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The ALM journey at Australia Post.

The ALM journey at Australia Post

As I write this – the first in a series of blog posts on ALM and Solution Manager – I’m aware that there is a great deal of scepticism about both topics. Many feel that “ALM” is just another three letter marketing acronym being pushed on customers by SAP. As for Solution Manager, there is often a similar resistance from customers. Perhaps they feel the tool is being imposed upon them, or they have trouble extracting value. SAP, Analysts, and Social Media, such as Ray Wang, have openly criticized Solution Manager for falling short.

What is often missing from such discussions is actual user examples of this functionality in action. In this weblog series, I hope to change that perception by providing concrete examples of how to get the most out of Solution Manager, and to share Australia Post’s journey into ALM and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. With that said, on with part one.”

ALM is the opportunity to save money through innovation.

To me, ALM is a vehicle to introduce operational cost savings to Australia Post though innovation. Solution Manager is the platform where we build the ALM tool portfolio.

Innovation is something that is not business as usual but adds business value.

Business value involves the reduction of operational costs, deployment of high quality SAP solutions and managing the complexities that new NetWeaver technologies bring.

Grow Solution Manager functionality incrementally.

Some years ago Harlan Mills proposed that any software system should be grown by incremental development. This approach often referred to as Incrementalism is used to deploy Solution Manager functionality at Australia Post, each deployment laying the foundation for subsequent deployments. We select and prioritise the ALM features which reduce operational costs rapidly and address our immediate pain points.

Each piece of functionality is specified, deployed, documented and introduced to the core support team before moving onto the next piece of functionality. Where possible, we deploy the Solution Manager functionality for one target landscape, then hand over a well documented procedure to the core support team for deployment to the rest of the landscape. Given that we have in excess of 80 target SAP instances, every support person will get the opportunity to configure Solution Manager functionality more than once.

Unlock funding as you deploy cost saving functionality.

The main issue with the Solution Manager deployment and the whole ALM drive, is that funding is required to keep the innovation cycle moving. Initial seed funding will quickly run out, unless you can demonstrate support cost savings as you unlock additional functionality.

I suggest starting off by automating rudimentary time consuming support tasks. Make sure you quantify how much support time is saved by implementing functions such as:-

  • Licence key renewals;
  • Daily system checks;  and
  • Central CCMS alerts.

Once you get senior management interest, you can then build and automatically distribute some intelligently crafted usage and performance reports using:-

  • Central Performance history;
  • Service Level Reporting; and
  • Portal Activity Reporting.

Subsequent functionality can then include pro-active tools aimed at preventing downtime. Ensure you quantify the hourly cost of Productive system downtime, and then compare this to the cost of deploying proactive anti-downtime tools such as:-

  • Root Cause Analysis;
  • Configuration Validation; and
  • CA Wily Introscope.

Now that you have built some momentum, you can start directing efforts to improve the quality of SAP solutions and reduce complexity. This will lead you the next wave of Solution Manager tools – and more advertising to Senior Management. The difference between a good NetWeaver Technician and a great NetWeaver technician- is the ability to market our successes and sell our value.

Set yourself up for success.

Ensure you always have a working Productive Solution Manager at every stage of the innovation process. An unusable Solution Manager system will generate much frustration. Have two Solution Manager Systems deployed on decent hardware. Don’t be enticed by the VMWare server under your desk – poor infrastructure will only create a future support debt.

We utilise a surgical team approach to our Solution Manager deployment. We have one highly skilled NetWeaver specialist who is accountable to get things working. His co-pilot is the SAP Maximum Attention resource who has access to the AGS team and SAP Developers when things look bad. We then have other specialists to take care of things like Unix, Oracle, Back-ups, Documentation, Testing etc. leaving the NetWeaver specialist free to focus on tool enablement.

Just like having one surgeon at the operating table supported by a network of other medical specialists leaving him to do what he does best. Putting the wrong resource in charge of the scalpel will only end badly…

I am often accused of deploying too many tools in the Solution Manager portfolio, and never finishing the deployment. I believe this is the most efficient method of introducing innovation into a well established organisation – in small measured increments. The deployment of Solution Manager functionality is a single piece of the ALM roadmap. The ALM journey is an ITIL evolution of the Support organisation leading to a Customer Competency Centre of Excellence. This journey of continuous improvement can only succeed in several metered steps.

The ALM functionality teasers.

Following in the footspteps of the great ABAP detective series, I will publish one ALM functionality teaser weblog per week together with screen shots, YouTube video and my personal rating of the feature.

The number of teasers I publish will be determined by the volume of SDN feedback you provide these weblogs. Let’s see how well we can innovate collaboratively.

 Thanks to @rhisrch for the link

Thanks to Jon Reed for his advice on compiling this weblog.

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