choose the best approach for their specific situation.
Ken: Certainly some interesting content there and we will look forward to learning more at those sessions at the SAPinsider event. Dr. Hecht, thank you very much for your time today and for joining us on this podcast.
Heiko: Thank you very much. Thanks for having me and I’m looking forward to seeing you all at the SAPinsider event.
Dr. Heiko Hecht of IBIS America will be speaking at our live conference, Basis & SAP Administration 2018 this February 26 – March 1 in Las Vegas. Check out what sessions he will be presenting and secure your spot today: http://bit.ly/2AxMknO.