To appeal to companies of different sizes and with different business models and financial capabilities, SAP has created a wide range of enterprise applications with a multitude of functionalities. The flip side, however, is that most customers have experienced first hand just how complex and expensive implementing and managing SAP applications can be.
To ensure that SAP implementations are financially justifiable, customers must invest substantial time and effort to align their implementations with organizational processes and business goals. Further, once a solution is implemented, the conduct of day-to-day business operations becomes highly dependent on the performance and availability of these applications – an application failure or delay can quickly translate to lost revenue, magnified costs or missed opportunities. The effective implementation and use of sophisticated real-time monitoring software, such as SAP’s own Solution Manager, can help prevent such costly incidents.
Not long ago, I was involved in a system failure while working with a former client in the banking industry that had implemented several SAP solutions – Bank Analyzer, CRM and Enterprise Portal, as well as several critical but non-SAP applications which were integrated with SAP. They relied heavily on the Bank Analyzer system and could not risk system failures or downtime, which could prevent customers making ATM cash withdrawals, for example.
The cost of downtime could vary from a few hundred to several millions of dollars, especially if transactions were interrupted during business hours. However, while the monitoring software was adequate it couldn’t ensure 100% system uptime – and the many complex processes, audit systems and budget constraints combined to limit their ability to address the problem.
For example, bank policies dictated that SAP system updates could only be done after 1 PM. While the change was made as scheduled, the system performance started to degrade quickly and finally came to a stand-still. All jobs were queued and delayed. Hoping for a quick resolution, the IT team restarted the system but in vain. Finally, we raised a “very high” priority problem ticket with SAP.
After several hours of firefighting with the SAP support team, we discovered that the SAP Spool system was inconsistent and full, and we were able to bring the systems back online after clearing the spool. It took us more than 8 hours to complete a scheduled change which usually could be done in one.
Real-time Monitoring and Automation
I believe we can easily prevent the costs, time and resources needed to resolve incidents, provided we change the current mindset and approach to troubleshooting. Across industries and companies, I have found that most people react to problems rather than try to prevent them from happening in the first place.
IT teams add more and more solutions into the stack so they can react better or faster. While this is fine up to a point, in the process we end up reducing the resources we dedicate to maintaining existing solutions. In addition, human error, security, duplication, dependency on skilled individuals and poor configuration can also contribute to system failures. At the same time, the increasing scope and resource requirements of SAP applications can exacerbate the problems that result from a lack of real-time monitoring – a typical alerting system is simply not enough.
While many monitoring tools are available for SAP, Solution Manager has become a must for any SAP implementation. It provides in-depth capabilities in the areas of monitoring, change management and end-to-end functionality for application management. Solution Manager is capable of monitoring SAP applications in real-time, which can cut time and effort in system administration. It also comes with many in-built functionalities, such as centralized monitoring, guided issue detection and resolution and root-cause analysis to help administrators avoid critical situations.
The Interface Channel Monitoring capability can monitor the interfaces between business critical systems – such as data transfer between systems, message response times and message flows – in real-time. SAP Solution Manager also provide service level monitoring based on SAP Early Watch, helpful for checking critical software and hardware errors.
However, a correct configuration of Solution Manager is a pre-requisite to make your automated monitoring work. Once configured, you can perform real-time business monitoring and system monitoring using CCMS. You can also integrate various third party tools to pull data from CCMS and projects in an organized manner.
Implementing SAP Solution Manager – Where Do We Start?
There is no license cost for Solution Manager, which SAP gives to its customers for free. However, you may incur additional costs if there are third party application integrations. You can also expect to incur significant costs and time – whether with in-house resources or with external help – to configure and implement Solution Manager.
At the outset, you must first establish a comprehensive understanding of your landscape. Document each system and its connections, including 3rd party interfaces, and in particular identify critical business functions which need special attention. If your landscape is complex, you would be well advised to request help from SAP Support and ask for their recommendations on how to reduce technical risk and optimize your solution.
You should also take time to understand what real-time monitoring can do so you can configure Solution Manager to meet your business needs. Make sure you study SAP Best practices and ASAP methodology so you can centralize real-time solution monitoring including business processes and interfaces.
Once you’ve established this foundation, you are ready to implement Solution Manager. Based on my own experience, you should keep a couple of key points in mind:
- Define SLA’s for your solution landscape and use it to configure real-time monitoring. Try to simplify your landscape and correctly configure your alerting landscape. The key is to be proactive and preventive instead of reactive.
- Avoid Alert flooding. Studies have found that out of the hundreds of alerts IT teams receive daily, only 20% are found to be worth taking action. Keep in mind that your primary goal is to avoid downtime and reduce administration efforts. Some metrics just need to be monitored and don’t have to be real-time. Increase threshold values and increase data collection intervals. You may also restrict data collection during certain business hours. Stop alerting during planned outages.
- False Alarms. Email alerts in Solution Manager are set as a default for all metrics. Make sure you configure only the important metrics and deactivate the ones which are less important – reduce unnecessary alerts and avoid wasting valuable man hours.
Finally, consider engaging third-party experts who specialize in real-time monitoring. Solution Manager can be an excellent tool to streamline and optimize your SAP troubleshooting processes and help you get more proactive in anticipating problems – but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Good luck, and please get in touch if you have comments or questions!