Your company can only be as healthy as your SAP landscape. If your landscape’s performance degrades, so does your productivity. If your production environment goes down for an hour, so does your entire company — potentially costing you tens of thousands.
And yet, too many companies don’t even think about their SAP landscape until it starts to break. They have Solution Manager installed, but don’t use its technical monitoring capabilities or pay attention to its system health checks. In fact, a lot of executives at SAP organizations couldn’t even tell you what an EarlyWatch Alert is, much less why it’s important.
The problem isn’t negligence or indifference. A lot of organizations simply lack the awareness or internal skill set to monitor their setup effectively. The tools are difficult to configure and use, the reporting is opaque and confusing, and it can be a major challenge to sort and prioritize all the health information Solution Manager churns out.
Nonetheless, if you’re not monitoring your SAP health and using that insight for performance tuning and strategic upgrades, you’re taking unnecessary risks with your system stability, and compromising your ability to fully harness SAP. Here’s what you need to know.
Solution Manager Helps Keep SAP Healthy
Everyone on SAP should have Solution Manager. In the SAP ecosystem, SolMan is used to download software, and apply support packs through Maintenance Planner (or, before version 7.1, in Maintenance Optimizer). Therefore everyone has the capabilities to access EarlyWatch Alerts and other technical monitoring capabilities.
SolMan’s technical monitoring solution is an invaluable tool for daily system health checks. It monitors SAP for exceptions and system alerts, and provides visibility into multiple levels of your system. It’s useful for finding the source of malfunctions and performance degradations, keeping SAP running and reasonably healthy. It also is application aware, with end-to-end reporting that helps you to tune individual applications.
EarlyWatch Alerts (EWAs) provide a deeper look at your SAP health, giving you a huge amount of information on system health. If SAP Technical Operations is like having your heart rate, blood pressure, and other vital signs monitored around the clock, EarlyWatch is like going in for a complete physical, with blood tests and a comprehensive workup to show every aspect of your health. It can be used to look at trends in your SAP landscape, and plan upgrades and changes to ensure SAP continues to support your needs. For example, it can help you upgrade and configure your landscape to deal with increasing user demand.
Solution Manager is Under-Utilized
Are you running EWAs? If so, how often are they run? Who receives them? How does your organization use them to improve the running of your SAP landscape?
If you can’t answer these questions, you’re not alone. Many organizations have EWAs running regularly in the background, and don’t even know it. In other cases, executives receive SAP EWAs and don’t know what to do with them. You might flip through the EarlyWatch report briefly, but not find any actionable insight, leave it sitting in your inbox or not even notice that it’s being filtered out by your email provider.
Technical Operations are likewise underused. Too many organizations neglect daily SAP monitoring and servicing, assuming that if it isn’t broke, they don’t have to fix it. Their IT staff tasked with running SAP may not even be aware of the technical capabilities of Solution Manager until something goes wrong.
Lack of SAP System Health Monitoring Degrades Performance and Availability
Have you ever owned a car that you didn’t do maintenance on? It seems to be running well for a while, so it’s easy to miss the warning signs. The brakes get a little squishy, the fuel efficiency goes down, the engine sounds a little rough, but it still works — until suddenly, it doesn’t. Sooner or later, you have a major breakdown that leaves you stranded, and ends up costing way more money than you saved by skipping maintenance.
SAP is like that. It can run without service for a while, but beneath the surface, things aren’t working quite right. Performance fluctuates and degrades, processes fail to run here and there. And people in the company just eat the frustration and lost productivity, and assume SAP is just like that. When, sooner or later, SAP suffers a serious outage, it ends up costing way more than daily service would have.
But while people don’t assume a car is badly made because it breaks down after years of neglect, people do make those assumptions about SAP. It’s just slow. It suffers outages because it’s unreliable.
In reality, SAP is designed to be extremely reliable, when serviced properly. With daily SAP system health checks, regular tuning, and incremental changes to address growing demands, the system will have consistent performance and nearly 100% uptime. If that’s not your experience of SAP, it’s a good bet you aren’t making good use of Solution Monitor or other performance monitoring tools.
It’s Harder to Set an Effective SAP Upgrade and Maintenance Strategy
In a world that’s moving faster than ever, the pace of technological change presents a challenge for enterprise IT. SAP and other ERP software vendors release frequent upgrades and patches, which require changes to your landscape. Some releases provide minor tweaks, like a new printer driver. Others patch major security holes or fix other serious issues. Still, others add significant new functionality to your landscape, with major strategic implications.
There are other changes too. Your company gathers more and more data, your company opens new offices or lines of business and your users demand more and more power from SAP. Sometimes, your technicians will need to make minor tweaks like adding more resources to your production landscape. Other times, they may need to make architectural changes, like HANA Dynamic Tiering to free up memory.
The challenging part is staying on top of all of these changes. Downloading updates, testing them, tweaking settings and queueing them to install all take time. Changes also require downtime, which needs to be scheduled carefully to minimize risks and costs.
Companies tend to fall behind, particularly when they don’t harness SAP system health checks effectively. They can’t look ahead six months to plan upgrades based on growing demand. They don’t have their head inside the guts of SAP, so they pay less attention to routine upgrades and patches. Instead of developing a strategic approach that lets keeps them prepared for the future, they end up struggling to catch up, with their technology always a little bit behind their needs.
