Those problems often begin soon after companies implement their SAP ERP, when they need to extend their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to accommodate international operations, add new functionality, or otherwise look to upgrade software or bring disparate applications into harmony, according to Gartner. This means the workload on these application systems can grow rapidly throughout their lifecycles.
"In turn, the risk of encountering an application performance problem has become all too real for many SAP customers," the report by Gartner's Prior said. "This is especially true for enterprises that deploy many SAP Business Suite individual application products."
So what's the answer?
Perform annual capacity planning
For one, companies should perform annual capacity planning for each Business Suite application to make sure there's enough hardware for the entire application lifecycle.
Even standard SAP Business Suite applications include many functions. However, some functions require more calculation, which in turn require more hardware to keep them humming. For example, Gartner said sales order processing puts four times as much load on the system compared with other SAP ERP financial applications. That load can be even higher when more functionality is turned on.
SAP sizing is often performed at a higher, budgetary level, and relies on concurrent user volumes and aggregates, according to Gartner.
"SAP sizing should always be performed at a detailed level, factoring in transaction volumes for the peak hour of the busiest month of the year, for all application modules. This includes interface batch processing and end-of-month processing, as either of these can generate a peak workload," the report stated.
Proactively monitor performance
Businesses should also perform routine performance monitoring on all Business Suite applications, Gartner advised.
"This should be a routine administration exercise for the Basis Operations team that is responsible for the SAP applications, but the team may need additional software tools to enable this," the report stated. "All SAP managed service providers responsible for running outsourced SAP systems have invested in such tools, but many SAP end-user organizations running Basis Operations in-house have not acquired these tools," the report said.
There are several generic application monitoring tools that come with SAP plug-ins from vendors like BMC Software, HP and IBM. SAP also has its own performance monitoring tools and applications, most of which are part of the SAP Solution Manager lifecycle support tool, according to Gartner.
Through the proactive use of those tools, Basis teams can set up thresholds and alerts when applications fail to meet performance-related parameters.
Keep an eye on custom code
Most businesses try to avoid custom code because it's challenging to maintain. But some ABAP custom code is still required in SAP Business Suite applications to construct interfaces, essential reports, or even add features where standard functionality fails to meet needs, according to Gartner.
That's a problem, Gartner said, given that custom code on SAP Business Suite applications is the most common cause of application performance problems.
"Closely monitor how all custom code is being utilized, removing programs that are underutilized or rendered superfluous by new SAP standard enhancements," Gartner said.
Again, companies should consider tools to help manage custom code. Those include SAP Solution Manager and its Custom Code Lifecycle Management and Clone Finder tools, as well as other specialist tool vendors.
Companies may also want to consider consulting help in keeping track of custom code.
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