As an IT pro supporting SAP, or tackling an SAP implementation, simplicity is certainly not the first attribute that comes to mind. In fact, as an enterprise suite of ERP, CRM, PLM, SCM, and SRM applications, SAP links and integrates many business processes across your organization.
While 253,500 customers in 188 countries successfully rely on SAP to accelerate their business operations, inadequate planning, lack of integrated testing during each implementation phase, improper SAP monitoring, or even poorly managed user training can all result in costly pitfalls and mistakes for you and your organization — just see some examples below.
Guest article by Jay Labadini, Co-Founder, Tevron
Recently, a $50 million SAP implementation by the city of San Diego — the biggest IT project ever undertaken by the city, designed to provide a core IT architecture for 15 years — ended up tripling employees’ workloads for certain types of tasks!
Similarly, Wall Street Journal reported that Avon Products Inc. was pulling the plug on a $125 million SAP overhaul that had been in the works for four years, after a test of the system drove away many of the salespeople who fuel the door-to-door cosmetics company’s revenue. It is not clear whether the failure was due to the software or the implementation, or both, but the consequences were damaging to the company’s business.
Pair these up with other highly visible SAP implementation failures in Marin County, or at Hershey’s, where order fulfillment time doubled to 12 days, and you will get the point. Comprehensive and realistic testing during each implementation phase — by simulating and validating user interactions with end-to-end SAP workflows — is critical for success.
Similarly, proactively monitoring availability and response time of production systems, as perceived by your end-users, is critical to meeting your SLAs and resolving problems before users are impacted. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Pre-Implementation Guidelines: Planning, Testing, and Automation
#1: Document existing business processes
Since SAP touches so many business functions, take the time to understand and document how each business user (project managers, HR, sales, financial teams, etc.) completes existing processes and common workflows.
#2: Redesign business processes
Many of the SAP implementation pitfalls mentioned above were primarily due to simply replicating existing processes, instead of redesigning them with SAP for more efficiency. Therefore, don’t skip this crucial, yet time-consuming step: Map and optimize all user requirements, for each group of users, into new workflow models. This information will also help you guide your testing and monitoring efforts later on.
#3: Reduce the number of customized functions
Try to use as many objects and functions as you can from the off-the-shelf version of SAP instead of writing your own custom code. You might run into quality issues with custom objects later on. Plus, they might not work as expected if/when you roll out a new version of SAP.
#4: Test and validate end-to-end workflows from an end-user perspective
Begin manual testing as early as possible, so users can provide feedback on SAP business processes and validate reporting structures. Later on, automate your testing processes to save time and increase efficiency, and thoroughly test and re-test each workflow as needed to ensure quality and optimal performance. Look for a testing tool that can help you simulate and replicate all real user interactions with SAP, generate test scripts for critical workflows (e.g. enter an order, generate a shipping receipt, create an invoice), and then automate the entire testing process.
#5: Build comprehensive testing scenarios
Build complete and realistic testing scenarios with custom grouping based on physical locations (Headquarters, NYC, remote offices), SAP functionality, or user groups/roles. Everything should be measured in absolute values, percentages, or statistical deviations (i.e. SLAs for SAP load time, login time, how long it takes after a “button” is clicked or until the next window or item appears). That way, you can understand how SAP performs per location, per step, or per group and per user both historically and in real-time, so you can quickly identify underperforming components or problematic trends, as well as bottlenecks.
Proactive Production Monitoring to Meet Service-Level Goals
Once SAP is implemented, don’t forget to build a comprehensive monitoring strategy. Availability and response times must be monitored around the clock and measured against desired service-level goals.
Did you know that the number one customer complaint faced by organizations that use SAP is that “SAP is too slow”? Therefore, instead of infrastructure-centric SAP monitoring, look for synthetic monitoring capabilities to automate the driving and monitoring of your SAP applications — just like a real user would do. These will visually examine the desktop and respond to changes, driving the keyboard and mouse and continuously taking availability and response-time measurements along the way, to get alerted before users are impacted.
Ideally, you should reuse your test automation scripts for production monitoring, and monitor all critical functions and workflows that you tested on a 24x7x365 basis to detect early performance degradation signs. Here are some additional tips.
#6: Build a comprehensive monitoring plan
Just like you documented your business processes and workflow for each set of business users, take the time to plan and document your SAP monitoring strategy, including key areas like: monitoring scripts (so you can proactively measure complete end-to-end user interactions with SAP), alerting policies (to notify when specific functions fail or slow down), notification groups, reporting distribution, monitoring locations, service-level agreement baselines, and so on.
#7: Focus on essential workflows first
Tackle the basics, including key financials, HR/payroll, supply chain processes, and workflows, and add more monitoring scripts later. In addition, consider using a dedicated “SAP user” monitoring account to keep your SAP data secure.
#8: Look for non-invasive SAP monitoring…
…that will not change your application code. That way you can ensure no impact on your SAP production system and complete monitoring accuracy.
#9: Be aggressive in your SAP monitoring thresholds (availability and response time)
Since proactive SAP monitoring helps you identify problematic trends early on and before your end-users are impacted, you should baseline and set up both warning and critical thresholds for all monitored SAP transactions.
#10: Don’t monitor SAP in isolation
Integrate SAP monitoring, alerting, and performance dashboard views within your existing IT management tools and frameworks tools to simplify troubleshooting, increase IT efficiency, and streamline your response procedures.
Jay Labadini is a co-founder of Tevron, established in 2001. Jay has spent the last 15 years interacting with Tevron customers, including IT, business users, QA, and development teams, working on IT monitoring best practices.
Tevron is a global leader in Application Performance Monitoring (APM) and Automated Testing solutions designed to support every application with one methodology, delivering the ability to test, monitor, enforce SLAs, and optimize performance with confidence and ease. Its test automation and monitoring tools include CitraTest (SAP test automation) and CitraTest APM (proactive SAP response time SLA monitoring from a user perspective).