If you have been involved in the SAP ecosystem, then there is a good chance that you might have already come across one of their most famous products called the SAP Solution Manager. It is an Application Lifecycle Management tool that can be used to manage the technical operations of an organisation’s SAP landscape. Not just technical aspects, but It has also got some functionalities that can be used to monitor and improve business processes. Primarily it is designed to manage SAP applications but non-SAP applications can be managed using Solution Manager up to a certain level as well.
Customers do not have to purchase licenses for Solution Manager. The usage rights for Solution Manager is included within their SAP support contract. So, as far as a customer is subscribed to SAP support, they can use Solution Manager. But the type of functionalities they can use within the Solution Manager might vary depending on the type of support a customer has got. If you would like to learn more about what you can use and not use, please click here.
Once, SAP Solution Manager was the second most installed SAP product in the world after SAP ECC, but at the same time, the utilisation rate of the product has always been less than what SAP has hoped for. There are few reasons for that which we will discuss further in the blog.
I am not going to convince you if the Solution Manager is a good or bad tool. The intention of this blog is to provide you with as much information as possible so that you can make up your own mind.
SAP Solution Manager has been there for a while now. It was first introduced in 2001 as Solution Manager 2.1. Since then, the versions have evolved to 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 4.0, 7.0, 7.1 and the latest version is called Solution Manager 7.2.
Initially, it was only able to perform some basic system monitoring functions. But the latest Solution Manager 7.2 has come a long way since then and can run on the HANA database, uses FIORI, contains advanced technical and business improvement functionalities.
A lot of customers use Solution Manager for its core purpose only. Which is to send data about their SAP landscape back to SAP. The below diagram explains that process.
When SAP applications are connected to Solution Manager, it collects different types of information about the systems like license consumption, business process KPI’s, usage data, technical performance data, information about integration, database growth, custom code, security, ABAP dumps and much more.
That information is then sent to SAP which categorises them into individual customer profiles. The data in the customer profile are linked to a particular customer with the help of their “S” user-id. So when a customer uses SAP’s support tools like Early Watch Alert Workspace or Maintenance Planner, the data that is stored under their customer profile is automatically retrieved.
The is the core functionality of Solution Manager. Without this, customers won’t be able to send information about their SAP systems to SAP and won’t be able to use tools like Maintenance Planner. Which in turn will stop them from performing a support pack, enhancement pack, version or release upgrade of their SAP system.
Apart from the core functionality, Solution Manager has got plenty of other cool features.
Applications Operations contains functionalities such as System Monitoring, Integration Monitoring, User Monitoring, Root Cause Analytics, Exception Management, Analytics and Dashboards.
Basically, they provide functionalities that can be used to monitor, operate and improve technical aspects of SAP systems.
Business Process Operations:
It contains tools like Business Process Monitoring, Business Process Improvement, Data Consistency Management and Job Scheduling, that can help you monitor and improve core business processes across your SAP systems.
Business Process Monitoring – The business process and interface monitoring is used for the central automatic monitoring of a company’s core business processes. According to the business requirements, critical situations in the business process execution are identified and automatically alerted.
Business Process Improvement – Allows customers to monitor business process KPI’s and provides recommendations on how to improve them.
Data Consistency Management – Data consistency management ensures correct and up-to-date data at all times. As business decisions are based on this data, data inconsistencies can lead to increased costs, and business processes that include inconsistent data can lead to downtime of your solution until the root cause is identified and the data is corrected. You can protect your daily business operations by preventing and detecting data inconsistencies, as early as possible, using defined error handling procedures.
Job Scheduling – Job scheduling management manages your background operations centrally. It comprises several applications to establish standardized, formal processes in order to support the management of centralized end-to-end solution-wide background operations. It can also be integrated with external scheduling tools.
Data Volume Management (DVM):
DVM functionality in Solution Manager provides information on the size of the database and individual tables of an SAP system. It provides recommendations on archiving and deletion of unwanted data from your database.
Change Control Management:
Change Control Management or also known as ChaRM, helps controls changes in your system systems in a comprehensive workflow. In technical terms, changes are basically moved from one SAP system to the other in a virtual container called ‘Transport‘. ChaRM functionality in Solution Manager helps you manage the creation and movement of those ‘Transports’ among multiple SAP systems in a controlled way so that they do not disrupt or overwrite any already existing functionalities.
