Elevating SAP Support: What makes a superb SAP Support Service?

526 Views

Every business needs a support contract to ensure critical systems are kept up and running. But with the commoditisation of technology, especially the shift to the cloud, companies are at risk of undervaluing the significance of quality support services. Whether it is user support, system support, or both, there is far more to consider than basic Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

We need to ask ourselves – Have the benefits of support as commodity overshadowed the importance of partner’s adaptability, agility of customer service and the quality of support? What about the challenges that commoditised support might not address? Does the support service recognise and monitor the critical business processes and can it accelerate the response of different providers? Are security patches immediately and automatically applied to minimise the chance of devastating ransomware attacks? Have software upgrades been deployed where necessary to your specific business case? And critically, does the provider offer a generic pool of support consultants or a dedicated team with customer and business specific knowledge that can transform the customer experience?

Don Valentine explains why support is far more than keeping the lights on:

Tailored Approach

Lately, many support services have become transactional. Providers offer standard Service Level Agreements (SLA) and access to a pool of support consultants – there is little, if any, business specific aspect of the service experience and no dedicated expertise. But is this really enough, especially when systems are so mission critical? A one size fits all approach to support is unlikely to fit any company perfectly and can any business really afford to compromise?

Business Critical

Every organisation has specific critical processes it needs to run its business. Local Authorities, for example, need to ensure SAP systems are updated to include any legal and statutory amendments, such as updating changes to teachers’ pensions and tax codes within the payroll system. Energy companies need to update any changes from the Health and Safety Executive to the way backlogs in planned maintenance are treated to maintain compliance. For some manufacturing companies, it is critical to safeguard the reception of sales orders from the big retailers often via EDI, which must pass through a network and a middleware conversion before arriving in the SAP system to drive production scheduling. Utility companies may receive thousands of time-based invoice entries from service contractors, often in different formats, which again go through multiple steps before reaching the SAP system, being approved and paid.

A core aspect of effective support is to understand where the SAP system fits within an organisation’s business critical process chains. The performance and uptime of a critical business process will span a number of systems and technology platforms – not just SAP.

A support provider really needs to understand these multi-step mission-critical business processes, including the systems and stakeholders supporting each stage. End-to-end process and system monitoring will not just ensure uptime for the process components housed in SAP, but across the whole landscape supporting these critical processes. If and when a problem is identified or predicted during one of the processes, the support service will automatically trigger a notification to the responsible stakeholder or vendor to mobilise the right team and accelerate resolution.

Dedicated Expertise

The expertise and experience of consultants is still incredibly important. Whether an incident is logged on the support system or the monitoring / analytics automatically identifies an issue, the quality of response will have a significant impact on both the speed of resolution and the business impact. There is a huge difference between the service offered by a generic pool of support engineers and a service that gives a customer access to a consistent and knowledgeable core support group.

When upwards of 85% of issues are resolved by the same cohort of consultants, these individuals know the systems, the users and the critical business processes. There is no need to constantly repeat information or explain problems – and, critically, consultants are actively challenged to identify the root cause of the problem and create a long-term resolution. And when the user support team works side by side with the system support consultants, the hivemind comes into play, allowing teams to share information and ideas to further improve the speed of resolution and preventative measures that can be put in place to stop an incident from reoccurring.

This expertise is also key to addressing wider operational challenges – such as safeguarding the business from the rising tide of ransomware attacks. In addition to automating Operating System patching to ensure landscapes are compliant with product versions, it is important to consider which SAP security patches are relevant for each customer. Ensuring the support service includes a timely approach to investigating, proactively identifying and then applying appropriate security patches is a key consideration for any company that wants to stay safe and secure.

Reaching into the Cloud

Given SAP’s focus on S/4HANA Cloud, it is also increasingly important to consider how to optimise the support model in the context of a cloud deployment. While SAP does offer a standard set of system support services as part of their cloud offering, some areas of support are outside SAP’s scope – for example, the management of upgrades. Obviously, the public cloud, as a SaaS offering, includes regular upgrades over which a company has very limited control. However, there is no need to turn on all elements of every new upgrade, companies can opt to keep new features dormant. But how do you assess which upgrade components will bring your business value? The right support service provider will play a vital role in previewing the upgrade and helping to decide whether or not there is a compelling reason to switch on a particular set of innovations and they will also manage the upgrade deployments for you.

In addition, many companies are investing in multiple cloud solutions, in areas such as HR and analytics. In this context, the support partners expertise in SAP’s Business Technology Platform product becomes super important, as that is the engine which facilitates the integration of those cloud products and is the tool deployed to address enhancement requests whilst keeping the “core” of the cloud products clean. It is therefore vital that the support provider can manage the entire process, from seamless integrations, enhancements and upgrades.

Conclusion

Support services may be increasingly packaged as generic but there is a huge difference between off-the-shelf support and a service that is dedicated to delivering the specific needs of a business. SLAs are still important, of course, but a support service that is focused on business outcomes adds tangible value.

From ensuring systems are always patched to maintain security and feature updates to support across business-critical processes and access to a dedicated team of experienced consultants, there is so much more to good support than simply keeping the lights on.