When Angus & Robertson (A&R), Australias largest book retailer decided in 2003 to implement their new SAP solution on the same client as their sister company Whitcoulls, the result was to merge the support of their major IT systems, to obtain professional support for the two companies at less cost. The newly merged SAP Support Group (SSG) faced several challenges caused by separate IT systems operating at different stages in their use of the SAP for Retail solution. An exploration with SAP resulted in plans to use SAP Solution Manager 3.1 to address several key issues, including communications between the two companies across Australia and New Zealand, providing documentation assistance for the support team and tracking change management in both locations.
Whitcoulls implemented SAP in 1999 while Angus & Robertson are relatively new SAP users, having just completed a rollout of SAP for Retail to over 100 stores throughout Australia in June 2004. The new SSG had unique support issues that were exacerbated by diverse geographical locations. These issues were compounded by the fact that Whitcoulls had been running SAP for five years while Angus & Robertson was still in project mode and adjusting to the new SAP for Retail solution. It did not help either that Angus & Robertson is in Australia while Whitcoulls is located in New Zealand.
One support team, two systems
Challenges facing the SSG included the need to ensure project communication with SAP BASIS support to coordinate upgrades, back-ups, database management and testing during the development, implementation and roll out for Angus & Robertson. The support team was also under intense pressure, supporting twice the volume of data on a database double the size, and across two locations with two separate IT systems. The SSG needed more structured monitoring tools that would assist with better communication across the business.
Another major challenge was change management. Balancing and prioritizing resources and projects between the two organizations and managing cross-country system changes meant that when anything happened at one organization at any time, the other side needed to know about it, and fast. However, communication of such changes was hampered by the lack of a central repository for key information that could be made accessible to all staff.
Professional support at low cost
It was these issues that were challenging Maureen Maloy, SAP Support Group Manager for the A&R Whitcoulls Group and her team as they put together the processes to support the joint SAP systems. After some exploration, they were convinced that SAP Solution Manager was the ideal toolset for technical monitoring, project management and change management across both Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls.
“We were presented with a toolset that could run and monitor the company’s IT system as well as provide a central respository to store all of our documentation around change management, project management, issue resolution and transport approval,” says Maloy. “Our goal right from the start was to provide professional support to the whole organization at less cost to the business. SAP Solution Manager was up to the task. We had the project approved by a steering committee in September last year, training started in October and by December 2003 installation was complete,” says Maloy.
Single point of access to all documentation
The first task was to build the landscapes of the entire SAP system in SAP Solution Manager so that it could be used to monitor and administer these systems. The next step was to set up checklists and task lists for regular administrative tasks. Operational alerts were then configured across the system, along with SAP EarlyWatch Alerts and reporting. All communication and management of SAP front end were implemented in SAP Solution Manager and Service Level Agreement (SLA) reporting was configured.
A&R Whitcoulls Group also worked with SAP to develop a change management system that provided a single point of access for all documentation and work flow to support the change process. Because SAP Solution Manager is available to all users of the SAP system, this central change repository assisted in easing communication across the organization and eliminated duplication of work. With an upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise on the horizon, Maloy also saw an opportunity to manage the project and testing process with SAP Solution Manager. Using SAP InfoPak, the implementation team has built and documented scenarios and test scripts for every business process, now stored centrally in SAP Solution Manager. These scenarios are currently used for managing system testing at A&R Whitcoulls Group, and the same scenarios will also be used for future regression testing.
Looking to the future
Operationally, Maloy expects that SAP Solutions Manager will provide in the future better help desk communication across the two companies. She also wants to use this set of solutions to develop processes and including all business managers in the setting of development priorities.
Based on the testing done for the upgrade to SAP R/3 Enterprise, Maloy is also looking to build a template for reusable regression test projects, which can be employed in the future for support pack and major development testing. Having this template with all the scenarios and test data in SAP Solution Manager can potentially make all future testing easier.
On the monitoring front, the next step is to include the monitoring of external interfaces as well as the SAP internal processes. The major interfaces that Maloy is planning to build into SAP Solution Manager are the supplier purchasing Electronic Data Interface with ECN and PakStream and the Point of Sale (POS) flow to and from the stores. Currently, the POS flow includes four interface levels, and each has its own monitoring process. A major advantage of having all the interfaces integrated in SAP Solution Manager is that the team can then have an overall view of all system issues presented on a single screen.
It took A&R Whitcoulls about six weeks of internal work to set up the services landscape, complete data entry and training, develop the change management system, determine standards and set up the retail processes in SAP Solution Manager. There was also a one week external cost of a Customer Relationship Management consultant to assist in the development of the change support system.
Benefits to date include streamlining the many on-going BASIS support tasks, which results in better deployment of different levels of skilled IT staff to work on system improvements or support tasks. Having a single, real-time view of updated documentation and information across the two organizations has greatly reduced the incidence of checking on situations that require monitoring leading to improved communication and business efficiency for the SSG team.
With the early communication of development plans through SAP Solution Manager, joint development opportunities can now be recognised earlier and better prioritised. A&R Whitcoulls Group is looking forward to realize further benefits from SAP Solution Manager as the foundation for automation and improved communication at both A&R and Whitcoulls.
SAP Australia & New Zealand