The Conference focused on the subject of “end-to-end solution operations”: In future, SAP Customer Competence Centers will have to deal with the operation, support, and enhancement of software solutions across the complete IT landscape. “The role of the SAP CCCs as support units is changing, because their environment is also undergoing a rapid transformation,” said Dr. Uwe Hommel, Executive Vice President, SAP Active Global Support. He described end-to-end solution operations as a broad range of tasks. An SAP CCC should be able to integrate all applications in the enterprise and ensure their smooth operation – regardless of whether the software is from SAP, another provider, or is an in-house development.
There is also an increasing focus on business. The SAP CCC must ensure that the IT meets the requirements of the user departments and successfully supports all business processes. For the central support unit, the term “end-to-end” is ultimately also relevant with regard to the users. In global enterprises, the SAP CCC’s task is to ensure the availability and performance of the IT landscape for all users – even if the number of users is constantly increasing and they use internet-based services from different locations.
Hommel pinpointed the conversion of IT landscapes into service-oriented architectures (SOA) as a central strategic aspect of future work by the SAP Customer Competence Centers. He stated that even though a decision in favor of an SOA ultimately depends on the enterprise’s management, the Competence Centers still play an important role, and stressed that the SAP software could only be improved and tailored to customer requirements with the help of the 800 SAP Customer Competence Centers. “An SAP CCC is a guarantee that the customer has bundled knowledge about application management and business processes. Collaboration with SAP will only be successful if this competence is in place,” Hommel said.
Business process champions as knowledge brokers
What skills does an SAP Customer Competence Center need for successful end-to-end solution operations? Gap-free root cause analysis and change control, the integration and automation of business processes, and the ability to implement a service-oriented architecture were presented as key factors at the forum. The tried and tested SAP Solution Manager is not the only thing available to the SAP CCCs. As additional support, SAP offers Standards for Solution Operations. These 16 standards use best practices to define specific tasks for the enterprise functions involved in the development and implementation of business processes. These take account not just of IT experts for application management or technical support, but also end users and budget managers in the user departments. The standards also include guidelines for the use of SAP Solution Manager and an overview of the training on offer.
By observing the standards, an enterprise can increase the availability and performance of applications and improve the process flow. The standards are based on an organizational model that outlines a suitable structure of IT and user departments for end-to-end solution operations and lays down rules on how these work together. “The standards transfer reliable knowledge and ensure that SAP Active Global Support and the customer’s SAP CCC speak the same language,” said Dr. Matthias Melich, Vice President, SAP Solution Manager.
For example, US enterprise Halliburton – a long-term SAP customer where up to 5000 users simultaneously work with SAP software – successfully aligned its processes to the SAP Standards for Solution Operations. In line with a suggestion in the organizational model, the position of Business Process Champion was created in the company. “These experts play a linking role. They ensure that the user departments and IT department work together – during the definition and analysis of business processes, and their execution,” explains Gabe Rodriguez, Senior Manager in Halliburton’s IT Application Services Group. The Business Process Champions are also responsible for training end users, and for quality management.
Backbone of the competence center
When it comes to software tools for supporting end-to-end solution operations, the most important solution is SAP Solution Manager. Users from SAP Customer Competence Centers presented the many features offered by this software. IT service provider GISA GmbH, for example, has implemented SAP Solution Manager from version 2.1 through to the current version 4.0, and as a result captured new application areas step by step. In addition to the monitoring of the SAP applications, change requests were monitored, and tests were also carried out and the data gathered from these was stored. “It does not make sense to implement SAP Solution Manager in a big-bang project. There are so many functionalities that it is better to get to know them step-by-step,” says senior manager Robert Milbradt. For the future, GISA GmbH is also planning to run a service desk with SAP Solution Manager.
“In our SAP CCC, SAP Solution Manager is the backbone for numerous functions. We have enhanced the features of the software and tailored it to our requirements,” explains Achim Töper, who heads the SAP CCC at ITellium Systems & Services GmbH. The Competence Center supports around 8000 SAP users at KarstadtQuelle AG and uses SAP Solution Managers not just to handle support inquiries or to monitor business processes. Functions for knowledge searches in projects or for performance measurement also play an important role. The solution is also used to calculate the license fees of the SAP users. “SAP Solution Manager has proven effective particularly our Competence Center’s multi-project environment,” says Töper.
Second step in certification
The experiences gathered by the SAP Customer Competence Centers are extremely important for the further development of SAP products for end-to-end solution operations. Andreas Oczko, DSAG CEO and Co-Chairman of the International CCC Community (ICCC), explained the value of feedback using the example of SAP Solution Manager 4.0: “The ICCC submitted 61 valid development requests. 34 of these were implemented in the software, and another 10 are planned for the next release.” Knowledge is also transferred in the other direction, of course: SAP Customer Competence Centers provide end-to-end support training for employees and thereby ensure the quality of their services.
It is also possible for an existing SAP CCC to gain certification for end-to-end solution operations in a second step. The certification process provides important information on the maturity level, level of knowledge, and effectiveness of the SAP CCC. “With regard to end-to-end solution operations, there’s a lot of work to be done. We should take advantage of the current momentum to intensify cooperation between the SAP Customer Competence Centers and SAP,” concludes Andreas Oczko. His suggestion is being taken on board: SAP is currently launching a special information program on the subject of end-to-end solution operations for the SAP user groups.