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Implementing SAP Solution Manager: perception versus reality

Although organizations often have trouble seeing the benefit of implementing Solution Manager, they can find value from it if they take the right approach.

Organizations’ perceptions of the value of deploying SAP Solution Manager are often contrary to the information found in SAP marketing materials. To hear SAP talk, once companies install Solution Manager, their environments will run better, cheaper, faster -- and it’s free. Yet organizations, many of which have struggled to get Solution Manager installed and operating, paint a different picture, with stories of frustration, confusion and even resentment at being “forced” to use this tool.

So why the gap in perception? Organizations feel that they are required to install, back up and maintain an application solely for the purpose of performing relatively trivial tasks (licensing and downloading SAP patches) that they previously accomplished without significant effort. Even though SAP can accurately claim value in Solution Manager, it’s hard to go back to those organizations and argue that the application can also be a solution for a problem they have to be convinced exists.

The truth is, although many organizations complain about Solution Manager, many others are getting value out of it. The success stories, however, do not receive as much attention as the complaints because, let’s face it, it’s easier to argue why something isn’t necessary than it is to implement it, especially when the project doesn’t feel high priority.

The irony is that I have heard many organizations argue that they would not want to use certain functions -- such as monitoring -- in Solution Manager because they’re not as good as some other tool on the market.

For example, Solution Manager provides monitoring and alerting for operating system metrics that may not be as robust as what a Hewlett-Packard OpenView or Tivoli tool would offer. So some companies may reject implementing Solution Manager monitoring in favor of a third-party tool. Then they find that they cannot get funding for it and they wind up not using any monitoring tool. It’s a case of the acceptable solution being forsaken for the ideal, yet the ideal can’t be obtained.

The reality is that Solution Manager has value, but as with any tool implementation, there must be business reasons behind it or it will not succeed. Before deciding on SAP Solution Manager, you need to ask  “How can we ensure the reliability of our payroll transfers?” or “Can I be notified if my business processes are not performing to service-level agreement?”

What is the best way forward for organizations that are interested in using Solution Manager? It may be surprising, but the first step is not to look at Solution Manager at all. Instead, look at what needs they have in the area of application lifecycle management (ALM). Are there gaps in monitoring and alerting capabilities? Are there acceptable levels of change control? Is performance reporting and trending a necessary capability?

All these capabilities are important to best-run IT organizations, but they must be analyzed and validated independently. For example, companies should first document the risks associated with gaps in monitoring and performance reporting.

Once organizations determine the risks, th ey can evaluate the Solution Manager functionality to see if it can address them. Solution Manager may not be the right tool for all functions, but objectively listing all the pros and cons and alternatives on paper helps companies easily figure out the best way to proceed. What has worked successfully for me in the past is to list and weight all requirements, and then score each tool for each requirement. The tool with the highest score wins!

Some organizations espouse a “Solution Manager first” philosophy. When they identify ALM needs, they give Solution Manager the first opportunity to prove its worth by fulfilling them. If it cannot, they can evaluate other tools, but consolidating as much ALM functionality as possible in a single tool is a worthwhile goal for ease of integration.

In addition, if companies choose Solution Manager, they should become involved in the Solution Manager ecosystem to experience the optimal benefit from the tool. Companies can learn from expert guided implementations, community blogs and SAP events, for example, to gain information on how to effectively use Solution Manager, and even influence future development and direction of the platform.

As for SAP, the company could do a better job at highlighting the value of organization successes with Solution Manager. Perhaps through SAP events such as TechEd, through user groups such as ASUG or with videos hosted on the SAP Community Network, organizations telling their own story of the value of Solution Manager would go a long way toward helping others understand how to effectively use the tools at their disposal.

And the more organizations understand the tools and their capabilities, the closer SAP can come to closing that perception gap.

David Hull has been supporting SAP Basis and related activities for more than 15 years and is currently supporting the SAP infrastructure for The Walt Disney Co. He is an active blogger on the SAP Community Network and can be found on Twitter at @sapdba.


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