SAP Solution Manager is, without a doubt, an extremely powerful tool for SAP Basis Administrators; but it also offers much more value than first meets the eye. In this blog we will briefly discuss why SAP Solution Manager is important for every business using SAP. Starting with an overview of the core functionality, we’ll provide an insight into the real business benefits that can be realised by making use of this comprehensive Application Lifecycle Management tool.
There is a lot of innovative, but relatively unknown functionality available within SAP Solution Manager that can truly bring a reduction in the Total Cost of Operation of the SAP solution; from Governance through to Operations. For example, did you know that (at the time of writing) SAP Solution Manager is one of only two software products to be certified in support of all 15 core ITIL processes? That’s four more than BMC Remedy ITSM v8.1!
The best news of all is that this functionality is available free of charge to the vast majority of SAP customers since it is included as part of the SAP Enterprise Support agreement; even those on standard support contracts still benefit from the core functionality which can deliver significant and tangible benefits.
Clicking on the image at the top of this page shows how each ITIL process is supported by the corresponding SAP Solution Manager functionality; but what do these terms mean and how can they benefit your business? Explore the below to find out more…
Core Solution Manager Functionalities
SAP Solution Manager used in this manner becomes a central repository of information describing the SAP Solution, with this vital information being available for the lifetime of the SAP estate, not just for the length of time the implementation team are available. Having access to such information facilitates a mush more effective and informed support of the SAP solution, allowing those providing support to understand what has been implemented and how this was achieved. In addition, this information becomes a valuable asset; providing a comprehensive knowledge base for future projects.
Integrating with the Solution Documentation functionality, your Test Assets (Test Scripts, Test Data etc.) can be stored against the appropriate business processes to help promote their reuse.
Change Impact Analysis functionality exists (known as the Business Process Change Analyser) to help you identify, for a given change, what processes are actually impacted and where you should focus your test efforts. The Test Scope Optimisation functionality can also enable you to remove the redundancy that is prevalent in test execution, thus reducing the duration and effort required during typical regression test cycles.
Test Plans and Test Packages can be created to govern the test execution, controlling who should execute which test and in which sequence. Test results can be recorded, including the ability to raise and track defects through to resolution. Of course, all progress can be reported upon, allowing a Test Manager to keep track on progress and identify where testing is still to be undertaken.
This is a fully functioning, comprehensive test management suite that provides strong competition against the traditional, licensed products in the marketplace.
Flexibility is provided through the provision of Urgent Changes to allow the resolution of ‘fix when broke’ incidents in the fastest possible time, whilst still maintaining control and visibility over the progress.
ChaRM is complemented by Quality Gate Management (QGM) which provides a ‘lighter’ change management toolset, more suited to large scale implementation projects where the full rigour of a change process may not be required, but visibility and control over transport logistics is vital. If you’re projects are struggling to keep track of their transports, having difficulty with transport sequencing or very reliant on spreadsheets; then this could be the solution you’ve been looking for.
In addition to the two main Change Management toolsets above, Change Validation functionality is available to report on changes that have taken place, ensuring that all changes (technical and functional) are fully transparent and your landscape is aligned.
Integrated workflow ensures that users of the solution are kept up to date with progress and notified when they have an action to take in the system. All information is stored centrally and is combined with comprehensive reporting and analytical tools to ensure that Incident Managers have full visibility without the need to speak to individual resolver groups.
Now utilising a web based CRM front end, the toolset is much more accessible and user friendly than previous releases.
The Technical System Monitoring functionality has progressed massively over the last few years, now using Diagnostic Agents to fully monitor the technical system operation, for example resource usage, response times and system errors. The monitoring is automated, helping you to ‘Run SAP like a factory’ i.e. reduce the burdensome, manual, monitoring activities with automated monitoring objects; utilising defined Key Performance Indicators and Threshold Values that are specific to your implementation. In this manner your technical experts can be automatically alerted to potential problems before they have a significant impact on the system, thus making the move from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ support.
Powerful Root Cause Analysis tools are also available to help diagnose any identified problems: End to End Workload Analysis. Trace Analysis, Error Analysis and Change Analysis. These tools allow a deep insight into the underlying technical systems, all from one central application – SAP Solution Manager.
Through identifying key monitoring objects, known as ‘Throughput and Backlog Indicators’ and ‘Cross Application Monitoring Objects’, SAP Solution Manager can automatically monitor the health of your core business processes and raise alerts for the attention of the relevant Business Process Operation or Technical teams (as appropriate) when specified threshold values have been exceeded. For example, if there was a backlog of unapproved Purchase Orders in the system then this could have a severe impact on Production if it went unnoticed; using the Business Process and Interface Monitoring (BPIM) functionality we can monitor the number of unapproved or blocked Purchase Orders and raise alerts when this exceeds a specified threshold. When coupled with monitors on performance of the core transactions (e.g. response time of transaction MIGO) and automated monitoring of associated interface records (e.g. IDoc failures) a comprehensive monitoring solution can very quickly be established, thus helping to prevent isolated problems from having a significant impact on downstream business processes.
Utilising these monitoring objects also allows for a history of process performance to be captured, therefore empowering you to analyse process execution and identify areas for future optimisation activities. For example, you might want to compare the throughput / backlog of records across sales organisations or manufacturing plants to identify where aspects of the business processes are underperforming or have room for improvement.
In addition to monitoring business process execution, tools to govern the documentation of batch jobs, monitor the growth and size of data (Data Volume Management), provide visibility of potential data integrity and transactional consistency issues, also exist to help ensure the continued and smooth operation of the SAP business processes.
SAP Solution Manager contains the Maintenance Optimiser used to support the correct patching and updating of the SAP estate, as well as informing of critical updates. It is now mandatory for certain patches and software downloads to be managed via the tool. To make the best use of the functionality it is imperative that your SAP landscape has been defined correctly and accurately within SAP Solution Manager, therefore tools such as the Landscape Management Database (LMDB) and its automated Landscape Verification become vitally important.
The Custom Code Lifecycle Management functionality of SAP Solution Manager answers these core questions and more. Allowing you to understand through the Custom Development Management Cockpit which custom code will be impacted by an upgrade and which code should be remediated as a result. Using the Clearing Analysis functionality allows you to identify where remediation efforts can be saved, by removing potentially unused/unwanted code thus helping to reduce maintenance costs and reduce the time associated with upgrade activities.
Unsure how? Well here are just a few suggestions:
- Identify the new Business Functions and processes that are relevant to you by using the Business Function Prediction service.
- Reduce the efforts involved for code remediation during the upgrade process by identifying unwanted / unused custom code through use of the Custom Development Management Cockpit Code.
- Use the Solution Implementation functionality with the relevant Upgrade Roadmap to define the blueprint and manage the configuration exercise.
- Test Management workbench should be used to document and manage the test execution, thus ensuring that the upgraded solution works. Test Automation can help expedite the regression test process and provide a valuable asset for the future.
- Utilise the Maintenance Optimiser to download the correct software packages; remove the guesswork!
…and much, much more!
This blog has given a brief insight into the capabilities of SAP Solution Manager and hopefully shown that is not just a tool for the ‘techies’, but a tool that can bring real business benefit across the full Application Lifecycle – without requiring investment in additional software products!
To help understand how SAP Solution Manager can help you to reduce your TCO and bring benefits and to your organisation, contact Rapid ERP at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask us about our ALM Roadmap service. We look forward to hearing from you.