Will Solution Manager ever live up to its potential?

18 April 2016

Chris Kernaghan

Chris Kernaghan

Consultant

For over ten years I have been enthralled with the promise of Solution Manager and its capabilities. I have watched it go from a purely technical monitoring tool into a tool which supports the relationship between SAP IT and the business with features like ChaRM or Business Process monitoring. Read on to find out more about the challenges with Solution Manager, its future direction and potential to ease the journey to SAP S/4HANA.

The next version of Solution Manager, 7.2 is in Ramp-up and will soon be released for General Availability – where any SAP customer can install it. Its impending release has made me think about my relationship with Solution Manager; how I use it, what I love about it, what I wish they would change and also how it is going to underpin S/4 HANA migration projects which customers are going to embark upon in the future.

The origins of Solution Manager

Solution Manager was originally the centralisation of the CCMS data which was collected by each individual system; each system would push its data to Solution Manager where it would be collated and reports could be executed on it. From the beginning, Solution Manager was competing against a very simple but powerful monitoring system embedded in every SAP ABAP stack. At the time I was working at a Life Sciences company and I wanted to replace the morning snapshot of daily checks with automated exception reporting. Using Solution Manager, I was able to develop the ability to monitor the systems centrally and report every morning on any issues in the last 24hrs to fulfil their FDA requirements.

Through the years the ability of Solution Manager has grown. It now encompasses a great number of components which provide more information, it has monitoring for HCP, Front-End User Experience monitoring, Test Management, Custom Code Management and more. The downside of this evolution is the ever increasing connectivity complexities. There are many examples of how this connectivity impedes normal operating procedures like system copies – to the point where customers stop using Solution Manager because the overhead in setting the systems back up again is too onerous.

When it is connected correctly and the systems defined, you can unlock many beneficial features as shown in the diagram below.

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These features really do enable an IT organisation to run its SAP landscapes more effectively. I have seen and experienced this first hand, so I know it is possible. I just wish more customers were doing it.

The challenges

When it comes to pain points for customers using Solution Manager, these lie in three areas:

1. Connectivity

It takes too long to connect systems together to unlock the features of Solution Manager – up to and including Solution Manager 7.1 everything you did had to be connected to a defined system within Solution Manager. In Solution Manager 7.2, this looks to no longer be the case. This means you can decouple certain functions like documentation and projects away from the landscape database – as of yet, I don't know how useful this will be.

2. Patching

The patching of Solution Manager is terrible. After so many efforts to improve the patching of the Business Suite, Solution Manager feels like it has not moved on. If Solution Manager is to be a mission critical system of support for customers, this must be improved. The screenshot below clearly illustrates the frustration of an experienced Solution Manager practitioner.

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3. Time to value

This is a difficult item to position. On the one hand SAP bears responsibility because Solution Manager is a complex application suite to manage. On the other hand, customers underestimate the time and the effort is takes to implement in addition to the expertise of those people who are doing the implementations.

So do I think Solution Manager will live up to its potential? I think it will. Having seen Solution Manager 7.2, there is definitely a reduction in the complexity of certain functions and the people I know in the Ramp up program are positive about it. Also, SAP now has a financial interest in making sure that this complexity is reduced. As SAP is using Solution Manager to support hosted customer SAP systems in its HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), a high degree of complexity will affect the margin of the contracts hosted in the HEC simply by taking up resources to manage it. This means it hits a P&L within SAP which will not be a good thing for someone.

Making Solution Manager work for you

Our experience at Bluefin is that customers are not fully utilising Solution Manager and this is reducing the overall planning and assessment capability for customers during their S/4HANA projects, although the migration and discovery tools can be run in isolation. When used in conjunction with Solution Manager, there are numerous advantages and benefits to be gained from integration with tools like the Custom Code Management software and code check functionality. We have advised and are working with our customers to implement these features to improve their Application lifecycle management.

Make no mistake, setting up a suite of tools like Solution Manager is difficult. It takes a long time to get the moving parts aligned and the wheels turning in the right direction. Solution Manager is a single stack of tools which can be, in my opinion, much more effective than the disjointed systems we often see in other parts of IT. Customers need a partner who has the expertise in the specific areas of Solution Manager they wish to implement, otherwise they run the risk of getting it wrong and compromising their operational effectiveness.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race