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Central System Administration

The Basis support staff at AusPost normally monitor our vast landscape on the two following levels:-

  1. Automatic Monitoring according to a set of predefined Key Performance Indicators. These KPIs are designed to notice deviations as early as possible. Within the CCMS framework, Auto-reaction methods are assigned to generate e-mail or transfer details to a support desk system. These auto-alerts generate trouble tickets which are escalated through the support organisation.  
  2. Manual Expert Monitoring is the process of manually identifing issues that are not captured via alert monitoring. Expert Monitors give hints for resolution of identified problems or link to expert tools in satellite systems together with an integrated and automated log.

Solution manager pulls together unique monitoring tools of various components (e.g. ERP, CRM and Third Party) into a single monitoring framework with a view to reduce the cost of implementation, operations and training. This level of monitoring is referred to as Central System Administration (CSA) or as many still refer to as “Daily Checks”.

 

   

  

The old way

In 1996, the SAP Technology group published the R/3 system Administration Made Easy guide. The checklists contained in this publication formed the foundation of nearly every Daily and Weekly spreadsheet I have come across. The maintenance and upkeep of these checklists takes several hours. There is also normally an audit trail spreadsheet to accompany the checklist, which the Basis support staff will religiously maintain. This audit trail will detail evidence of daily checks for handover to the next support shift, or demonstrate to the management how busy the support team have been preventing serious problems from occurring.

The new way

These days, you can define a comprehensive list of periodic manual checks to be performed in the CSA area of Solution Manager. All satellite systems are checked using a pre-configured view of logically grouped administration tasks including:-

  • system type checks (such as failed batched jobs or short dumps);
  • component specific tasks (such as CRM ICM, PI adapters, or BI queues); and
  • customer specific tasks (such as non SAP third party system checks)

The CSA can automatically maintain an audit trail of checks, and has areas for company specific instructions or directions for inexperienced staff to follow.

Investment

To set up the CSA for a single instance is a straightforward task which will take around two hours per satellite system (depending on the complexity and depth of your checks). This process is well documented in the Service Marketplace and is quite straightforward for a junior Basis technician to follow, see the link below.
               
Assuming you have 40 instances, setting up the CSA will take you around 2 person weeks.
What to expect from a well established CSA:-

Savings.

The CSA checks provide a common mechanism for checking potential problem areas in satellite systems. At my place, the CSA is used to get Junior Basis support staff up to speed, and to advertise to Senior Management how busy the Basis Support team have been preventing errors.
By regular checking and maintaining an audit trail, patterns about system performance and recurring problems begin to emerge. These patterns help the Basis Support staff glean a insight into how systems behave. This predictive analysis helps to prepare Support staff for upcoming critical business times.
The CSA will save the company thousands of dollars in business disruptions, and is helping to transform the Support Team from a necessary expense into a valuable Business asset. Once you have a professional CSA, you can expect:-
  • Financial savings due to reduced administration effort;
  • Improvement in motivation of Basis Support staff;
  • Professional documentation and reporting on system maintenance tasks; and
  • Easy task delegation to junior Basis staff (or outsourcing to lower cost resources)
Daily checks and audit trails take around 1 hour per systems per day to perform. Using the CSA (and CCMS alerts) can cut this time by half. Assuming you have 40 instances, CSA will save you around 20 hours per day. This saving can then be invested in deploying the next piece of Solution Manager functionality. 

Show me.

Bonus Information. 

The CSA can be configured across several Business Processes.
The CSA is a great way to check how well your SI partner is going

References.

The ALM difficulty rating.

Expertise required.       Low.
Time taken to deploy.  Medium (depending on breadth of checks).
Payback time.             Fast.
Overall rating.             Great advertisement for the Basis Support Team.
 
 
My ALM functionality Teasers will get you on-key. 
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2 Comments

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  1. Simon Kemp
    Thanks for this great Blog Tony. I was wondering if you had any experience setting up Daily Checks for a Portal system? Does SAP have a standard set of checks that is recommended?

    In the past I have just come up with my own list of checks and created the tasks manually, so for me it would be interesting to see what tasks SAP recommends.

    Thanks,
    Simon

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