The vast majority of large enterprise SAP business applications customers choose SAP Enterprise Support as their software maintenance option.
Some large customers also select SAP MaxAttention for a highly personalised level of support when they need maximum responsiveness from SAP Support. A minority choose the lowest cost option, i.e. SAP Standard Support.
A key deliverable from Enterprise Support is full access to the SAP Solution Manager range of tools.
But - in my experience - many SAP customers and SAP PMOs and hardly use Solution Manager when it comes to SAP Project Management. It’s a bit like buying an expensive toolkit and just using the hammer!
And what about you?
- Are you getting as much value from your Solution Manager toolkit as you should?
- Do you know which tools are just sitting there, going rusty?
- Are you leaving money on the table?
What exactly is Solution Manager?
Well, it is now a full on-premise Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) software toolset, but it started life originally just as a pure satellite support system installed on the customer’s site to connect all their on-site SAP systems to SAP Support infrastructure.
This enabled SAP Support to remotely connect to these SAP systems in order to diagnose and fix software problems. The current version is Solution Manager 7.2 and it can support both Build and Run type of ERP Life Cycle activities (see SAP Go-Live is the beginning, not the end).
Actually, the toolkit analogy is accurate, as you do need to configure and test each Solution Manager module according to your own ways of working.
Different user types for Solution Manager today
You would be surprised how many different user teams could benefit:
SAP Basis Operations Team
Solution Manager quickly evolved into a vital tool for your very technical SAP Basis Operations team, who depend on it for basic Run type monitoring, patching and trouble-shooting.
In fact, they have to use it to remain on support from SAP. Key Solution Manager modules for the team include EarlyWatch Alert, Maintenance Planner, License Management, Landscape Management, Integration Monitoring, User Experience Monitoring, Data Volume Management and HANA Monitoring. It also includes Integration Monitoring, Data Consistency Checks and Exception Management for many SAP Cloud solution scenarios.
But Solution Manager has evolved over time to include valuable tools for several other user types within your organization.
SAP Change Management Team
Solution Manager provides Run tools for the SAP Change Management team, including, Change and Request Management, Quality Gate Management, Business Process Change Analyser, Test Management, Retrofit, Enhanced Change and Transport System, Template Management, Custom Code Management, and more.
SAP Support Team
Solution Manager provides Run tools for the SAP Support team within your SAP Centre of Excellence who handle support requests from your end users. Key modules include IT Service Management, Root Cause Analysis, Expert Chat, etc.
SAP Projects Teams
SAP customers are always faced with a raft of competing Build type projects after they go live. Solution Manager provides tools for these project teams as well. All SAP application and system configuration information can be stored within a central ALM database, making the information reusable for other projects and all other Run type activities and user teams.
Key modules here are Transformation Navigator support, ASAP methodology for SAP Business Suite implementation, Activate methodology for S/4HANA implementation, Solution Documentation, Upgrade Management, etc.
As mentioned earlier all Solution Manager modules need to be configured, implemented and tested before active use. However, SAP has also introduced a series of ready to run modules, at extra cost. One such example is Focused Build, which tracks all stages of project delivery, including Agile and DevOps types of innovative delivery models.
SAP Business Process Improvement Team
For my money the most powerful tool in the Solution Manager 7.2 toolkit is easily the Business Process Monitoring and Analytics module. This extends technical monitoring to highly valuable business monitoring. Through a knowledge of the complex application table structure this module offers literally thousands of standard Key Process Indicators (KPIs) for vital SAP business processes, such as Order-to-Cash, Procure-to-Pay, etc.
Users can configure subsets of these KPIs into high level dashboards suitable for business process owners, super users and business managers. These can be used for business process improvement teams or business benefits monitoring to measure real business value. Research shows just how hard this is to achieve in practice (view our research on the subject here), so such tools are vital.
I have spoken to several customers who have saved huge sums of money with this approach. But guess what, many SAP customers are completely unaware of this hidden gem!
Dr Derek Prior spent 19 years as an analyst specialising in SAP at Gartner and AMR Research, advising organisations all around the world on SAP strategy and best practices.