Change Control Management component consists of the following capabilities: Change and Transport System, Enhanced Change and Transport System, Transport Analytics, Change Diagnostics, Dual Landscape Synchronization (Retrofit), Quality Gate Management, Change Request Management and Release Management.
Custom Code Management:
This functionality helps you manage all the custom codes that exist in SAP systems. A custom code is basically a non-standard program that is created by the customer or a standard program that is altered by the customer in their SAP system. You can use this functionality to monitor and manage the complete lifecycle of custom developments from the requirement to retirement. You can also continually optimize your custom developments, monitor the implementation and track usage and quality.
IT Service Management:
This component offers functionality to deliver IT services like incident management, handling service requests, problem management and change management. With IT Service Management, you can connect to an external help desk, set up service connections, and access SAP Service & Support, If your IT system landscape also contains SAP solutions.
Change Control Management component consists of the following capabilities: IT Service Management, Change Request Management, Interface for the help desk of a third-party provider, Global Service & Support Backbone.
This functionality helps you document and manage your end-to-end SAP business processes. You can store them as documents and as well as define them in a modelling environment using drag and drop virtual boxes. This way, you can manage your business processes in a holistic way: you can describe both business and IT perspectives on processes, applications and system landscapes in one place. So business documentation and system reality are always synchronized.
This component borrows some of the functionalities from SAP’s Project and Portfolio Management (SAP PPM) product. Using functionalities like project time management, resource management, status updates, Project preparation, scoping, scheduling, etc. you can manage any project, whether it is SAP or non-SAP.
SAP Solution Manager provides a comprehensive test suite full of functionalities that can be used to perform end-to-end testing of SAP and non-SAP applications. It has the capabilities to perform both manual and automated testing. You can determine the scope of testing required for cross-system business processes, manage the tests centrally and execute the tests. The test management has the following phases: determining the testing scope, test planning, testing, and transferring the changes to production operation.
Focused Build is an add-on that can be installed on Solution Manager 7.2. It offers standard, out-of-the-box functionalities to manage requirements and software development for large, agile projects. In other words, it offers pre-defined templates which can be used for managing SAP and non-SAP projects.
Just like Focused Build, Focused Insights offer pre-defined, out-of-the-box templates and dashboards. So that customers do not have to spend time and effort building dashboards from scratch.
Advantages of using Solution Manager:
- One integrated tool that offers functionalities to perform end-to-end application lifecycle management, from monitoring the technical aspects of the systems, improving business processes, managing projects, managing changes, ITSM, custom code till sending the required information to SAP, it can perform everything.
- It does not require additional licenses. The usage rights for SAP Solution Manager is included in the SAP support contract. So, it saves license costs of using multiple third party ALM tools and reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of SAP systems.
- It can be used to manage both SAP and non-SAP applications.
- It can also be used to manage both cloud and on-premise applications.
- Solution Manager 7.2 can run on the HANA database and can be hosted on any of the Hyperscalers like Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, etc.
- Solution Manager 7.2 uses FIORI as the front end, thus providing a much better user experience than the previous versions.
Challenges of using Solution Manager:
- Implementation effort can be very high. As mentioned previously, SAP Solution Manager contains hundreds of functionalities that enable customers to perform end-to-end application lifecycle management, but that in itself can get complex and cumbersome. Especially when customers try to implement a lot of functionalities in one go.
- Maintaining a Solution Manager can be time-consuming. Similar to the implementation efforts, maintaining a Solution Manager to ensure all of its functionalities work optimally might require significant effort and resources. Since it has got a lot of moving parts, dedicated resources are sometimes required to just keep the lights on. Especially if you got a huge SAP landscape.
- End-users will require significant training in order to use Solution Manager’s functionalities.
- If the Solution Manager is not set up properly, then there is a high chance that it might send incorrect information to SAP’s customer profile, which in turn will cause issues while using SAP’s support tools like Maintenance Planner and Early Watch Alert Workspace.
SAP Solution Manager is a great tool. It contains everything an organisation could ever need to manage their SAP and non-SAP IT applications. But at the same time, it can get complex while trying to implement, maintain and operate its functionalities. So the best strategy to implement Solution Manager for your organisation is to start small. Implement something like Technical Monitoring, which is easy to implement and maintain. Then slowly look into other functionalities based on your organisation’s requirements.
Training the end-users in parallel is vital as well. If the end-users don’t see the advantages, then Solution Manager will always be considered as just an IT tool.
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P.S. Check out my course on Udemy – “Introduction to SAP – The Complete Package for Beginners“
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