SAP.info: SAP brings a huge number of innovations onto the market. What role do the SAP support teams play in helping SAP customers plan and implement their software and handle day-to-day IT operations?
Gerhard Oswald: Our SAP support helps all SAP customers worldwide in every single phase of the software lifecycle. We keep a watchful eye on changes in the market, gather customer requirements, and enhance our support models on an ongoing basis. We moved away from being a conventional “reactive” support organization more than ten years ago and have extended our portfolio to include a wide range of preventive and optimization elements. The SAP support offering is unique in the software industry, and we are equipped to meet our customers’ requirements at every stage of the software lifecycle.
Knowledge transfer for SAP HANA, mobile, and cloud computing
An example is knowledge transfer for the implementation and operation of SAP HANA, mobile and cloud solutions, or business analytics – to name just a few – provided through the SAP Enterprise Support Academy. And our innovation and operations platform, SAP Solution Manager, provides “Guided Procedures” that describe, among other things, how to adjust parameters for the SAP HANA platform or the customization of settings in the SAP Business Suite for optimal results. SAP Solution Manager also has full ITIL certification.
Our latest investment is directed at establishing global SAP Mission Control Centers – initially in China, the United States, Germany, and Brazil – that interact closely with the Innovation and Operations Control Centers at customer sites.
What different support models are offered by SAP, and how do they differ from competitor models?
Gerhard Oswald: As mentioned before, our support offerings are unique in the IT industry. SAP Enterprise Support is the foundation of after-sales service for all our customers. It can be enhanced with premium support engagements such as SAP ActiveEmbedded and SAP MaxAttention. All of our support offerings are directed at helping our customers implement their strategy in line with their specific requirements – starting from design and software implementation, through go-live, functional, and system operations, all the way up to upgrades. This end-to-end approach sets us apart from our competitors in the industry.
Railway travel: SAP HANA at RZD
Russian Railways (RZD) is one of many customers who have benefitted from our help in implementing SAP innovations. In that case, we supported in implementing SAP HANA through SAP ActiveEmbedded.
Next page: More on the SAP Mission Control Centers
There was a recent article in the German IT journal Computerwoche about the support and maintenance models provided by various software vendors, which described SAP Enterprise Support as unique in the industry. And a study by a Swiss consulting firm also came to the same conclusion. What’s more, the SAP Enterprise Support Academy also recently received the TSIA (Technology Services Industry Association) Vision award. All of these examples are proof that we are on the right track.
You mentioned earlier that SAP support’s latest investment is in SAP Mission Control Centers. What exactly are they and how do customers benefit from them?
Gerhard Oswald: Our customers’ innovation cycles are becoming shorter and shorter. This means that their ability to retain a competitive edge depends on how quickly they can deploy the latest technologies and applications.
Mission control helps customer innovation
The SAP Mission Control Centers are staffed by expert teams that concentrate on helping customers implement SAP innovations and on developing best practices, services, and tools that make it as easy as possible for customers to leverage these innovations.
Next page: What skills SAP support employees need
We use the SAP Mission Control Centers to bridge the physical gap between ourselves and our customers and to enable the close collaboration with them. We show our customers how to configure, implement, and operate SAP HANA, mobile solutions, business analytics, and much more. Before a software solution moves into operations, we validate, for example, the configuration, scalability, and integrity of the solution and thus ensure the go-live process will be compliant with SAP best practices.
New technologies, rapid changes in the market, and ever-shifting requirements: What does that mean for employees in SAP support?
Gerhard Oswald: The process of transforming from a reactive to a preventive and value-adding support model doesn’t happen over night. Over many years, our goal has been to continuously grow the added value for our customers through the use of SAP software and that of SAP support. It is therefore essential that SAP support employees continue to develop and grow professionally so they are always at least one step ahead of advances in technology.
Technical ability, business acumen, and soft skills
As a result, the requirements profile for our support employees has changed dramatically over the years. In the past, their task was to find solutions to specific issues; today, SAP support experts need a holistic mindset and approach to their work. My employees need to understand customer business processes and they must be familiar with the relevant architecture and functions of the SAP software – as well as with the underlying technology.
Next page: New challenges in support
Added to that are vital soft skills, including communication and customer focus in an international working environment, analytical thinking, the ability to respond quickly, excellent teamwork and initiative, as well as the desire to keep on learning all the time. In short: SAP support employees work in a demanding environment, one that allows them to nurture their talents and learn, learn, learn.
SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud
You have taken over the “Scale, Quality & Support” board area, where the operation of SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud is one of your key responsibilities. What challenges does this present from a support perspective?
Gerhard Oswald: When it comes to IT operations and support, the new SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud area is not exactly starting from scratch. Our focus was previously on on-premise software solutions; but we have many years of experience and proven concepts to rely on, and we are more than capable of honing our expertise to fit the new situation. SAP is by no means new to the cloud business. We have been operating similar software solutions for our customers for years – experience that can be leveraged with SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud.
On this basis, we see the intermeshing of support and operations as a huge opportunity to bring innovations to our customers even faster than before.
SAP HANA at Russian Railways
Russian Railways (RZD) is Russia’s largest transportation service provider. Each year, it carries more than one billion passengers and 1.4 billion tons of freight goods across a rail network that spans eleven time zones. To ensure that goods and passengers arrive on time, RZD opted for an SAP HANA database. Since the database was implemented, the speed of analysis and reporting has increased five-fold, giving the company a basis on which to quickly make informed decisions. SAP ActiveEmbedded helped specialists at RZD implement the solution and will continue to provide support for ongoing operations and maintenance.
The SAP Mission Control Center concept
The SAP Mission Control Center in St. Leon-Rot opened recently. Its function is to provide a central hub in which SAP Active Global Support experts can work together with specialists from all disciplines within SAP.
The SAP Mission Control Centers will be set up regionally and will interact within a global network and in tandem with Innovation Control Centers (ICCs) for the implementation phase and Operations Control Centers (OCCs) for the operational phase, both located at customer facilities. This approach allows SAP to bridge the physical gap between itself and its customers using the latest communication technologies, including telepresence and video communication, and to provide its customers with immediate and direct support. Cooperation is extensive and comprehensive – just as if SAP and the customer were sitting together in the same office.
To see how the SAP Mission Control Centers work, watch this video.