Mission Control: Not Just for NASA

At the new SAP Mission Control Center at SAP North America headquarters (Photo: Brian Wasson)

It’s been said that the average smartphone boasts more computing power than all of NASA in 1969, when the American space agency put a man on the moon. And it’s not a stretch to say that large present-day companies have computing power that eclipses the wildest dreams of NASA engineers in the 1960s.

But while a single Apollo spacecraft had a huge team of dedicated “mission specialists” in one room focused on mission success, large-scale software deployments today often rely on a disconnected patchwork of external consultants and in-house staff to implement new software or upgrades.

Although technology has improved far beyond what those rocket scientists had access to, at least one NASA idea has served as inspiration for a very modern concept being implemented by SAP today: the development of a “control center” approach designed to help SAP customers with premium support partnerships get the most out of their SAP investments.

Tight customer integration is key

The concept is simple yet powerful: bring together SAP experts and a customer’s various team members in high-tech, purpose-built control centers to help customers quickly and easily deploy SAP innovations such as SAP HANA, mobile solutions, and cloud solutions.

“Businesses need to innovate constantly to compete globally,” says Dr. Uwe Hommel, executive vice president and head of Active Global Support for SAP. “We see a much higher ‘need for speed’ when dealing with implementation issues today. Tighter customer integration is the best way to increase speed and the quality of results.”

The control center approach from SAP comprises three levels: the Innovation Control Center (ICC), Operations Control Center (OCC), and Mission Control Center (MCC). The ICC and OCC are located at a customer’s site, while the MCC is located at an SAP remote facility. Each is designed to complement the other and provide high-level support throughout the various stages of an SAP-centric solution’s lifecycle.

At the outset of projects, the Innovation Control Center delivers customer support aimed at modification-free implementations and continuous improvement in the business. As the installation nears the go-live date, the ICC transitions to an Operations Control Center focused on ensuring that SAP and non-SAP software solutions run together without disruption and with maximum efficiency.

Interconnected control centers

SAP works with customers to develop a dedicated room for on-site control centers with specific capabilities, including videoconferencing and a large monitor array. The room is staffed with SAP on-site employees (including technical quality managers and developers), the customer’s project and IT staff, business units (when required), and representatives from any involved SAP partners.

The on-site control centers are connected in real time to dedicated remote Mission Control Centers at SAP locations around the world, which provide deep-level support to the control centers at customers’ locations. MCCs bring experts from throughout SAP together in one location. These tight-knit, experienced, interdisciplinary teams use SAP Solution Manager software to proactively monitor a customer’s installation in real time, allowing issues to be quickly identified and addressed. The constant monitoring and collaboration also help customers to adopt SAP best practices and resolve functionality concerns.

SAP has launched three Mission Control Centers to date, including two in China and a just-opened U.S. center in Pennsylvania. Additional Mission Control Centers are in development in Germany, Brazil, and Mexico.

The control center approach is not only designed to fix issues, but also to make installations go more smoothly from the beginning and increase satisfaction at all stages of a customer’s relationship with SAP. Experience has shown that customers have avoided up to 90% of unnecessary modifications and have decreased costs for post go-live support by up to 60%.

As Hommel puts it, “SAP is taking more responsibility for the value chain and helping customers realize the full benefit of their support investment. We want them to have the strong impression they aren’t being left out there on their own.”

Learn more about the control center support model on SAP.com.