07/28/2008 by Dieter Steiger
As its name suggests, the SAP Solution Manager is designed to provide support for the management of SAP customer implementations. Does it perform this task? Or is it just one of SAP´s marketing instruments?
Missing Functions for Complex System Landscapes
When discussing the pros and cons of SAP Solution Manager, we must first of all give SAP credit for being one of the few vendors providing a solution management platform at all.
But taking a closer look at the various components of SAP Solution Manager, what you see is rather some kind of patch work. It seems that many functions have been integrated just pro forma to comply with qualifications typically demanded by the market in RFPs (request for proposal)?
Some of the components, though existing, are only in parts or insufficiently integrated. In order to efficiently manage customer implementations, additional office solutions are needed. This, however, seems to be useful only for small-scale SAP implementations. More complex organizational structures or heterogenous SAP landscapes imply additional dependencies that prevent these solutions from answering the purpose.
Unfortunately, in many SAP Solution Manager implementations the focus is not on what the customer actually requires, but on those functions offered by SAP Solution Manager by default.
Expectation towards an Efficiently Working SAP Solution Management Platform
Much of what we expect from a SAP solution management is comparable to what a comprehensive application lifecycle platform would offer. It is particularly important that the complete service lifecycle of the SAP implementation can be managed, including all documentary, organizational and technical interdependences, covering all phases from the generation of the first process implementations to extensions and error recovery, and up to process deactivation.
Also, the complete cost and activity accounting (integrated financial management) should be made transparent all across the lifecycle of the solution. This is the only way to set up a cost-benefit equation for a customer implementation.
The structure of the solution should provide subdivisions according to the Business Services (BS) it supports so that these services can be aligned with the overall goal of the enterprise. This results in an effective service portfolio management (SPM) and ensures the targeted value of the implementation. A working service portfolio management makes evident that in the context of a consistent service orientation, IT service management (ITSM) and project portfolio management (PPM) can no longer be regarded as isolated elements.
In addition, advanced solution management applications should integrate consistency-ensuring measures directly into the processes in order to minimize risks. Wherever possible, automation should be favored, particularly for performing organizational tasks. This can be reached by digitization or coding.
The following example clarifies above statement. Digitization prevents overtaker problems during transports (consistency-ensuring measures), because the transports are directly carried out (automation) upon release (organizational task).
By the way: consistency-ensuring measures are particularly important for SAP customers using company templates when changes are transported: Applying Business Configuration Sets (BC Sets) or generally transporting SAP customizing changes can result in inconsistencies between templates and distributed implementations, because customizing of the involved systems can be changed at any time. Offering customizing synchronization and locking mechanisms, SAP Solution Manager provides a solution for this problem which unfortunately is not very well known.
It is crucial to success that the customer has a clear picture of all relevant IT processes involved in SAP solution management. This means that the focus must not be on the solution management tool, but on the risks that are addressed and minimized by Solution Manager. From this, we can directly derive the demands that should be placed on solution management.