Latest SAP Solution Manager release features long-awaited updates

SAP has released Solution Manager 7.1 and is hoping this is the version that gets customers on board.

LAS VEGAS -- SAP Solution Manager 7.1 was released to general availability this week at TechEd, offering a number

of improvements over earlier versions that SAP hopes will ramp up adoption of the tool. However, many companies aren’t aware they already have it.

Earlier versions of SAP Solution Manager didn’t catch on well with customers. As a result, it’s been challenging to get them to look at the 7.0 and now 7.1 releases.

“Solution Manager 7.0 and 7.1 feature a number of improvements that can result in tangible cost savings. However, many [customers] still think about the 3.0 release when it comes to Solution Manager,” said Anja-Christina Bruehling, vice president for global partner management and training, in SAP's Active Global Support division.

Another challenge SAP faced was initially overwhelming customers with information.

“We’ve realized we don’t have to boil the ocean; we can help customers work the parts of Solution Manager that has the most value to them,” said Andrew Graham, director of partner management in Active Global Support. When starting an SAP Solution Manager project, Graham suggested that customers consider the Incident Management and Change Management, which he said are the most effective parts of SAP Solution Manager.

Some customers, however, have adopted the management tool out of necessity. Ron Person, manager of SAP technical integration at Alcatel-Lucent, uses SAP Solution Manager extensively in his company.

“We started by piloting Solution Manager 4.0 for a blueprinting project,” he said. “Although the project was stopped before we began implementation, the experience gave us a good idea about what it could do.”

Person’s attention turned to SAP Solution Manager again when SAP started requiring it for maintenance support.

“We’re an Enterprise Support company, so it made sense to use it,” Person said, noting how SAP Solution Manager is available at no charge to customers that subscribe to the premium offering.

New features in SAP Solution Manager 7.1

The simplified management dashboards in SAP Solution Manager 7.1 offer a Web-based user interface for change and incident management as well as a new intuitive user interface for the Tester work list in the Test Management component. These dashboards provide transparency into IT and business processes, helping companies maintain a “single version of the truth,” Bruehling said.

In addition, new end-to-end monitoring functionality comes with out-of-the-box monitoring templates for SAP and non-SAP systems. Special monitoring applications are also available for SAP NetWeaver Process Integration, SAP NetWeaver BW and SAP BusinessObjects applications.

Explaining that the upgrade is a “standard,” Marc Thier , senior vice president, in SAP’s Application Lifecycle Management division, said that some Ramp-Up customers on 7.1 were able to complete the upgrade in two weeks. He said that largest impact on existing SAP Solution Manager customers is the retraining needed for change request management (CHaRM) and Incident Management, because they both involve a new user interface that must be used for all documents created after go-live.

What customers are saying about SAP Solution Manager

When Alcatel and Lucent were merging, the company did a greenfield project with its supply chain system using SAP Solution Manager 7.0 for blueprinting and applied the CHaRM functionality for customization. And when the company was moving from an Oracle ERP environment to an SAP ERP environment, Alcatel-Lucent used Solution Manager to manage custom development related to the project.

Person said that the company now has several sites using SAP Solution Manager, but in different ways.

“In France we have the same Solution Manager program running, but we don’t use the blueprinting aspect of it,” he said.

The company is also now working on a “one ERP” project, which changes a number of business processes. Person sees an opportunity to use the Solution Manager blueprinting capability to keep a standard version of the changes associated with the project.

Person admits he’s intrigued by some of the new functionality that’s now available with the 7.1 release. “The reverse documentation, validating existing documentation with the blueprint, in 7.1 is interesting,” he said.

The new features introduced in SAP Solution Manager 7.1 were also appealing to Warren Debban, manager of the Basis team at Hallmark Cards. The company currently uses SAP Solution Manager only for monitoring, as its SAP implementation is still fairly new. Debban said Hallmark Cards will probably implement the 7.1 release sometime next year because the company prefers to keep its SAP Solution Manager as up-to-date as possible.

“The change in the monitoring framework and the dashboarding capabilities in 7.1 look good,” Debban said.

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