This is the first installment in a series of two articles dedicated to the maintenance practices of an SAP solution. In this part we will review five practices that are critical to a good maintenance process. In the second, we will discuss the most important features to look for when outsourcing maintenance services.
SAP solutions, as we all know, are complex, not only in their implementation, but also in their operation and maintenance. If we were to compare it to a physical machine, it would not be a Mercedes Benz, as is often said, but rather a large truck or heavy machinery. Such equipment requires sophisticated and mandatory disciplines and maintenance programs to preserve the value of the large investment it represents.
The same is true for a SAP solution. It is necessary to address the problems that inevitably arise through a support process; it is necessary to keep the system aligned with the business and with the law, through different enhancements; and it is essential to keep the solution up to date, through periodic updates. All these processes come together in a discipline called Application Management Services, or SAP AMS.
As with everything in the maintenance process, there are different strategies, methodologies, and practices. However, when it comes to protect the investment that means a SAP solution, the ideal is: a) a maintenance strategy more preventive than corrective, b) the use of methodologies defined by SAP (SAP Application Lifecycle Management), and c) the application of the practices that we will see below, whose efficiency comes from our experience with these services.
What are the objectives of the maintenance process? The objectives should be results that reflect the good performance of the SAP solution, its contribution to the business processes and the optimization of the process costs. For example, regarding incidents and support: how many minutes of unavailability does the entire SAP solution, or each of its component systems, or a specific process within it, have? What is the impact of unavailability on the business? Regarding enhancements: how aligned is the solution to the business? how fast can we support changes? how well does the change process protect the investment?
For all relevant questions, a KPI and an SLA should be defined. The management of the maintenance process should allow to measure, report, analyze the results and propose improvements.
This maintenance management process must be in place, precisely to know if we are obtaining the desired results and at what costs. As with any management process, it is based on the collection of information, analysis, generation of reports, dashboards, etc. From this information, problems can be detected, diagnosed and solutions and improvements can be generated.
Although the functional and technical (Basis) areas of maintenance are usually separated, we know that in many cases they are required to work together to achieve the solution of an incident, a problem, or the successful implementation of an improvement. When these two areas are separated in two suppliers, or in two independent areas of the organization, it is more difficult to coordinate the interdisciplinary work that is needed.
Structure is fundamental for professionalized maintenance. It requires a process-oriented organization, well-defined processes, and support tools, etc. For this we have the great support of ITIL, in addition to SAP practices: Application Lifecycle Management, SAP AMS, etc. In terms of tools, we have a wide variety available, starting with SAP Solution Manager. ITSM tools abound in the market, with the advantage that today they are also offered as a cloud service (SaaS, Software as a Service), which simplifies their implementation and operation.
Finally, it is very important that the whole maintenance process is supported by a quality process. It is essential to collect user experience through surveys, and business leaders’ experience through meetings or workshops. A good user experience should be one of the objectives of the process and, therefore, the expected results must be defined, and the achievements must be permanently measured.
In the second part of this article, we will see how these practices can be implemented in an internal organization or in an external service, and the advantages and disadvantages in each case.
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Feedback/discussion with the author: Glen Canessa, Functional Solutions Architect at Novis.