Tripling the speed when taking SAP CRM ERP orders

18 April 2012

How often have you called a company to find the person at the other end of the line apologising that the system is "slow today"?

Our users (at the other end of the line) often refer to the logo that spins on a SAP CRM system when it's doing something as the "donut of death" or the "ring of doom".

There's some good information from Bluefin Solutions / SAP on improving CRM speed (I've included the links at the end).

This blog focuses on some big improvements we found that helped speed up the SAP CRM ERP Order taking process.

I recently worked on a new SAP CRM 7 call centre that had...

  • Hundreds of agents taking thousands of orders
  • SAP CRM linked to SAP ECC and SAP APO in the "ERP Sales Order" scenario to check real time product availability
  • Global systems located 6,000 miles away (why do I mention this? - if something under the bonnet has to go back and forth 32 times - the speed of light means it will take over a second).

Check out this video (SAP CRM 7.0 - Fast Order Entry) of the SAP CRM order (non ERP) taking process to illustrate some points.

Tripling the speed when taking SAP CRM ERP orders (1)

Now imagine the following:

  • You've entered 50 products in the "Items" view
  • You may have more columns off to the right of the screen in this view

You've got some tough design decisions to make. The users want to see all columns and line items at once and they don't want to have to page/scroll back and forth. 

So 20 columns, 100 line items - that's 2,000 cells SAP CRM is pushing to the internet browser.  It may be only a few orders that are big, but they are your high value orders.

SAP will tell you that this will slow the system down. So what do you do?

If you are already live: Get business support

Set expectations - The system will get faster, but some improvements may not be obvious.  If you speed up a really slow process from 14 seconds to 6 seconds, it's still over 5 seconds and users will still comment it's slow.

Get all the agents using the system in the same way - If agents have their own different techniques or don't understand the system, then making the system faster won't help everyone.

Study time and motion

Some of the earliest management consultants were involved in time and motion studies during the industrial revolution. 

Get the facts

  • Spend time with the end users on the system
  • Get your stopwatch out and record how long tasks take (or record videos to help time the system)
  • Make sure you use the same machine as the agents use (put your powerhouse laptop away)
  • Focus on what the user does most.  A user may take dozens of orders per day, but they are actually typing in thousands of line items per day.  Focus on how to speed up taking line items first.

Only then will you...

  • Spot patterns and have a record to measure the improvements you roll out later
  • Spot areas that cause frustration.  It's one of the arguments against time and motion projects - they reduce everything to a series of efficient but repetitive mini tasks
    • If the user has to type in the same information repeatedly, can you automate it?
    • Is information shown in a random fashion?  If so put an order to it that a human can understand

Improve the system

25% Improvement within seconds

Users can enable a CRM performance mode under the Personalisation settings in the UI (or you can write a report to do it).

Tripling the speed when taking SAP CRM ERP orders (2)

On screens showing a lot of columns and rows - the speed of our system improved 25%.

Tip: Press CTRL+SHIFT+F7 (on SAP CRM 7 and above).  It tells you how much time is being taken up by the back end (e.g. inefficient ABAP code) and how much time the front end is eating up (e.g. poor network, or you're just showing too much in internet explorer).  It's this front end processing that's improved when you enable these performance settings.

Cut the SAP ECC and SAP APO roundtrip

Back to that sales order screen with 2,000 cells on it...consider the ERP order scenario (the ERP order scenario is where you use the CRM web system to type in an order, but the order is actually saved directly on the ERP system and the solution leverages ERP configuration), every time you enter a product or change a quantity - then do something - insert a line, lookup a product, etc, the CRM system goes away to ECC and APO and checks stock and validates the entry.  This "full roundtrip" between the three systems takes time (this technically uses the LORD interface).

With a little development in the SAP CRM UI you can cut this out and let the user decide when the system should check stock levels.

The pop-up - counter intuitive speed improvements

We were on SAP CRM 7.  There is a better product search and multi line entry facility in SAP CRM 7 Enhancement Pack 1.  In effect SAP has been moving processes off the main order screen and into a popup.

We did a couple of things...

  • Moved less critical information on the sales order screen into a popup.  If there was something interesting going on with information available on the popup, we summarised it to the user on the main screen
  • Improved the sales order product search popup.  We found some users were constantly looking for information in a popup (ie they had to keep opening and closing the same popup).  So we designed the system so the user could stay in the popup and search/enter quantities against as many products as they wanted to.

4 columns or 1?

Look at the 2 tables below. They actually show the same information.

Tripling the speed when taking SAP CRM ERP orders (3)

What happened when we combined similar information into 1 column within the sales order item view of SAP CRM?  Surprisingly - a much faster system.  On big orders the system is "slow" because it's trying to show information in too many cells.  It's not that the system is taking too long reading the information in the backend of SAP CRM.

Windows, Internet Explorer, PCs and the Interaction Centre

Although the latest versions of internet explorer aren't yet supported by SAP, keep an eye on them.  At a recent Tech Ed, SAP talked about how much faster internet explorer 9 is compared to 7 and 8. 

Consider upgrading your Operating System (OS) and user's desktops.  We found a new OS (Windows XP to Windows 7 that included Internet Explorer 8 instead of 7) and a faster desktop shaved a second off absolutely everything.  And if something used to take 1.1 seconds - suddenly it's lightning fast.

And how about a bigger LCD screen - users will have to scroll less.

The result

In the end we got a system that was measurably faster.  In several areas it was 3 times faster.

And as promised here are links to a couple of blogs that are well worth a read for for more tips and tricks:

  • How to make CRM 2007 & 7.0 WebUI perform super fast by Thierry Crifasi
  • Go Live Tomorrow and Response Time > 5 Seconds = Sweat & Tears by Marcus Behrens


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