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SAP Service Desk improved in Solution Manager 7.1, expert says

SAP Service Desk was a weak, late entrant to the market, according to one expert, who says that’s slowly changing due to enhancements in the latest version of Solution Manager 7.1.

The SAP Service Desk tool in Solution Manager was designed to give IT departments better, more efficient tools when it comes to incident and problem management as well as managing changes and upgrades. But does that mean they should use it? recently spoke with Tony De Thomasis, the SAP NetWeaver practice director at Acclimation, an IT consulting firm in Sydney, Australia, about the advantages and disadvantages to using SAP Service Desk, whether or not it’s an option for managing non-SAP applications, and recent enhancements included in Solution Manager 7.1.

Are companies using SAP Solution Manager Service Desk? Why or why not?

Tony De Thomasis: Originally, [many companies deployed a service desk] from a third-party player like BMC or Computer Associates (CA) for the entire landscape, both SAP and non-SAP. SAP Solution Manger Service Desk was kind of a late player on the field. By then, there was already a lot of competition. It was also perceived that the Solution Manager Service Desk was unequipped for non-SAP systems. Most companies have a mix of SAP and non-SAP technologies. [For that reason], it was always going to be hard for the SAP Service Desk to overtake them. 

In addition to there being a belief among SAP customers that SAP Service Desk wouldn’t cut it for non-SAP gear, there was a worry that SAP would turn around and charge you some licensing fees to use their service desk for non-SAP gear.

Has that changed? Can you now use SAP Service Desk for SAP and non-SAP applications alike?

De Thomasis: Most recently, SAP reacted to this criticism and said any [SAP] Enterprise Support customer who operates the SAP Service Desk can use it for non-SAP products as long as it’s part of the [overall] SAP landscape. But that’s only with the newest version of Solution Manager 7.1 and onwards. Standard Support customers will still have to pay [to use Service Desk with non-SAP applications]. You’re not covered. How they enforce it, however, I’m not sure.

How does SAP Service Desk compare with the third-party vendors you were mentioning?

De Thomasis: For SAP landscapes, it’s quite robust and usable. The main advantage is that it’s an entitlement. You don’t have to buy another product.

Secondly, it’s integrated with all the SAP products, so it knows versions, it knows how to create a trouble ticket and send it to the SAP service marketplace for analysis. It’ll take screenshots automatically [and include] user context. It captures your whole work in progress. You don’t have to echo it down the line to a phone operator on the other side. It’s quite thorough and comprehensive for an SAP problem.

I understand most SAP customers use Service Desk for change management. What’s one of the more nonstandard ways Service Desk is used?

De Thomasis: I’ve worked at two or three customers that have either HP [Hewlett-Packard] tools or CA tools and do an interface between the service desk from SAP and then the service desk of either HP or CA, for example.

[In that case], you would raise the trouble ticket in SAP Service Desk for Solution Manager, and then once you press Enter, there’s a script which actually takes the data out of the SAP trouble ticket, and then loads it into HP or your service desk solution of choice. So we have a one-way link. The benefit of that is that you get all the nice user context when there’s an error [within an SAP application], and that gets sent to your corporate service desk system [so there’s a record of it there]. 

The downside with that is there’s no communication back to the SAP one to close the loop. The ticket starts with the SAP [system], and then goes out to HP.  The rest is driven by HP. 

What are some of the enhancements that have been made to SAP Service Desk in Solution Manager 7.1?

De Thomasis: Some of the sweeteners that come with 7.1 is an improved interface. It’s based on the latest CRM offering, so the best CRM system that you can download from the service marketplace is already in Solution Manager 7.1. 

The screens and the order of the screens that you see them in is also customizable. There’s quite a lot of functionality in CRM that a lot of customers would be interested in. [If you want], you can cut it down to the bare minimum that suits you. Or you can enhance it to be as sophisticated as you need it to be. For example, [you can customize] the number of approvals that you need for a change to make it into production. In a standard approach, you might have three approvals. You’d have a team lead, a production support manager and a change authorization board. Some customers, like those in the banking industry, might have four or five. This is not a problem; it’s very, very customizable. 

What about third-party vendor applications? How customizable are they?

De Thomasis: If you’ve got a third-party product, like HP or CA, there’s no changing those. What you see is what you get.

Do you have any advice on how companies might deploy Service Desk?

De Thomasis: [Companies just getting started with Service Desk] may want to start off using Service Desk for one or two systems, so you may want to use it for your BW [Business Warehouse] system to start with, and then get familiarized before you start deploying it for more and more of the landscape. If you’re a real progressive customer, you may want to use it for some non-SAP gear to get a feel for how it feels to manage non-SAP and SAP applications all in the same way. 

Anything else about using SAP Service Desk that’s worth mentioning?

De Thomasis: There aren’t a lot of experienced consultants in the industry, so it’s difficult to find someone who’s good enough to configure it for you. Like everything, unless you’ve got the training and unless you’ve got the experience, things can be quite hard to learn. As essential as it is, it’s also not a flashy topic, so there aren’t a lot of people talking about it publicly.

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Impressed, useful information for a beginner.