Outsourced SAP BI Support - Does anyone get it right?

10 November 2011

Mike Curl

Mike Curl

Head of Finance, Services & Media

I've been doing some interesting work for a big name client lately, looking at their newly outsourced SAP BI support. Within a couple of weeks, a large backlog of tickets had built up and Bluefin Solutions was brought in to advise on support best practice and reduce the volume of tickets to a manageable level.

This was also good excuse to talk to some other clients about their experiences with outsourced SAP BI support. And as you might have guessed, there was much frustration and more than a few common themes which I thought I'd share.

In fact there was so much good content that I've had to break things down. In this first instalment, I'm going to look at how some organisations get it wrong from the start when putting in place support agreements and contracts. Then in the second instalment I'll talk about how to set up a global SAP BI support model to succeed, and finally in the third part how to run and manage on-going SAP BI support.

Scope of SAP BI Support

When outsourcing SAP BI support, one of the first things to be clear about is the scope of required BI support. You'd be surprised how many clients we work with who either don't know the scope of their active support contract, rely on their support partner to tell them, or in many cases daren't ask. The potential scope could include:

  • Overnight data load monitoring
  • Incident and problem management
  • Scheduled data re-loads
  • Housekeeping
  • Performance tuning and capacity management
  • Change requests
  • User management
  • Scheduled system refreshes
  • Project transitions and so on…

So you need to ensure you've got someone who really understands SAP BI and SAP BI support involved in this process, not just procurement managers. If not, you'll soon find a number of gaps and grey areas where effort/ownership is needed but it's not clearly defined where this will come from.

What are you buying?

Once you're clear about what you want, you can then start looking for it. Now you need to understand what you're buying and what the potential support partners are selling. Are you buying...

  • A fixed number of FTEs?
  • A capped number of days per year?
  • Guaranteed SLA adherence?
  • A service that will flex up and down according to your needs?

Each has its place and the right model for you will depend on your organisation, service expectations and budget.

Commercial pit-falls

Once you know what you want and have an idea of the support model, you can move into commercial negotiations. This is where a lot of fundamental mistakes are made. Many of our clients think they have negotiated a great deal by squeezing the supplier ruthlessly on costs or SLAs. Or think they have been smart by buying high volumes of days at a very low overall blended rate. No surprises for guessing what happens here...and it won't be long until you hit the pain barrier! Support teams that are too small, under skilled and lacking experienced are all too common. For example one customer put in place a penalty clause for each ticket where the SLA was breached. The impact of this on support team behaviour was that once the supplier had been penalised for the breach, there was no incentive to look at the ticket again and it was inevitably left hanging forever. My advice is to look for the win-win and make sure both parties understand what a good support service looks like and how it will be measured and rewarded.

You also need to think about how commercials will be affected by new SAP BI applications going live, adding new data loads and user numbers. Many SAP BI support contracts just assume these will be catered for and absorbed. Which means the size of the support team doesn't increase. And this means service levels fall over time, ticket backlogs build up and your users lose confidence.

There also needs to be a link with your overall SAP BI strategy and you should make sure your potential support partners understand this. All too often we see organisations with ambitious SAP BI plans, spending fortunes on SAP BI project delivery who then skimp badly on ongoing support, thinking it's a commodity service.

Why does SAP BI Support matter?

To wrap up, let's remind ourselves why SAP BI support matters. The fact is, if you don't support the SAP BI applications properly that you have invested heavily in, then they won't get used for some of the following reasons:

  • Users don't trust the numbers because they are wrong, not up to date, double counting etc.
  • The system is too slow
  • There are fields missing from the report / cube and your change control process is too slow
  • There are many versions of the same report and they don't know which one is the right one.

And you will have an unhappy user community who will revert to creative DIY practices involving data dumps and Excel, invalidating your business cases for the SAP BI applications you fought so hard for.

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About the author

Mike Curl

Head of Finance, Services & Media

My interest in technology started in 1981 when a friend’s father built a Sinclair ZX81 and then relied on the two of us to program it. I soon moved on to my own BBC “B” computer (thanks dad!) and amused the family with some very rudimentary INPUT and PRINT statements…

My passion continues but on a much bigger scale than I could have ever imagined.  Today, I advise business and IT teams at some of the largest organisations in the world, helping them design, implement and exploit the latest technology in support of their business priorities and challenges.

I co-founded Bluefin in 2002 after spending many years in the consulting industry, having started at Andersen Consulting in 1994.  With Bluefin, I have been fortunate enough to be involved with some truly ground-breaking projects and technologies over the years.

What I really enjoy is finding the business value of new technology and leading the pioneering engagements to implement it successfully for the first time. Barclays, a client I lead at Bluefin, has won several industry and partner (SAP) awards for the innovative work we did with them around enterprise mobility. At another client we’ve also been doing some truly amazing work with SAP HANA that has the potential to disrupt established business models.

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

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