Method, Not Madness

December 2, 2008 by Heike Link, journalist, Mannheim, Germany

IT managers make a lot of plans: They want to lower total cost of ownership, continually optimize and securely operate their application landscapes, and provide a flexible basis for mission-critical business processes. However, this is seldom reflected in reality. Studies show that system operation costs eat up a large part of the IT budget – money otherwise available for using IT to map innovative business processes.

Ensuring stable 24×7 operations and streamlining IT support are the goals of many global companies with heterogeneous SAP landscapes. However, system updates often result in performance problems. These result from gaps in companies’ operating approaches, which they can systematically close with Run SAP:

  • A root-cause analysis process helps quickly analyze the causes of errors in all solution components.
  • As a central E2E platform, SAP Solution Manager replaces heterogeneous support tools with standardized tools and functions.

“The IT department must always support changes in business departments, otherwise it becomes a problem,” says Stefan Gruler, chief operating officer, SAP Field Services. On the other hand, IT departments that continually adapt their solutions can reduce the availability of systems.

Uwe Hommel, executive vice president, SAP Active Global Support, says that the main cause of the gap between expectation and reality is the increasing complexity of system landscapes. Many companies now operate a range of solutions that include – alongside the core enterprise resource planning components – other products from SAP and its partners, homegrown developments, and legacy systems.

There is no end in sight to the multiplication of components: Technology cycles continue to shorten, reducing the intervals at which SAP integrates new technologies into the solutions. “The increased requirements can no longer be met with traditional operating concepts,” states Hommel.

What is the answer? Both Hommel and Gruler recommend standardizing IT operations so that they support the entire process chain, end to end. “IT governance should optimally manage technical resources and personnel and also reduce risks and costs. That requires standards, processes, and information that cover the full solution life cycle. This is precisely what Run SAP does,” says Gruler.

The methodology provides end-to-end (E2E) operating standards, a road map, and training and certification programs. Companies can access best-practice processes to define or automate their own processes centrally. “Managers no longer have to spend time deciding how modifications are implemented and tested. Instead, they can concentrate on topics that add value,” says Hommel.

SAP Solution Manager provides the best practices, monitors, and tools required for such operations as integration tests. Documentation produced using the Run SAP standard – such as configuration and project data – is also stored there. “We can immediately see which applications customers have installed and recognize conflicts that might cause system downtime. For example, upgrading a company’s system might have unintentional side effects on other components,” says Gruler.

Using standard methods and tools, Run SAP enables all operational units – as well as SAP and SAP partners – to work together. External service providers can be integrated using E2E operating standards. This especially benefits small and midsize enterprises: They can reduce operating costs by cosourcing or outtasking to counteract their lack of skilled workers – just like large companies.

Run SAP ensures that process knowledge is documented and skills are standardized to help companies retain their IT expertise. “This is essential for driving innovation and globalization. Companies that have relied heavily on cost reductions for years have some catching up to do,” explains Hommel.

The SAP Active Global Support, SAP Consulting, and SAP Education organizations are working on further services for Run SAP. SAP wants to both certify partners and adapt their tools and services for Run SAP. SAP is also producing industry-specific versions of the methodology. “The quicker that IT can support business, the more competitive companies will be,” concludes Gruler.

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