Why Companies Fail at SAP System Health
Solution Manager Doesn’t Make it Easy to Set Priorities
Solution Manager has some powerful tools, but they have flaws and limits that make strategic SAP maintenance and upgrades more challenging. Organizations often struggle to use EarlyWatch effectively, both because of the sheer volume of information and the lack of prioritization.
EWAs use a traffic light system, rating different aspects of system health as red, yellow or green. There’s always something that could stand to be improved, so no one ends up with all green. Additionally, it’s extremely long — about 45 pages in all. The data is organized, but it’s not sorted by impact, importance or scope. Some items could be quick fixes, or relatively small changes. Other items are large scale architectural changes to SAP that could take months of work.
It’s extremely difficult for most organizations to sort through all that data and set priorities effectively. And your SAP asset probably won’t be able to unravel it all for you. Most SAP Basis administrators aren’t trained at coordinating with executives and other stakeholders to set priorities, and many companies don’t give them the opportunity to do so regardless. This contributes to the problem of slow and sporadic updates and upgrades.
Technical Operations also has its flaws and limits. It requires a tremendous amount of expertise to get it configured properly and maintain it. Even once it is configured, it’s not very intuitive at all. This can make it very difficult to utilize alerts reliably or understand and act on the output.
That’s not to say it’s not useful once you get the hang of it. Technical Operations facilitates routine SAP system health checks, cutting down on the extremely slow and tedious work of checking up on different systems within SAP. However, it’s still somewhat clunky. It’s difficult to see thresholds without drilling into several menus, and it doesn’t integrate with major ticketing systems. All of this makes it more difficult to use all the information to spot patterns and resolve potential problems before they impact SAP performance.
Your Team May Not Have Strong Remediation Skills
Too many companies have inadequate SAP Basis support staff who struggle to take a proactive approach to management. They’re often IT techs hired for a different job, doing double duty as an SAP asset. Although they’re familiar with the basics of SAP Basis, they lack a deep understanding of the way different systems in your SAP landscape interact with each other.
As a result, when a system starts working incorrectly, they struggle to get to the root of the problem. In many cases, they end up applying fixes that aren’t thorough enough, resulting in the SAP issue recurring. In other cases, they fail to anticipate knock on impacts from the fix, and end up creating new problems.
Consistent SAP System Health Requires the Right Tools
When it comes to SAP technical monitoring and remediation, ScienceLogic has completely changed the game. ScienceLogic uses collector technology to actually probe your SAP landscape like a user would. This automates a lot of the work that goes into daily SAP system health checks, saving a lot of time. But even more importantly, it outperforms users in those tasks. It analyzes the system more thoroughly, and eliminates the risk of users skipping steps or missing warning signs, ensuring your administrators can address issues before they negatively impact end users.
ScienceLogic also does a much better job of organizing information so that users can effectively analyze SAP system health. Everything is organized around a central console, with a user-friendly interface. That doesn’t just make life easier for your admin — it also makes them more effective at their job. Administrators don’t have to page through menus and submenus to see the status of vital systems and system groups. They can quickly see the status of the database, network, cloud hosting, virtualization layer and any other part of your landscape.
When they’re seeing events from all those different places through a single pane of glass, it’s much easier for admins to connect the dots, and diagnose complex system problems. That means they can get ahead of SAP system health problems, and keep your landscape performing like it should. Partnering with ScienceLogichas helped Symmetry make our industry-leading SAP Basis managed services even better.
For long-term planning, Symmetry has improved greatly on EarlyWatch as well. Instead of 45 pages of system health ratings without context, we can provide a short, organized report that prioritizes the most important system needs, and provides the information you need to strategically tune, update, and upgrade your landscape. That means your SAP reporting can finally start guiding your technology policy like it should.
Highly Trained SAP Basis Experts Complete the Puzzle
Your ERP landscape stretches across the world. It connects to your financial services providers, third party software vendors, workers, administrators, and customers. To perform how it should, everything needs to work correctly, from the application layer down to the physical hardware and networking. The better your vendor understands all these systems and the way they interact, the better they can ensure your SAP landscape stays healthy.
Symmetry is one of very few SAP Basis providers that understands your landscape at every level. We’ve honed our skills, building and maintaining our own networks. We’ve built highly-customized landscapes and pushed virtualization limits for clients like Karma Automotive.
We’ve helped biotech companies like New Englands Biolabs migrate to HANA while meeting exacting compliance regulations that few vendors understand. And we’ve complemented on the job experience with continuous training and education programs to keep our technicians on bleeding edge of SAP technology.
Symmetry Can Help Build a True Strategic Approach to SAP
Technology continues to accelerate. In some industries, companies that fail to adopt new tech quickly are already being pushed out of the market, and everywhere else, it’s just a matter of time. With the right SAP Basis team, your company can thrive in this new world, with a technology policy that balances continuous innovation, bulletproof reliability and blazing fast performance.
Steve Lofthouse is a Solutions Architect on Symmetry’s EMEA team bringing 14 years of SAP cloud and managed service experience. He’s dealt with solutions coming from multiple perspectives in his experience including but not limited to: pre-sales, technical consultant, support and end user. With this experience, Steve is able to deliver all required components needed for almost any situation with a sound understanding, resulting in effective managed cloud environments for various enterprise solutions.
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